Favorite athlete: Mondo Duplantis
Favorite team: Iceland National Soccer Team
Favorite memory competing in sports: Wearing Hawaiian shirts during warm ups with my pole vault teammates. As my coach (Robert Miller) says, you need to be chill to vault well.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Bruising my tailbone two years in a row on the same field at the same soccer tournament. I couldn't sit down for weeks.
Music on your iPod: Alternative, Rap, Pop
Future plans: Study bioengineering/computer science and pole vault at MIT. Go to grad school and pursue a career in research.
Words to live by: “If you believe you can, you're halfway there.”
One goal before you turn 30: Travel the world with my dog.
One thing people don’t know about you: I like to skateboard around my house.
By Craig Ostroff
As a pole vaulter, Lexi Schneider is no stranger to soaring to new heights.
But that’s also a pretty apt metaphor to the way the Upper Dublin senior approaches academic pursuits, extracurricular activities, and her community involvement.
And as those who know her best are quick to attest, she’s barely begun to take off. The sky is truly the limit for Schneider.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what Lexi does in college and in the future to save the world,” said Upper Dublin track and field coach Matt Dwyer. “She’s probably going to do it someday. She’s the kind of kid with the passion and drive that’s going to do something positive to change society one day.”
That’s a pretty extraordinary statement. But Schneider is anything but ordinary. Her outstanding efforts on the soccer pitch and vaulting pit combine with a remarkable academic transcript and a laundry list of extracurricular activities to make Schneider one of the busiest high school seniors in the area.
Her success in all those areas led her to one of the top honors a local high school senior can receive when she was named earlier this month as the recipient of the William F. Dannehower Award, presented annually by the Triangle Club of Montgomery County to a student who best represents the three pillars upon which the club was founded: “Service, Sports, Scholarship.”
Interestingly, when Schneider found out she would be Upper Dublin’s nominee for the Dannehower Award, she initially thought she was in some sort of trouble.
“I found out I was nominated by being called down to the Athletic Office at school,” she said. “I’m walking down to the office, trying to run through my head if I was failing a class or something, because usually you’re only called down for academic issues. But when I got there, everyone was way too happy for it to have been anything bad.”
The Awards Banquet provided Schneider with an opportunity to mingle with other local public and private school seniors who are excelling as students, athletes, and citizens. And while Schneider is aware that her daily planner is always booked solid, she said she was amazed at some of the accomplishments of the other Dannehower Award nominees.
“The event was very fancy and everyone there was super-amazing,” she said. “The best part was hearing everyone’s bios. We all sat at a long table, they called everyone onto the stage. I was in complete awe of what everyone had done, to know there are so many amazing people here in our own county.
“I did not expect to win anything after hearing what everyone else had done. When they announced my name, I was in complete shock. Once it set in, I walked onto the stage, and they said, ‘The podium is yours.’ I had no idea this would happen, so I had nothing planned. So I just thanked everyone. Talking with people afterward, taking pictures, I was just trying to process it, trying to let it sink in.”
Having had some time to digest the enormity of the award, Schneider ranks it right at the top of her accomplishments.
“This honestly is one of the biggest things in my high school career,” she said. “It represents and it sums up what I’ve tried to do my entire life. It’s not just academics, not just sports, not just service – it’s all three. It’s everything the Triangle Club is trying to capture, and that’s why it means so much. It’s very fulfilling, and it lets me know that the things and activities I’ve been trying to do and that I enjoy has paid off.”
And Schneider is involved in a multitude of activities at Upper Dublin. In addition to soccer (where she was a four-year starter and a captain and All-League First Team selection as a senior) and track, she has also received varsity letters in basketball and lacrosse. She is involved in the robotics club, plays bassoon in the concert band, and is a member of the BioNote Club, which raises funds for afterschool clubs.
As a part of the Upper Dublin Public Library STEAM Lab, Schneider has worked with the robotics team and Catalyst for Success team to hold workshops on robotics for elementary school students.
Among the honors she has accumulated over the past four years, Schneider has received the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award, and received first place in Physics in the Montgomery County Science Research Competition as well as the US Navy Physics Award and the Franklin Institute Award for Physics for a study she performed on soccer head gear as a freshman. She has won numerous awards for her animation work, and she has been published in the National High School Journal of Science. She is a National Merit Finalist, a Coolidge Scholarship Semifinalist, and a National AP Scholar.
“Getting involved in so many things that the high school has to offer has made my past four years a lot more fulfilling,” Schneider said. “Our high school and our community has so much to offer, once I get started doing something, I get hooked. And I can say that some of my closest friends are people from sports, music, academics. There are all these different friendship circles, and I enjoy being able to fit into any of those and enjoy every group.”
