With graduation approaching quickly at Cascade High School, senior triplets (from left) Amanda, Brooke and Courtney Alcayaga take time to talk about their brother Michael, who died of leukemia in 2014, and about their futures. The triplets have been active in Cascade sports, and the school continues to honor Michael with an annual baseball game. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

With graduation approaching quickly at Cascade High School, senior triplets (from left) Amanda, Brooke and Courtney Alcayaga take time to talk about their brother Michael, who died of leukemia in 2014, and about their futures. The triplets have been active in Cascade sports, and the school continues to honor Michael with an annual baseball game. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

A bittersweet graduation for Everett triplets

Amanda, Brooke and Courtney Alcayaga will be remembering their older brother, lost to leukemia.

As little girls, they wore color-coded outfits — Amanda in purple, Brooke in yellow, Courtney in turquoise. That helped their mom, Kristi Alcayaga, tell them apart. In snapshots, the trio lined up in alphabetical order

If there’s a lesson in this tale of 18-year-old Everett triplets with ABC initials, it is how swiftly childhood goes by. As parents with graduating seniors know well, it seems like yesterday they were babies.

My visit Friday with Amanda, Brooke and Courtney Alcayaga was the second time I had met them. The day I popped in on their mom in May 2000, for a Mother’s Day article, truly does seem as though it just happened.

Born April 4, 2000, the babies were home from what was then Stevens Hospital in Edmonds. They had already each gained a couple pounds, after weighing in at birth at 4 pounds 12 ounces, 4 pounds 14 ounces, and 5 pounds 12 ounces.

They are fraternal rather than identical triplets. Yet as infants, Brooke and Courtney were such look-alikes that Courtney’s toenail was painted to prevent mix-ups.

On June 16, they’ll graduate from Cascade High School, a bittersweet rite of passage for the Alcayaga family. The teens’ big brother, Michael Alcayaga, died May 20, 2014, after battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was a 16-year-old sophomore at Cascade.

His sisters, eighth-graders at Eisenhower Middle School when they lost their brother, began their Cascade careers at a school where his classmates and teachers were grieving along with them. “Most of the teachers understood what we were going through. They were like family to us,” Brooke said Friday.

Michael played baseball at Cascade. Every spring since his death, the Cascade baseball team has played a game in his memory. The Bruins beat Jackson High School, 7-6, in this year’s tribute game April 11. All three sisters threw out ceremonial first pitches, and Cascade wore orange socks and shirts in honor of Michael and for leukemia awareness.

“Michael loved baseball,” said Bill Alcayaga, the teens’ father, at the 2015 tribute game, where he threw out the first pitch. The game is “a chance to celebrate his life, a chance to remember, and a chance to thank his family for everything he did for Cascade,” Scott Stencil, then the Bruins baseball coach, told The Herald in 2015.

A family photo captures Michael Alcayaga in the summer of 2011 with triplet sisters, (from left) Amanda, Brooke and Courtney. Michael died of leukemia in 2014 at age 16.(Family photo)

A family photo captures Michael Alcayaga in the summer of 2011 with triplet sisters, (from left) Amanda, Brooke and Courtney. Michael died of leukemia in 2014 at age 16.(Family photo)

“It’s just a really special day, and it means a lot to us,” said David Benson, the team’s current coach, after this year’s win.

The triplets have played sports at Cascade, and Courtney has been on the cheer squad all four years.

Brooke played varsity basketball throughout her years at Cascade, and is on a select team with Northwest Prospects. She may play basketball for a community college in California.

Amanda, who played basketball, soccer and volleyball at Cascade, is interested in a dental program, possibly at Shoreline Community College.

And Courtney, who along with cheerleading played soccer and basketball, may attend Everett Community College. She hopes to transfer to San Diego State University, with a goal of studying Spanish.

“They have all done very well,” said Kristi Alcayaga, who works for Kongsberg Underwater Technology Inc. in Lynnwood. Her daughters have jobs, too. Amanda and Courtney job share at a dental office. Courtney also works for Express, a clothing retailer. Brooke, who likes sweatshirts and sports shoes, has a job at Foot Locker.

Alcayaga, who used no fertility drugs, was stunned to learn she was carrying triplets 11 weeks into her pregnancy. They were born at 35 weeks.

Potty training was a challenge, but it wasn’t the toughest part of raising her girls. “The hardest thing was teaching all three to drive,” she said. “The most joyful thing was seeing them turn out to be such good kids.”

For the sisters, there have also been joys in being one of three. “We always have somebody as a best friend,” said Amanda, who sometimes shares clothes with Courtney. During a spring break trip to Florida, Brooke learned what it’s like to be without her sisters. If they go separate ways next year, “I’ll miss them,” she said.

Courtney looks forward to their next steps. “I’m ready to be my own person,” she said.

Neither Kristi Alcayaga nor I can believe how quickly those 18 years flew by. The day we met, I brought her a baby swing my last-born child had outgrown. I can remember loading it into my car that morning. On Friday, she recalled early days meeting with a triplet parents’ group. “We got together recently and all talked about college,” she said.

As a family, they’ll soon say goodbye to a place that has meant the world to them.

“We thank the Cascade community for all the support,” Kristi Alcayaga said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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