The Talon talked to five college-committed senior athletes about their recruitment process and their journeys with their sports. Read more to learn more about their background, recruiting process, stats, and more.
November 9, 2018
Owen Mackenzie has been running long distance since he was nine years old. Hailing from a family of runners (his grandfather was an Olympian), it is little surprise that he has committed to Duke University for Division I cross country and track and field.
Owen has an impressive track record: he runs a fifteen and a half minute 5k, and he can run a mile in under four and a half minutes.
Among the 11 universities interested in Owen were University of Michigan, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and Columbia University, but he ultimately chose Duke.
“I want to be a biomedical engineer, and [Duke has] one of the best programs for that,” Owen said. “It’s a perfect combination of sports culture and [academic focus].”
Throughout his running career, Owen has been inspired by his grandfather, who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and went to the Olympics.
“While [my grandfather] was trying to be a professional runner, he was also studying at medical school,” Owen said. “I’m trying to do his combo.”
For Owen, that combination is running and studying biomedical engineering. Duke is a great choice for both: the men’s running teams compete in NCAA Division I and US News rates Duke’s biomedical engineering as highly as programs at UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford.
Owen also has big athletic plans for his future as a runner at Duke.
“I’d like to win the NCAA title with Duke,” he said. “That would be pretty awesome.”
As a former Santa Cruz resident, knowing how to swim was a necessity for senior Danielle Carter. After dedicating a large portion of her life to the sport for over a decade, Danielle’s hard work paid off when she recently committed to Division 1 swimming at UC Berkeley.
Swim clubs like Santa Clara Swim Club and PASA have been a major part of Danielle’s training and growth, in addition to her participation on the school team. She trains eighteen hours a week during off-season while juggling school, homework and meets.
“It’s really good to know that I’m working as hard as I can,” Danielle said. “It feels really satisfying. I am pushing myself and it pays off through meets.”
And it has. Last year, Danielle won first place for the 100-yard backstroke at CCS and placed eighth in the USA Swimming Junior Nationals. Even though Danielle has individually been successful in meets, she stresses that she could not have gotten this far without the help of her team.
“A lot of people think swimming is an individual sport and it’s all you,” Danielle said. “But if I was just by myself in the pool, I would want to quit because I wouldn’t have anyone racing next to me and pushing me.”
Not only do they push each other to improve by providing competition, but Danielle and her teammates also support each other by critiquing form and technical skills.
“We all really support each other in practice,” Danielle said. “[We say things] like, ‘Hey, pick it up!’ and ‘You need to work on your body alignment or don’t have sloppy turns.’ It’s really inspiring to see other teammates succeed, and it makes you want to succeed as well.”
Danielle hopes to follow in the footsteps of her role model Kathleen Baker, a former Cal backstroke swimmer and Olympic gold medalist, this year. She aspires to make CCS again, place in the top five at NCAA junior nationals and make the Olympic trial cuts. In the long-term, Danielle hopes to become a professional swimmer after graduating with either a business or marine biology degree.
“This is just high school, this is just a step to college,” Danielle said. “I’m just so excited to be a part of the team where we can become more than just swimmers.”
Senior Maddie Jun was first introduced to golf by her dad, who let her use his extra clubs for fun for the first time when she was five. This summer, she verbally committed to UC Davis to play Division 1 golf. She plans on majoring in managerial economics.
Maddie has always loved sports. For her, playing golf had always been a natural progression of commitment.
“[Playing college golf ] has been a goal since I was in middle school,” Maddie said. “I played other sports, but I realized I liked golf the best, so that’s what I shot for.”
During the school golf offseason, she practices every day at Palo Alto Hills Country Club, spending two to three hours keeping her skills sharp. She plays rounds or does drills on the putting green.
“When I got to high school, … I became a lot more serious about it,” Maddie said. “I have a coach in Monterey who I go to every weekend.”
She prefers golf because of its mental aspect, requiring a steely focus to perform well.
To get noticed by college scouts, Maddie contacted as many schools as she could during the summer leading to her junior year. The summer before senior year, many schools reached out with offers, including UC Santa Cruz, Earlham and the University of Dallas.
