Playing multiple sports at Los Altos High School and Caltech has taught Paige Lavin something that she still applies to her daily life.
“When I’m getting upset with someone or a situation is getting stressful, (I would) take a breath when I need to recenter myself,” said the Los Altos native, now a doctoral candidate in physical oceanography at the University of Washington. “I guess I kind of focus on the word ‘recenter’ – the mantra – I just take a breath (and) focus back in.”
It has been a decade since Los Altos native Lavin – formerly Paige Logan – graduated from Los Altos High as a four-sport athlete.
A standout in volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field, she was selected the school’s 2010 Senior Female Athlete of the Year before moving on to Caltech to continue her athletic and academic careers. She graduated from the university in 2014 with a double degree in geophysics and environmental science, and engineering.
She started out playing three sports at Caltech – volleyball, basketball and track – but was forced to quit basketball her junior year after suffering her fourth concussion in college.
Managing multiple sports at such an academically rigorous school required careful planning and discipline, she said.
“Especially when you’re doing multiple sports, you really need to be on top of your schedule and manage your time,” Lavin said in a recent phone interview. “I don’t think until I got to college I really realized how valuable that is.”
Leaving her mark
She set two volleyball records at Caltech – for career kills and kills in a match. She also set the school standards in the women’s shot put (41 feet, 9.75 inches) and hammer throw (145-4).
“For track, they have a board that they put it up on, so it’s kind of fun to walk by it every day,” said Lavin, who served as team captain for the track and basketball teams for two years. “(For) the shot put one, I actually broke it when I was a freshman, but it was nice because every time I got a new (personal record), I would break the record.”
Her college athletic achievements culminated in her winning performance in the shot put at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.
“In college, the best moment was actually my very last moment,” Lavin said. “I was in second place, and then I had a really great throw on my very last throw. I ended up getting first place, and my whole team was there to watch the throw. That was a really awesome way to cap off the whole college career.”
Her achievements did not stop there. In 2013, Lavin earned the Campus Life and Master’s Award for helping improve the quality of undergraduate life by promoting effective communication with the administration.
Although the award was not related to athletics, Lavin attributes it to the patience, leadership and communication skills she’s gained in the fields.
“I think it helped me get better at getting the best out of people, but in a respectful, patient way,” Lavin said, “which is definitely a skill that you need a lot in the rest of your life ... trying to be competitive but also remembering that it’s just a game at the end of the day, right?”
Life after Caltech
Two years ago, she married her college sweetheart Albie Lavin, who played baseball at Caltech.
Since earning her master’s degree in oceanography from UW in 2016, Lavin has been working on her doctorate and hopes to defend her thesis by next year.
“I look at ocean circulation globally and how it interacts with climate change,” she said.
While her initial interests focused on marine biology, she was drawn to the ocean at a young age.
“I’m kind of weird in that I’ve been really into the oceans since I was 11,” Lavin said. “I kind of knew I wanted to be an oceanographer, and going to Caltech, which is a very science-focused school, became part of that plan. I remember tidepooling when I was a kid and just absolutely loving it. And so for a long time, I thought I was going to be a marine biologist. And then I did research in the summer at a marine biology lab – I didn’t really like it very much.”
Lavin said she went on a 40-day research cruise to study ocean patterns in Antarctica.
“I got to go on a research cruise while I was in grad school from Easter Island (Chile to) Antarctica,” Lavin said of the trip, which she returned from in February 2017. “That was pretty fun. Something that I really enjoy about oceanography is being able to actually go out in the field and go to really interesting places.”
Time for sports
When asked what she misses most about collegiate sports, Lavin said she longs to again have that time devoted to practice.
“I know that I’m out of college, (but) I really miss having two hours of dedicated sports time,” she said. “I think as you get older, it’s harder to fit that time in your schedule, and just being totally focused on your sport and not having to worry about school is something that now, looking back, I really miss.”
Now, as a doctoral student, she is able to find time to play volleyball recreationally at the gym. She also plays in an intramural softball league during the summer, which, she said, is the best time to be in Seattle.
When she’s done with school, Lavin said she plans to work as a postdoctoral research fellow in physical oceanography with the eventual goal of becoming an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NASA.