Athletic Greatness in CSU Bakersfield Sports

Emilio Alcaraz, Sports Writer

Physical strength and mental prowess is created by the monotonous actions of training, analyzing success or failures, and applying the knowledge to accomplish a goal. California State University, Bakersfield has these students that succeed in their unique sports and mentally with their grades. There are also students that must use any shortcomings in their lives and use it as fuel for them to improve and continue being gregarious to others.

Mikayla Popham is a swimmer at CSUB who representing her country at the Olympic trials which she said, “ I was so excited to be competing at Olympic trials in Australia, it is something that I have always wanted to do, and it makes me super proud to be able to go home and compete,” Mikayla Popham said.

Popham won the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the year last season, she won the Conference championships in the 200 and 500 freestyle events, and she won second in the WAC in the 100 freestyle. She also won the team 400 Free relay that got a WAC championship for CSUB, and won the team WAC second place 200-medley relay and 400 medley-relay that set CSUB records.

Popham says that one of the memories she values is last year’s conference performance. She says this was due to the swim team’s performance and the manner in which they all came together. Although there were a few setbacks throughout the meet, it was so good to see the whole team come together.

“Cheering with the team and watching everyone race was super motivating and the atmosphere at the pool was something that I won’t forget,” Popham says.

Popham’s daily routine consists of waking up at 5am and then getting ready to go lifting at 6am, swim for 2 hours from 7am to 9am. After that she heads home to make some breakfast and start zoom classes for the day. Classes end at 2pm and then she heads back to the CSUB’s pool to swim for an hour from 3pm to 4pm. After practice, she has a chance to relax for a bit.

This training regime helps Popham find success which is influenced by her teammates and loved ones. Popham’s inspiration to succeed is her family because she wants to make them proud and shows reciprocity to all the support they have given her. Popham goes on to say, “A role model for me would have to be Missy Franklin because she is always respectful and shows such amazing sportsmanship,” Popham says.

She would like to be seen as a supportive teammate and be someone who sets a good example for the incoming freshman for the years to come.

Hana Makoňová is a middle blocker volleyball athlete who began her first season in Fall 2019. She gained a spot in the All- WAC Freshman team, she describes a few good wins in Spring before the beach volleyball season was canceled.

“There have been plenty of good memories, but my favorite is probably the match with Chicago University last fall. It was a hard match; we were losing but turned it around and eventually won. I struggled a little throughout the match, but I was able to come back, thanks to my amazing teammates and coaches, and help to win the match. On top of that, my friend, who is from the Czech Republic and played water polo at CSUB a few years ago, and her kids came and were supporting me with Czech flag in their hands. It was an amazing feeling seeing a symbol of home right there in the middle of the match and at the opposite side of the world” Makoňová  said.

Makoňová daily routine consists of waking up around 7 o’clock, have breakfast, and then head to the campus. Due to COVID, her team trains in small groups with limitations. She then switches between three day sessions in the weight room and practices in the gym two days a week. She then goes back home for lunch and attends classes in the afternoon. In the evening, she likes to read or watch a show to relax. Makoňová is inspired by her coaches who made it possible for her to speak with Courtney Thompson who is an ex-setter for the US national team.

Makoňová says, “Even though she was smaller, and not as talented as other setters, she worked hard and earned the spot in the Olympic team, twice. She believed in herself and kept fighting through the tough times and at the end she achieved what she wanted,” Makoňová also wants to be a good role model for her younger sister. She goes on to say, “I work towards being my best self, and if I can inspire someone on the way, it makes me even happier and more motivated to keep working.”

Katie Jackson is Second Base/Outfielder liberal, studying kinesiology, and plans on becoming either an elementary school teacher or a high school PE teacher.

“Possibly open a training facility one day. I started playing softball when I was 5 years old and what inspired me to keep playing is the adrenaline rush you get when you are in the moment, you feel like you can do anything” Jackson said.

Jackson tore her left ACL and meniscus in October of 2017. She was out for the remainder of the fall season and Spring 2018.

“I had to get ACL reconstruction surgery in November. I wasn’t allowed to put weight on my left leg for 6 weeks after surgery. It took me 9 months to recover physically and probably a year and a half to recover mentally” Jackson added, “When my doctor gave me the news that I had torn my ACL I was devastated. It was my freshman year and I couldn’t play. I stayed motivated by telling myself that it was only a temporary set back and I would be back stronger. Also, seeing the progress that I was making week by week kept me going,” Jackson said.

Due to her injuries, most of Jackson’s athletic accolades came from high school she attended in Buchanan.  Jackson was a part of 5 valley championship games, three tennis and two softball championship games. Jackson’s teams lost one game in each sport; however, she was first team all conference three years in a row, first team all region her senior year for softball, MVP in the City County game, and nominated for female athlete of the year.

“For CSUB, our team had the most turned double plays in the NCAA in the 2018 season. My favorite CSUB memory was during the 2018 WAC tournament. Nicole Curry hit three bombs at GCU” Jackson added, “ I will never forget the first one she hit, it cleared the safety net, went across the road and landed on a soccer field. I have never seen a softball hit that hard in my life and I don’t think I will ever again” Jackson said.

When Jackson was injured, her daily routine always stayed the same: wake up, get ready  for class, and for three days a week she would go to the training room to receive treatment for her knee. After treatment she would go out to the field to observe practice, charting the batters at practice to see what pitches they needed to work on, and help her teammates improve. After practice, Jackson would go to class and work on homework until she returned home to Madera Ranchos in the summer.