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Saugus' More than an Athlete: Dakota Botton

Posted: June 13, 2014 10:12 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2014 10:12 p.m.

Saugus' Dakota Botton is nearly a sophomore in college already based on credits she's already earned.

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Editor’s note: Today marks the fourth in a series in which we recognize athletes at the local high schools who represent their respective schools not so much by what they do on the field, but off of it. We call them “More than an athlete.”


Dakota Botton didn’t have much time.

But then again, she’s never really had much of it.

The Foothill League finals swim meet had just concluded, and Botton was in a hurry.

So she left the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center and raced toward Saugus High School, changing out of her swim gear and into her costume for the school’s annual Spring Concert.

The sudden turn from the outdoor physicality of a swim meet to the indoor formality of an orchestral concert might be daunting for some, but for Botton, it was just another day at the office.

Botton, who graduated from Saugus last week and was named co-winner of the schools’ prestigious SAMMY award, had been through that song and dance many times before.

“Pretty much just pack a good lunch, because you’re not going to get home until 10 o’clock,” Botton says of the double feature. “You go straight from school, take a bus and go to the Aquatics Center (for the swim meet) then you have the meet until the meet ends and you rush over to the concert, which starts at 7. And the concert ends whenever the concert ends, usually about 9.”

Botton handles herself with the maturity of an adult well out of college, but the teenager is just about to start her collegiate experience.

She’ll do so with a plethora of credit behind her, taking and passing 10 Advanced Placement tests during her time at Saugus, in addition to a political science class at College of the Canyons that all combines to make her nearly a sophomore by credits at Fresno Pacific University, where she received an academic scholarship.

“I’m really proud and I’m really happy that all my hard work paid off.” Botton says. “A lot of my friends that didn’t have so much on their plate were kind of critical sometimes because I couldn’t hang out with them or go to the movies with them. And at times I was sad, too, but looking back, it all paid off.”

There were many nights Botton was up into the early morning hours finishing homework.

Her mother Krista, a teacher at Saugus High, even tried to persuade her daughter to take on a lighter course load — but Dakota wasn’t having any of it.

“She has always been very driven,” Krista says. “I tried to pull the reins back and hold her back and once she made up her mind she was going to accomplish something I wasn’t able to tell her she couldn’t do it.”

What sets Botton apart from other multi-faceted athletes is her choice of activities.

A swimmer for the local Canyons Aquatics club, Botton is always in the water.

Swimming for the club isn’t something high school athletes do part-time.

But neither are her band obligations.

In the fall, Botton led the marching band as its band director — meaning she was in charge of leading the members playing on the field in front of her.

And when marching band was over, it was time for the concert and jazz bands.

“It’s been really hard,” Botton says. “I have to seriously organize stuff. Some stuff like swim meets and concerts and things I can’t move around, but everything else falls in its place. I do whatever I can. My parents help me out a lot to get from one place to another.”

The funny thing is, though, that Botton seems to thrive on the pressure.

More free time would simply mean a search for more things to do in Botton’s world.

She’s a member of the National Honors Society and Key Clubs on campus, and volunteers with her fourth-grade sister Riley’s elementary school orchestra.

She also sings and plays at her church, Calvary Baptist in Canyon Country.

“Of all the kids I’ve had in the past six years, she probably does the best job I’ve ever seen of any high school student who can balance (her responsibilities),” says Saugus swim coach Vickey Donnely. “Being the drum major, she had a 4-something GPA, she was on swim all four years and then on top of that she did Canyons Aquatics.”

Dakota is leaving competitive swim behind next year when she moves on to Fresno Pacific.

But she’ll continue with music, which has been a nearly lifelong passion.

Dakota has played the clarinet from the beginning, and picked up the saxophone in high school when she decided to join the jazz band.

“It’s definitely therapeutic,” says Dakota of music. “There’s been multiple occasions I go straight from a swim meet to a concert. League finals is always the same day as Spring Concert and as stressed and panicked as I am going to the concert, once I sit down and play I’m fine.”

There was certainly plenty of stress along the way. Dakota would likely be the first to admit that much.

But for a girl who set her goals out early on, the phrase mission accomplished has never been more appropriate.

“I’ve tried to teach her life is a little bit of give and take,” Krista says. “There’s always going to be a trade-off for every decision you make and you’ve got to learn to take that as it comes. And seeing that actually happen — for her to get that scholarship, she was so excited. It’s been a long time since I have seen her that excited. She was in tears — it was really cool.”

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