“Lexi is not a kid who does things to build a resume or to try to impress a college,” Dwyer said. “She’s involved in all these clubs because she truly enjoys them. She enjoys what she’s doing and she enjoys the friends she has in each group. She is fully involved in all the clubs and activities because she totally enjoys them.”
That certainly extends onto the athletic fields, where Schneider has excelled despite having less time to devote to soccer and pole vaulting than many of her contemporaries.
“I always playfully make fun of Lexi for all the clubs she’s involved with, but it doesn’t come at the expense of her commitment to the team, and it never affects her working hard when she’s with us,” said Upper Dublin girls’ soccer coach John Topper. “Lexi shows maturity beyond her years to manage her time and give everything in her life its due effort.
“As much as she has shown up in All-League teams over the years, that doesn’t tell the whole story of what she’s meant to the team. As a young player, Lexi was a very, very smart player who really saw the field well. As she grew into a leadership position, Lexi was always the hardest worker on field. She leads by example every day on the field. She has a great mixture of grit and skill with the ball. As far a leader for our team this season, you couldn’t ask for much better.”
Schneider began her high school career as a skill player in the middle of the field, but was able to adapt to a more physical style as she progressed, and as the team needed her to fill such a role.
“When Lexi was younger, she was much more of a finesse player than someone who was going to get physical,” Cooper said. “But as others graduated and that’s what we needed, other coaches would comment on how she’d never give up and how she’d always do the dirty work as well as hitting the pretty passes and getting the timely goals.
“She has steadying presence. Lexi never lost her composure or her cool. If we were in a stretch of bad games, or just having a rough patch in a single game, Lexi was always consistent in her effort and her play. And just the same, she never got too carried away when things were going well. She remained focused and consistent, and that allowed her to be a calming presence on the field.”
During track season, Schneider has managed to consistently place among the top vaulters in the district despite her limited practice time. Where other vaulters are practicing year-round and attending camps, Schneider first picked up the pole in 10th grade and her focus on the pole vault is limited to track season.
It hasn’t stopped her.
“That can be very intimidating, especially when girls walk in with pole vault bags with their names on them and they’re practicing all year,” Schneider said. “It’s intimidating, but it’s also rewarding because I can see, I’m hanging in there.”
She’s doing better than just “hanging in.” Schneider cleared 10-feet at the District One Track and Field Championship meet, good enough for fifth place in the district and ensuring that her Upper Dublin athletic career would extend one more week as she earned a berth in this weekend’s PIAA State Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University.
But following her final vault at the state meet, the reality will set in that high school is almost over. Schneider is currently participating in senior community work study, circulating around the Upper Dublin elementary schools teaching robotics, and will soon walk her final walk to receive her diploma and look to spread her wings and soar even higher than she has in high school.
Come fall, Schneider will head to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As she pursued answers to the safest soccer headgear as a high school freshman, Schneider hopes to continue researching similar topics in college.
“That really sparked my interest in that kind of research,” she said. “It led me to do further studies over the next several years. I want to keep doing research like that, maybe not about the brain in particular, but investigating problems like that.”
And of course, she is eager to immerse herself in everything that MIT and the surrounding area has to offer. She might not dive headlong into multiple extracurricular activities … though she admits she’d like to.
“I think I will definitely want to jump in to everything, but they advise you to ease in,” said Schneider, who will walk on and try to earn a spot as a pole vaulter for MIT. “It’s definitely going to be a lot more academically rigorous than high school. I think I’m definitely going to have to ease into it, balancing everything and fitting in with the culture. That will be focus my first semester.”
Though as Schneider heads north for the next phase of her schooling, MIT’s gain will be Upper Dublin’s loss. And Schneider will leave big shoes to fill – in the classrooms, on the athletic fields, and in the community.
“We’re going to have a big hole in the middle of the field,” Topper said. “Lexi has been someone I can always point to as someone who does everything the team needs. It’s hard to put into words everything we’re going to be missing. Lexi has been a great ambassador for our school. She excels in every facet in our schools. And across the board, teachers, students, and teammates speak glowingly of her.”
“We lose a phenomenal person – a great athlete but a phenomenal all-around person,” Dwyer said. “Lexi is always pleasant, positive, always encouraging, she gives everything she has to everything she does. That’s tough to replace. MIT is going to gain a really awesome kid. As she’s proven over and over again, Lexi can do it all, and she does it with a smile on her face.”