Jessica Van Winkle is a sophomore at Mammoth High School. There’s something great to be said of that, considering that every Athlete of the Week to date represents the 2014 Senior Class. However, this star tennis player caught the attention of MHS Girls Tennis Head Coach Kyle Osland. When I called Coach Osland to inform him that it’s Girls Tennis’s moment of glory in the rotation for choosing an Athlete of the Week, it was without reservation that he mentioned Jessica’s name to me.
“This is her first year playing tennis. She is by far the most improved. When playing doubles, she is victorious with Jenny Ayala. They beat Bishop, a much more experienced team. She is most improved through effort. She’s a good student. Great kid.” Those are the profound words that Osland offered to me to describe this student-athlete representing the Class of 2016.
The sophomore’s favorite school subject is math “because I’m good at it,” she declared with a big grin. Jessica is relatively new to the Mammoth area, and to Mammoth High School. She entered the school district in April 2013, joined by her older brother Austin. The Van Winkle family hails from Medford, Ore., a very beautiful and pristine area not unlike the Eastern Sierra in several ways. Medford, however, has a much larger population, and as Jessica shared with me that moving from a high school with a population of around 2,000 students to a campus with just over 300 has been quite the change. Jessica commented, “that a small school is so much different. Sports are more fun here (Mammoth). Competition is more intense there (Medford) and I wouldn’t have thought of playing a new sport.” She’s had so much fun playing tennis that Jessica is set on also playing team basketball for the first time this upcoming winter season. Jessica wanted to play tennis at Medford, but it is a spring sport at her former school, and that conflicted with her commitment to softball, which she has been playing since first grade. She proudly declared that the Medford Softball squad had the highest GPA of any team at her former school.
“I love any competition where I can play aggressive and hard.”
Jessica is easily motivated in athletics. She also sees the greatness of older brother Austin, a current 12th grader and member of the Huskies Football family. Jessica says of her brother, “He’s a great athlete. He plays everything. Track, football, and baseball.” Their father Mike is also a great role model. Mike played baseball and basketball at a younger age. Jessica’s goals in athletics are to “become the best and learn to play tennis and basketball.” She is on the right path.
In school, Jessica’s goal is a 4.0 grade point average. Every. Grading. Period. Yep, her standards are set that high. She also has her sights set on Valedictorian for the Class of 2016. Her studies will lead to what Jessica sees as an eventual career path working within international missionary philanthropic pursuits. What I didn’t know about Jessica, a student in my 10th grade World History class, until we sat down to chat is that two summers back, she spent a week in Haiti supporting development work programs focused on women and children. She sees herself later working in an orphanage or flying planes for aide program logistics somewhere on the African continent. Jessica doesn’t follow professional sports, and she never watches much television. Her priorities are clearly where they need to be.
As for what the Athlete of the Week has to offer to us per words of wisdom, “If you’re gonna play sports, play hard. And keep up with school work. Make sure you are on top of that.”