But in the middle of his junior varsity football season his sophomore year, that all changed in a flash. Carrillo-Zazueta tore his ACL and his hope of following in the footsteps of his sister Brenna, who won a similar award at Notre Dame in 2008, could have ended.
After tearing his ACL, Carrillo-Zazueta returned to the swimming pool – which he participated in throughout his youth – and succeeded to be rewarded with the prestigious Palma High award at the end of his senior season last month.
It was his sister who pushed him in the pool and in the classroom, he said.
“My sister won the student-athlete award at Notre Dame, and I wanted to do the same thing,” Carrillo-Zazueta said. “I just needed to continue doing extracurricular activities and keep up with the school work.”
Over two years in the pool, Carrillo-Zazueta, who will attend Pepperdine next year, excelled as a swimmer and water polo player.
Carrillo-Zazueta’s success was immediate as well. During his junior swimming season he took home the 200 IM TCAL championship and scored 11 goals in 12 water polo games.
It was his first year playing water polo, he said.
“I didn’t feel confident in my leg so I wanted to play water sports,” he said. “I spent a lot of time watching my sister play at Notre Dame and the University of Pacific, so I learned from her.”
Despite the team’s struggles, Carrillo-Zazueta developed into one of the team’s most important offensive and defensive players, scoring eight goals in the season’s final two months.
His final year at the school, though, was even more impressive. Carrillo-Zazueta tallied 25 goals, 9 assists and 66 steals, while starting all 23 games for the Chieftains. He earned a All-TCAL first team award. Most important, though, the team won the regular season TCAL title with a 18-7 record – the Chieftains’ first winning season since 2008.
“We had a good year,” he said. “We were just playing well together.”
In swimming, Carrillo-Zazueta finished second in the 100-yard Fly and 100-yard backstroke during the TCAL championship.
In four years, Carrillo-Zazueta played in eight sports’ seasons, drove to Salinas from his Hollister home every day and kept at least a 4.0 grade-point average. With his limited amount of free time, school work was difficult, he said.
“You really have to try to keep up with the school work,” he said.
He had his sister to rely on, though.
“She just explained that I need to do all my homework,” he said.
But in the end, it was his leadership that won him the award. In all but two of the eight high school sports teams he played on, he was the captain and the emotional leader.
“They said I had a good leadership quality,” Carrillo-Zazueta said. “I was a captain on a lot of those team I played on. I always encouraged my teammates to work harder.”
After four years, that leadership was displayed in the classroom and in the pool.