Gabriel Barrett-Jackson may be a first-year playing center back for the first time in his soccer career, but one thing that remains unchanged for him are his shin guards.
Barrett-Jackson has used the same pair of Adidas shin guards, with chipped black paint, since he was 11 years old. Those shin guards will continue to tell his evolving story as a player.
After playing the wing defender position throughout high school, Barrett-Jackson’s move to center back demands more responsibility.
“It’s a lot harder, just because I have to communicate a lot more with everyone. I have to let the midfielders and the other defenders know what I need them to do,” Barrett-Jackson said.
Barrett-Jackson comes from an athletic family. His mother ran track and his father played basketball for the University of Washington, and this legacy is apparent on the soccer field.
“He is just so athletic. He jumps well, he runs well. He’s coordinated,” head coach Rod Lafaurie said.
However, Barrett-Jackson’s contribution to the team goes beyond his athletic talents.
“Even bigger than that is just his personality; his calming personality; his maturity,” Lafaurie said. “He’s just the type of person we’re looking for in our program.”
Dallas Gunny (first-year), the starting goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team, may like to relax with a good book once in a while, but it is between two metal posts where she is most comfortable.
Gunny, who has played soccer since kindergarten, did not play goalkeeper until seventh grade when her club coach gave her the choice to either be cut from the team or get in front of the net. Now, goalkeeping is part of her identity and something she loves.
“I like how I can be a game-changer if I make one big save … I kind of like the pressure. Sometimes it sucks, but I thrive off it,” Gunny said.
At 5 feet 4 inches, Gunny is on the smaller side for a goalkeeper, but her confidence in the goal makes up for her lack of height.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the toughest person on the field, but I definitely try to be,” Gunny said.
Gunny, who has recorded 21 saves while allowing just four goals, has started every game and should continue to anchor the back line for the Tigers as they move toward a SCIAC title after a strong start to the season.
For first-year Jovani Barajas, the secret to cross country is all about managing the pain on long runs.
“I try to focus on something else; think positively,” Barajas said. “Don’t think about how much this sucks.”
Barajas has a number of other strategies to forget the pain, including talking to runners next to him. He has even watched videos of professional runners in races much longer than his to ease his mind.
“They make it look easy for me, so whenever I’m racing I’m like, ‘This isn’t as bad as I think. These guys did twice as much,'” Barajas said.
As much as Barajas must push himself to run longer distances, he has grown to appreciate the sport of cross country running and the team building it entails.
“I’ve done other sports before but I feel like even in track, I don’t feel the same kind of camaraderie,” Barajas said. “You just have such a strong bond with the team.”
Head coach Rob Bartlett said that he admires Bajaras’ dedication, commitment and work ethic. So far, this work ethic has paid off. Bajaras improved his time by almost a minute from his first race, posting a 26:34 at the Stanford Invitational on Saturday.
North Carolina native Sydney Bowman knows what it takes to be a long distance runner, as both her parents and her older brother ran in college.
Head coach Rob Bartlett thinks Bowman has the tools to be a strong collegiate runner, as well.
“One of the most impressive things about Sydney so far is her willingness to work hard and push herself,” Bartlett said.
Although Bowman is from a running family, she has many other interests besides the sport. Bowman said she loves language—particularly Spanish—and traveling.
Bowman said that to smooth the tough transition from high school to college cross country, she needs to amp up her training and get stronger.
However, Bowman has transitioned to her new team with ease.
“I feel like the girls’ team especially is very close and it’s really fun to be a part of a close community like that,” Bowman said. “Running for the team is a really cool feeling to have because you’re contributing to something that is so much bigger than you.”
In a sport like cross country there is almost always pain. Bowman has a motto that uses this pain to push her during a race.
“The faster you go, the faster it’s over,” Bowman said.