Jefferson P. Nolan
Four out of 10.
When Cal Poly swimmer Trevor Cardinal asked his friend Carly O’Halloran if he had a shot with her twin sister, Kristen, she gave him a likelihood of four on a scale of 10.
The year was 2000, and Trevor, Carly and Kristen were at a Halloween party. Kristen sported a bright pink tube top and a few of her roommate’s outlandish clothes; Trevor dressed for a ’70s disco wearing a brown jacket and disproportionately sized sunglasses.
“(Carly) definitely wasn’t too confident in my prospects,” Cardinal said with a grin.
But he must have done something right.
On April 4, 2004, the one-time collegiate swimmer proposed marriage to Kristen, the Cal Poly volleyball player, who he had dated since sophomore year of college.
In a Mustangs’ uniform, her volleyball number was four; it was her lucky number.
Kristen O’Halloran said yes.
After almost eight years of marriage, the two former Cal Poly athletes have returned to San Luis Obispo, working for the past six years as faculty members in the biomedical engineering department. Now professors with their doctoral degrees, they look back at the days when they dated in college.
A volleyball standout at Arroyo Grande High School, Kristen finished her collegiate career as a co-captain outside hitter on the Cal Poly team. Playing with her twin sister, Carly, Kristen appeared in 357 sets, smashed 763 kills and notched 921 digs.
Trevor, a butterfly stroke swimmer on the men’s swimming team, redshirted his first year at Cal Poly. But through swimming, he became interested in a leadership group for student-athletes. Nicknamed “Block P,” Trevor became a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) whose goal was to strengthen the bond between student-athletes. And back in the day, “Block P” was just beginning to endorse the new brother/sister teams.
“One of the things we started doing in ‘Block P’ was to promote student-athlete unity,” Trevor said. “It got athletes throughout all the departments involved in each other’s athletics and supporting each other. One of the ways we did that was through brother/sister teams.”
And of course, the men’s swimming team was paired with women’s volleyball.
“The idea is that a men’s team would get matched with a women’s team and vice versa,” Kristen said. “They came to all of our matches and painted their speedos and everything.”
After the 2000 volleyball season came to a close, Trevor asked if he could take Kristen to dinner to celebrate her 20th birthday.
But until he mentioned it during their dinner, she had no idea they were on a date.
“I thought it was a really nice effort on the part of my ‘brother team’ to take me out to my birthday,” Kristen said. “Apparently, it was a date. I just thought he was being nice. It was only about halfway through our dinner that he said something about it being a date.”
But once again, the butterfly stroke swimmer did something right.
The couple dated for more than a year and a half.
But as in most relationships, there was a time where the future didn’t look so bright.
It was in their senior year — right before volleyball season — that Trevor decided he no longer wanted to be in a relationship.
“We broke up for about six months in college,” Kristen said. “Which I would definitely recommend to most college students. Break up with the long-term person. It turned out to be the best thing ever. We got to decide if we actually wanted to be with each other.”
It was about six months later that Trevor began to realize he had made a mistake. By the end of the volleyball season, the two became friends once again.
“I think it’s the quintessential guy move,” Trevor said. “The guy gets kind of commitment-phobic. Wants to do his own thing and wants freedom. But he goes out and realizes this isn’t what I really wanted.”
After long talks and planning for the future, the two rekindled their relationship.
Cal Poly’s head athletic trainer Krystal Slover remembers Kristen and Trevor from their days spent in a Cal Poly uniform. After traveling extensively with the volleyball team, she has seen how difficult it was to maintain a romantic relationship as an athlete.
“Trevor had to swim,” Slover said. “They were able to have a relationship while both being athletes is one of the (most impressive) things that they worked out. They had their practices and everything else they had to coordinate around.”
After they graduated, the couple attended the University of Arizona together in pursuit of their doctoral degrees.
The Cardinals returned to Cal Poly in 2007 as professors, and they currently teach a wide variety of subjects from physiology and life sciences to instructing students how to grow cells and tissues.
But a new addition has been made to the Cardinal family in just the past few months.
Born Aug. 6, Bridget Cardinal is a 6-month newborn, growing up in the place where her parents fell in love.
“I’m glad to see them back,” Slover said. “I know (Kristen’s) family having seen both sisters. I think anytime you can be together with family, that’s pretty awesome. They just had their first baby, and Kristen was around when I had my first child. Now to see her with her own baby, that’s pretty cool.”
Even though the couple will spend this Valentine’s Day grading papers and losing sleep because of their crying child, Kristen and Trevor still reminisce of the days spent together as student-athletes.
“The best part about meeting here as athletes is that it is such a big part of your life,” Kristen said. “I hope the athletes now realize that and how cool it is to be a college athlete. I’m not a volleyball player anymore. I’m a faculty member. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. But that was a really big part of my life — being a college volleyball player. (Trevor) remembers that, and he was a big part of that.”