Olympia High School graduate and water polo utility player Annelie McGhee recently was named to the 2023 NISCA Water Polo All America second team and currently is among the Top 20 female water polo athletes in the nation.
“Last year I wasn’t as high in the All America ranking,” she said. “But, this year I was placed pretty high. … I just put so much work into it, this was just the outcome of it. It just made me happy.”
For McGhee, 18, being in the water has always been second nature; she learned how to swim before she could even walk.
“She would be getting things at the bottom of the pool, and she was 2 years old,” her mother, Emily McGhee, said. “She’s just always been a natural athlete, climbing out of her crib when she was 8 months old and, she had an early start to life — she was two months premature and was in the hospital for a month, so she always wowed us with her athletic abilities.”
When she was 4 years old, Annelie McGhee learned how to surf, and to this day, she continues to improve on her hobby, as well as in the pool as a water polo athlete.
“She’ll get out there and rip it on those waves,” Emily McGhee said. “It’s just an honor watching her succeed athletically.”
Making the 2022-23 NISCA Water Polo All America second team came a year after Annelie McGhee earned honorable mention for the 2021-22 NISCA Water Polo All America list. Last year, she competed in the Junior Olympics with the 18U Sarasota United team and defended the championship title from the previous year — winning a back-to-back gold junior olympic medal.
“I was super happy,” she said. “I was just really glad that I had the game IQ to work with some people that I’d never really played with before.”
Annelie McGhee did not start playing water polo until her freshman year in high school. Prior to that, she tried myriad sports, such as gymnastics, swimming, soccer and rowing, but after scoring her first goal at one of the practices, she decided to pursue the sport.
“That’s when I decided to stay for sure,” she said. “I like playing a team sport; it’s so much better than the individual sports, and scoring goals is pretty cool, too. I mean, I like everything about the sport. … I play anywhere, whenever, wherever they put me.”
Thanks to her water polo accomplishments during her high school years, Annelie McGhee received an 86% scholarship to play at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where she will also pursue a career in either business or mechanical engineering.
“A bunch of colleges started asking for me to play with them and asking me for my official visits,” she said. “That was an accomplishment for me.”
During her last year of high school, Annelie McGhee broke the Titans girls water polo records for goals and assists, with 229 and 152, respectively. She placed third in the steals category with 235.
A free-spirited animal lover and caring friend to all, Annelie McGhee has learned much from her years as a water polo athlete. One of the most important life lessons the sport taught her was when she was the Lady Titans team captain.
“It’s hard for a team to always get along,” she said. “I was captain my junior year; that moment probably taught me a really hard life lesson. … All the teammates, they did not get along with (my co-captain) … so (I found myself in the middle). So being a leader when I became captain … it always made me happy when the younger kids would come up to me and just ask me questions. We would sit after practice on the whiteboard and I’d show them everything I knew, every single day. So, definitely being a leader is the most important lesson I’ve learned (through water polo).”
Over the year as an athlete, Annelie McGhee has learned to become competitive and accept her wins, rather than letting others take the win just so they wouldn’t be sad.
“When she was little, she was this fun, loving, sweet girl,” Emily McGhee said. “When she would get into competition, she … would let other people win. So, we (told her that) it was OK if (she won). … Then, watching her as she’s developed her competitive streak — as she’s always been OK with not being the best — but she has always tried to be the best. So, she stays humble and is fine with not being first, but is always seeing for that, working hard for that.”
Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.