When Kai Karamitsos graduated from Righetti High School in June, he did it as one of his school's most distinguished athletes and students.
The four-year water polo and swim standout earned league MVP honors as a senior and was ranked as one of the top students in his class with a GPA closer to 5.0 than 4.0.
For his efforts, Karamitsos was named the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's Scholar Athlete of the Year in May.
Madden, who was Hancock's head football coach for the 1962 and 1963 seasons, didn't just coach football on the Central Coast. He wove himself into the fabric of the area.
But another act that separated Karamitsos from the pack is something that wasn't always seen.
While he was excelling in the classroom and the pool, leading Righetti to another league water polo title in front of packed stands, Karamitsos was doing what he could to get youngsters on a similar path. Karamitsos spent the little extra time he had as a volunteer coach for a youth water polo program that was run out of the Righetti High pool.
In that role, Karamitsos, who typically left his house at 5:45 a.m. to attend swim or water polo practice, would spend up to two extra hours on the pool deck as a coach.
"Righetti is a school with over 2,400 students and it's easy to get lost in the crowd, or worse yet, find yourself in the wrong crowd," Karamitsos said in his scholarship application for the Round Table. "I feel like a big brother welcoming them into our program and showing them the importance of camaraderie with their teammates and coaches. I had a similar experience as a cabin leader at the elementary school science camp."
“It was just good to see everybody again,” said SMSC member Parker Reynolds. “Since we came back, I’ve seen maybe 15, 20 girls and guys.”
With that approach, it's easy to see why Karamitsos was chosen as the Scholar Athlete of the Year for Northern Santa Barbara County. Before his final semester at Righetti wrapped up, Karamitsos carried a 4.71 GPA. He plans on studying environmental science or marine biology at UC Santa Barbara, where he also may try to join the highly-regarded water polo team -- if he gets the chance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"UC Santa Barbara has a really good program for both," Karamitsos said of his major choices.
The utility player was a water polo All-American at Righetti.
Fenenga founded the boys volleyball program at Santa Ynez and led teams to jaw-dropping levels of success. The Pirates won seven CIF Southern Section titles and made the finals 10 times.
"There's a chance," Karamitsos said of possibly playing water polo at UCSB when he received his Scholar Athlete of the Year award in May.
Karamitsos wrote that he found dominance in the pool at Righetti despite having no experience in the sport before he entered high school.
"With no prior experience in water polo, through time commitment and hard work, I've developed into a high-level player," Karamitsos wrote in his scholarship application.
That title gave Nipomo High three CIF championships in its history: The football team and the boys swimming squad each won one when Nipomo was a member of the CIF Southern Section.
How did he become an MVP water polo player and top-ranked student ? Well, Karamitsos says it wasn't solely talent.
"My greatest strength is dedication -- to academics, athletics and social life," Karamitsos wrote. "...This isn't due to what some consider innate ability, but more so my strong work ethic."
Most of Karamitsos' days consisted of training in the morning for at least an hour, six hours of classes and more work in the pool for three hours before homework in the evening.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Guyader has been forced to make all his first-year preparations in the digital world. He's developed video workout programs to help kids stay in shape and asked players to show their progress by submitting videos or photos of what they've been working on, with all communication taking place on Zoom or other digital services.
For Karamitsos, though, his efforts in high school just laid the foundation for his future at UCSB.
"In the next few years, I'll have to be more dedicated than ever, but I know I'll find a way to enjoy the challenge," he said.
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