Maddie specifically wanted to play golf for a Division 1 school. Her chance came when she qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, organized by the United States Golf Association this past summer. A spot at one of the top tournaments in the country for girl golfers helped Maddie stand out to the UC Davis coach, who began emailing her soon after. After the coach saw her play a few times, she offered Maddie a spot on the team and a scholarship for 35 percent of her tuition. Deciding to commit a majority of her time to golf has taught Maddie how to prioritize her responsibilities: golf first, schoolwork next and friends later. However, finally reaching her goal of committing to a Division 1 school for a sport she loves makes it worth it.
“It feels really rewarding,” Maddie said. “[Playing golf in college has] been my goal for so long and I achieved everything that I worked for.”
Since senior Kaitlyn Wong joined the varsity team her freshman year in high school, she has developed into one of the most promising liberos in the area. She first began playing volleyball in sixth grade, and since then, her love and dedication to the sport has only grown throughout the years. Throughout her journey with volleyball, Kaitlyn landed the position of being one of the captains of the school’s current varsity team and recently committed to Brown University to play as a libero on their Division 1 girls volleyball team.
Though balancing a competitive sport and a rigorous course load has been a challenge, Kaitlyn’s hard working nature and devotion to volleyball has allowed her to juggle the two.
“It is hard [to balance my life], but I don’t think I could do it without volleyball.” Kaitlyn said. “Volleyball has been a place where everything outside of volleyball is left outside.”
She says that she developed an affection for the sport because of the challenge it provides as well as its supportive environment. Kaitlyn is constantly reminded of her passion and is kept inspired by her teammates, who have had an immense impact on her.
“Volleyball is such a mental sport and that makes it fun because through the ups and down you’re there with your teammates,” Kaitlyn said. “You can really rely on them and trust them to be there for you.”
Because of her encouraging disposition, she has proven herself to be an effective leader and motivator for her teammates.
“As a teammate, she is one of the most supportive players that I’ve been able to coach,” varsity head coach Peter Kim said. “She cares about everybody and that makes her a great player.”
Kaitlyn hopes to bring that same energy and leadership experience to Brown. She was drawn to the school because of its welcoming com- munity and open curriculum, which gives students the freedom to design their own education. Several other colleges such as UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins reached out to her, but she picked Brown because of its outstanding atmosphere. In the upcoming year, Kaitlyn is excited to continue playing the sport
“Throughout my time on the volleyball court, not only have I been developing as a volleyball player, but I’ve also been developing as a person,” Kaitlyn said. “I couldn’t be luckier to have an opportunity to to continue doing what I love.”
At only four years old, senior Ben Parker could be seen skipping from field to field playing football, basketball, soccer and baseball. As his passion and skills grew, he began focusing on baseball, continuing to play in high school. Ben has decided to continue his baseball career on Whitman College’s Division 3 team.
“Every kid always dreams of playing a pro sport and I definitely dreamed of being a pro baseball player,” Ben said. “I decided I want to take my baseball career as far as I could and college was the next step after high school so I started working harder.”
This past summer, he drove and flew around the country for tournaments and showcases to increase his exposure to colleges. Ben received offers from several Division 2 and 3 schools. He was offered spots at Whitman College, Pitzer, Puget Sound, Willamette and Concordia of Portland.
In September, Ben went on official homestay visits with the players of his top two colleges, Whitman and Pitzer. During his visits, he was able to speak with many of the coaches and interviewed with the admissions officer.
“I decided I fit best at Whitman [because] the environment there was awesome and I loved the baseball team and coaches,” Ben said. “It was a long journey but I am definitely excited and thankful for the schools that reached out to me and for the chance to play college baseball while earning a great bachelors degree at Whitman College.”
In preparation for his last season of baseball in the spring, he plans on lifting every day and hitting twice a week.
“I’m just trying to play baseball as long as I can because you don’t get to play your whole life,” Ben said. “I love baseball because it is a mind game. It teaches patience and teaches you how to deal with adversity.”