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Always quick to flash a smile or share a laugh, she’s a favorite of teammates, teachers and coaches alike.

Santa Ynez senior Alex Savage has been the varsity water polo goalie, a stronghold for the swim team and captain of both. “Alex is one of our fastest starters,” says her swim coach, Jake Kalkowski. “She has two CIF consideration times already.” For swimming, CIF is run like many invitation-only meets where times over the season make a swimmer eligible, rather than a single qualifying event.

It is her work ethic which has allowed her to progress, says her coach of the teen who doesn’t like to admit she is fast. “Her progression has been great. She always surprises herself,” Kalkowski says relaying stories of Alex looking for her times after a race, and disbelieving the posted outcomes.

But in a theme that is echoed by both her coaches, her teachers and her teammates, Kalkowski says “she is always upbeat and super positive. It’s contagious for the rest of the team.” “Alex has a wonderful personality, is easy to get along with and very friendly. She was especially helpful as my Teacher’s Assistant when I missed the week of school when my son was born,” said Dave Bisbee.

“She keeps everyone excited and pumped,” says co-captain Jen Snow. “She is very responsible and sets a good example.” Alex immediately teases Jen about her ability to come up with a good quote. Jen teases right back.

“I thought I was going to do a lot of other sports like track and soccer,” Alex says. Her mom and a cousin were both track superstars. “I was never really fast, so I thought I’d do distance or something,” but she tried water polo just because it sounded fun, then continued swimming to improve her strength for the next season of water polo. Alex never ended up making it to the field. “She has been an outstanding athlete for four years. She moved into the varsity goalie position her freshmen year with ease and maturity,” said water polo coach Jenele Martin. “She received a league award three out of her four years playing water polo, her senior year as First-Team All-League.”

Alex shrugs off any compliments regarding her accomplishments, quickly telling you she isn’t that good. But she does hope to play water polo in college, and is hoping her chances of walking on are good. It is both the sport and the camaraderie she loves.

“It’s really helpful when kids in one sport do another sport together, especially at CIF when you’re together for 24 hours at a time,” says Alex. She says her team got close during water polo, and they are even closer now.

Little sister, Megan, is part of both teams. The girls have always been tight, says Alex. “Actually, we’re really close,” she says, claiming that there is no competition between the two. Although Alex admits to an occasional spat, she and her sister spend a lot of time with each other, traveling to school together every day, taking night classes at the same time and enjoying the same sports.

“My parents and I bet Megan she couldn’t make it through hell week,” says Alex of her sideways effort to get her sister to join the team. Alex is glad to have her aboard. “We are able to be there for each other,” she says, noting that she particular enjoys those after-school rides home together, talking about their days and the sometimes crazy adventures that fill them.

Until the onslaught of practices, Alex and Megan took dances classes together at the Los Olivos Dance Gallery. Alex says she still does many of the exercises she learned there and finds that they help her with flexibility. “They really help when I have a cramp in my leg.”

The best part of being on a team Alex says is getting to know and develop bonds with people you wouldn’t normally get to know. She likes getting to see a different side of her peers than she otherwise would. It’s a feeling that apparently is mutual.

“She was the captain for the water polo team this year and performed her duties with modesty and a nurturing guidance. She is not only an outstanding athlete who always works hard to set an example with everything she does; she is also a strong student, excelling academically. Whether as a student, an athlete or a leader, she is developing into a wonderful young adult who will succeed in anything she decides to pursue,” said Martin.

The same opinion is echoed by teachers who have only worked with her outside of athletics. “Though she is a committed athlete, Alex has been involved in my theatre classes since her freshman year,” said Jeff Mckinnon. “In that time, I’ve come to know her as one of the nicest, most caring and supportive people on this campus. I will miss her very much when she graduates, and I am very much looking forward to her onstage debut in late May as part of this year’s ‘Senior Showcase.’”

Alex certainly has showcased a myriad of talents already.

struax@syvjournal.com