School: Upper Moreland
Field Hockey, Swimming, Track
Favorite athlete: Alex Rodriguez
Favorite team: New York Yankees
Favorite memory competing in sports: Doing a dive to block a ball on the line to stop it from going into the cage.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I tried to stop a ball but tripped and fell on my back.
Music on iPod: Jason Mraz, Katy Perry
Future plans: Go to Washington and work on Capitol Hill
Words to live by: ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’
One goal before turning 30: Go to law school
One thing people don’t know about me: I love volunteering and helping others. I try to volunteer whenever I have time.
By Mary Jane Souder
Mention the name Saige Wenik to Melanie Rowland, and the Upper Moreland coach thinks of guts and determination.
In the swimming pool and in the goal cage.
Wenik’s determination was underscored last winter when she was battling health issues but simply refused to stay out of the pool.
“She would come to the pool and have her winter jacket and sweats on to stay warm, and this was not the place to have a winter jacket on,” said Rowland, the swimming coach at UM. “She went to the doctor and tried to get things squared away.
“She came back to the pool, and she was still gray and didn’t look good, and she said, ‘I can’t not swim.’ I said, ‘Then you’ll swim and I will watch you. When I find you’re having difficulties, you need to respect when I tell you you’re done for the afternoon.’ She never gave me that indication, and she stayed in the pool.”
Wenik not only gutted it out while she was under the weather, she remained steadfast in her goal of reaching districts in the 50 freestyle.
“This is a kid who probably didn’t swim regularly for a good month,” Rowland said. “Not only did she do it, she slammed the time, and when she got into districts, she dropped even more time.
“You have a determined young lady there, and this is a kid that’s honors in school, grades are important, she works with organizations and has leadership. She’s quiet, but she’s one of my leaders because of her example, because of her determination, because of her dedication. She’s really been fun to coach.”
Rowland, who also is a field hockey assistant coach, had the opportunity to work with Wenik in the fall as well. A four-year varsity starter, Wenik has the thankless task of playing goalie for a Golden Bear squad that has struggled to win games in recent years.
Her efforts might go unnoticed by some, but in a recent loss, Wenik earned the admiration of one of the officials.
“I actually heard the official turn around during the game and say to Saige, ‘I know the score doesn’t reflect it, but you’re doing a great job. If nobody else tells you that today, I’m telling you that,’” Rowland said. “This is not unusual because officials have come to me and said, ‘You have a great goalie.’
“I tell them, ‘I know we have a great goalie. She must have 200-250 saves a year, and she never gets acknowledged for anything because we don’t have a winning season.’ However, I can’t tell you any other goalie, winning or not winning, that has that many saves. It’s crazy.
“This is not her first sport, but yet she throws on those stinky old pads and gets shot on over and over and over again. She’s a great four-year example on the hockey field and in the swimming pool.”
Ask Wenik why she plays field hockey when swimming is her passion, and she has an immediate response.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” she said. “I always look forward to the games, even the practices and getting to go 100 percent all the time.”
That’s really all anyone needs to know about the Upper Moreland senior, who volunteered to go in the cage when her seventh grade team needed a goalie.
“I thought it would be different and fun to try,” she said. “It’s kind of stuck. I guess I found my niche, in a way. It was something I was good at, so I stuck with it.”
No one is happier she did than coach Karen Grossi.
“She is always trying to get better,” the Golden Bears’ coach said. “She does a nice job communicating with her teammates, trying to get them in the right spots.
“If and when the ball goes in, her first thought is, ‘What can I do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?’ She’s not happy that we’re scored upon and lose, but she keeps working to make sure a goal like that doesn’t go in again, and she makes sure the team stays in it.”
The Golden Bears did not win a game in SOL play this season and have just one win to their credit, but their senior captain is not deterred.
“It is challenging at times because our record isn’t the greatest,” Wenik said. “But I think I use goals as motivation to keep going.
“If they score a goal, then I almost want them to come back down in the circle, so I can prove that I’m a better goalie than that.”
Wenik will dive and do whatever she can to keep the ball out of the cage.
“She makes some incredible saves,” Grossi said. “When you have 25 shots on you in a half, some of them are bound to go in.
“She’s got that stick-to-it-ness, and she’s a great kid. She’s intelligent, and she’s well liked by everyone. She’s a quiet leader. The girls look up to her and respect what she says.”
While Wenik enjoys field hockey, she is most happy in the pool. She has been swimming competitively for 12 years with the Hatboro YMCA Hurricanes, and in each of her three high school seasons, she has qualified for districts with the 50 and 100 free her specialties.
“Saige is not built like a swimmer at all,” Rowland said. “She’s not tall. She’s very lean. There’s not a muscle on her that’s not toned to be an athlete, and as long as I’ve known Saige, she’s been working hard at swimming.
“She’s gone through some tough times last year with her health issues. Most people would have just sat (it out), but she said, ‘No, I’m doing this.’ She was sick for a good month where she shouldn’t have been in the water.”
Wenik’s personal highlight was competing in states her sophomore year with the 4x100 free relay.
“That was a complete blast,” Wenik said. “It was amazing.
“We worked really, really hard all season. There were some personal struggles by some of the other team members, and being able to come together at the end of the season was amazing.”
Wenik hopes to continue to drop times and also earn a berth in districts as well as states. She will be back in the pool on Monday after a two-day break between seasons, and there is no down time for this student-athlete, who runs track in the spring to stay in shape for her other two sports.
How does she find the time to do it all?
“You just find time,” Wenik said. “You commit to certain things you like, narrow it down and decide what you really want to do.”
If sports were the beginning and end of Wenik’s activities, the Upper Moreland senior would be kept busy, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Wenik also has been taking dance lessons for the past 12 years, specializing in tap and jazz.
“Dance is pretty low key,” she said. “The daughters of my mom’s friends were doing it, so I decided to do it too, and it kind of stuck.”
For the past seven summers, Wenik has attended teen leadership conferences through the YMCA. This past year she was selected to be on the junior staff, a position she will hold for the next two summers.
Wenik, who takes all honors and AP classes, is a member of the National Honor Society. She also is a member of student council, key club and the yearbook staff.
“I do stay up late some nights, but if you like doing it, you’ll make the time,” she said.
Wenik hopes to attend college in Washington, D.C., and major in politics with the goal of working on Capitol Hill and then attending law school.
“I visited D.C., and I just fell in love with the capital and the city,” she said. “I’ve watched crime shows and all of that, and I really, really love the whole aspect of it.
“I think politics are fascinating, so I’d love to get involved in that.”
Marymount University is at the top of Wenik’s list of schools, and she has been in contact with the swimming coach with plans to compete at the collegiate level.
Although field hockey and track will not be part of her future, Wenik wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the experience of competing in three sports.
“I have met so many interesting people doing sports,” she said. “You come out of your shell in a way, and you actually learn really well how to balance your time.
“I think my grades are so much better because I’m doing sports.”
Wenik is one student-athlete who has gotten her money’s worth and then some out of her high school experience.