Savanna White lives in the air.
Radar might be the best way to track her.
An incredible leaping ability helps the 5-foot-10 Payson High sophomore soar into the rarefied air above the top of the net, which stands 7 feet, 4 1/8 inches above the floor.
She can usually be found a couple of feet off the floor, extending her hand a foot above the net.
And smacking the ball down for a kill.
Or thwarting a kill attempt by a 6-foot something opponent with a stuff block.
But she didn’t always play at the net. She spent most of her elementary school days in volleyball feeding the ball to other spikers.
“I actually used to be a setter,” White said.
But her seventh-grade coach noticed her extraordinary leaping ability and moved her to the net a couple of years before she grew four inches between her eighth grade and ninth grade years.
And she’s been soaring ever since.
The Longhorns’ standout middle blocker played a key role in helping power Payson’s surprising young team to the 3A East Region championship this season.
The Longhorns went on to reach the state quarterfinals for the first time in six years.
Nobody saw any of that coming.
But everyone who watched White on the court or the track the past two years saw what a talented athlete she is.
So they knew success was coming.
They saw the talent when she competed in the high jump for the first time in her life as a freshman last spring and wound up clearing 5 feet and qualifying for the state track meet.
They saw it on the basketball court this season as the point guard dished out assists, battled for rebounds and sank baseline jumpers.
You’d have to have your eyes closed not to see the athletic prowess of this young student-athlete, who also sports a 3.8 grade point average.
The Arizona Republic recognized that talent and selected her to its Class 3A All-State Volleyball First Team. Classmate Raegen Ashby made the second team.
The two feed off each other.
“Raegen’s one of the best power hitters and blockers,” White said. “She definitely motivates me to be better. It’s a competition. We push each other.”
White garnered first team All-3A East accolades in voting by coaches at azpreps365.com. Voting for the azpreps365.com 3A all-state team was still in progress at press time.
More accolades are sure to follow.
With a sophomore-dominated roster, the volleyball team should continue to challenge the best teams in the state. As the defending 3A East champions, the Longhorns will wear a target on their backs this fall. But they should have the talent and experience to compete with state powerhouses like Snowflake as they did this season once again.
And she envisions competing with the state’s elite in the high jump before she’s finished. She matched the sixth-best height in the state meet, just four inches behind the 5-2 height cleared by Buckeye Union sophomore state champion Sidney Rhymes. That was White’s target height heading into the meet. Coming up short of that is sure to motivate her to work even harder when she returns to the track.
No freshman went higher than White.
She also hopes to improve in the long jump, which she also competed in at the state meet.
She also competed on the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
Following the state track meet, White finished 12th overall and second among freshmen in the Arizona Girls Heptathlon State Championship at Mesa Red Mountain. That seven-event challenge features the 200- and 800-meter runs, the 100-meter hurdles, the shot put, the javelin, the long jump and the high jump. She tied for third in the high jump and was fourth in the javelin, an event she’d never tried.
Payson track coach Jonathan Ball said White’s more than a great jumper.
“She is an incredible talent,” the coach said. “She’s got speed and, ability aside, one of the things I like most about Savanna is just how competitive she is.
“I saw it firsthand at the heptathlon this past track season. She has a tremendous drive to be great at everything she tries. And she can be with the work ethic, athletic ability and desire she has.”
Unfortunately, White’s status for the rest of the basketball season and upcoming track season are unclear after she suffered a knee injury against Sanders Valley during the Payson Holiday Hoops Classic on Saturday. She said she tore the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in her left knee when she got sandwiched between two girls and one of them pushed her and she fell.
“It was definitely a scary moment in my life,” she said. “I’m out at least six weeks. I go on Friday to get an MRI to see if I need surgery.”
Payson girls basketball coach Miles Huff didn’t know if she’d travel with the team for their game in Coolidge on Tuesday.
But she showed up on crutches and wearing a brace to make the trip in her new role as cheerleader.
She may be grounded for now, but there’s little doubt that White will be filing flight plans once again.
The sky’s the limit for this athlete.