Senior Mustangs speak on their last seasons

Thalia Doe and Jaime Alemán

With everything in life, there comes a time when things come to an end. MSU athletes have the option of playing either four, or five years if they redshirt their freshman year. It can be easy to view student-athletes as just participating in sports for fun. However, many of these athletes’ careers began long before they stepped on MSU soil. These careers have been years in the making and MSU not only offered them an opportunity to continue but also allowed and provided scholarships that helped with university costs, experiences of friendship and bonding with teammates and lastly, intimate relationships between them and the Wichita Falls community.

Lissette Lefforge, (No.14), volleyball pre-law, says her life as a college athlete has been rewarding and will be going on to play professional.

“My Life as a college athlete has been very rewarding. I’ve met some amazing people and have gotten some incredible opportunities. It’s my last season as a college athlete and that’s bittersweet, but I’m excited to continue to represent MSU at the professional level. I signed a contract with the country of Montenegro   So, I am ready to see what the professional life looks like,” Lefforge said.

Lefforge, a transfer, said her time at MSU was fast. However, her moments here, she will cherish for a long time.

“Looking back I would describe my time at MSU as fast and something that I will cherish for a long time. I met some of the best people here and The community is so nice and giving. My favorite game that I’ve had it MSU was last year during the tournaments when we played DBU. The energy was electrifying and the team worked really well together to formulate the win. My favorite memory would be the bus rides from this last year. They were always filled with so many laughs, jokes, and games,” Lefforge said.

Julian Barajas, (No. 20), midfielder and kinesiology senior on the men’s soccer team, played since 2017 at MSU for just over four years. He was grateful for his time and experience with the Mustangs men’s soccer. After he graduates, he hopes to continue being involved with the sport he loves, but in a different role.

“I am very glad I chose MSU. If I could go back in time, I would do it again, ” Barajas said. “A good sport memory for me was in 2018, we were down 2-0 at St. Edward’s with 20 minutes left; we came back to win the game in overtime 3-2. After MSU, I will be looking to get into coaching.”

Randi Heaton (No. 26), midfielder and mass communication senior, has played four seasons for the women’s soccer team since coming from Westminster, Colorado. Heaton said the team grew as a result of the hardships of COVID. She also spoke on her own personal growth and reflected on how far she has come.

“Last year… since COVID-19 limited our playing, we were able to work more through practices and we have grown a lot of a team. As a senior, I have definitely grown as a person and a player. I have experienced way more than I have my freshman year and I believe my experiences will be able to help the team this year,” Heaton said.

Delaney Locke, nursing senior, from Simi Valley, California, ran cross country at MSU for four and a half years. She is grateful for the opportunities and memories at MSU. Locke plans on moving back to California to become a registered nurse in December.

“I’ve been at MSU for four and a half years and it has truly been my home away from home,” Locke said. “I’m sad to say goodbye, but very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. One of my favorite memories I’ve had at MSU was the cross country team winning Conference in 2018, knowing that all our hard work had come together for that race and getting to race next to some amazing ladies to bring home the title was so surreal.”

Dillon Sterling-Cole (No. 6), quarterback and sports administration fifth-year senior, transferred to the MSU football team from Arizona State University in the Spring 2020 semester, but he didn’t play for the Mustangs until Fall 2021 due to injury. Despite his late arrival, Sterling-Cole meshed with the energetic locker room and helped lead the team to a 7-3 record. He said it was important to leave behind a strong culture for the underclassmen.

“[I transferred because of] the opportunity that was here for me. They told me I have the opportunity to play quarterback and that’s all I wanted,” Sterling-Cole said. “It’s definitely a brotherhood in the locker room. [The seniors are] leaving these younger guys with the right tools so they can continue to move forward and keep the program high.”

Kathryn Wells, (No. 23), softball exercise physiology senior, says playing a last season is a bittersweet feeling.

It’s a bittersweet feeling knowing that this upcoming spring will be my last season to play. I’ve been playing softball since I was about six years old, so “student-athlete” has been a part of my identity basically all of my life. I imagine it’ll be somewhat of a scary transition into the real world after graduation. However, our team has gotten so close over the fall semester. There’s no other group I’d rather finish my softball career with. I plan on either going into therapeutic exercise or corporate wellness and apply to an Occupational Therapy School,” Wells said.

Wells had transferred to Midwestern and said it has been one of the best decisions ever made. Wells found her forever people here within the softball program.

I transferred to MSU after my freshman year, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My favorite thing that has come from being apart of the softball team here is all the friends I’ve made over the years. I’ve met my forever people thanks to softball.

Jalin Brown, (No.4), basketball forward marketing senior, said that he’s acquired all the tools needed to prepare himself for what is next. He thanks God for everyone that he’s  came across in this path.

“I feel like good or bad, it all taught me a lesson. It’s really been a rocky road. From being a red shirt season at Tarleton State University, to Jacksonville college and now ending my career here at Midwestern state. I feel like I have built relationships with people who will be in my life for a while and bonds with teammates I’ve only known for five years or less. I’ve spent my whole life playing basketball and learning all aspects in and out. I would like to thank my coach Justin Leslie who believed in my abilities to be a collegiate basketball player and putting me in positions to better myself daily,” Brown said.

Brown, a transfer, says he is thankful for his opportunity at Midwestern and has grown since the transition. Brown plans on playing professional after college.

“As a transfer I am very thankful for my opportunity here at Midwestern State University. I got a chance to grow more and more as a young man and prepare myself for what the world has to offer me. It was definitely enough time considering I red-shirted my freshman year at Tarleton State University. Looking back, I don’t believe there would have been a better decision for me. I prayed when coming to the decision to commit and attend Midwestern state University. I do plan on going pro if that’s what God has in store for me,” Brown said.

Hannah Reynolds, (No.11), forward basketball health administration senior, played all five years here at MSU. She is happy that she gets to look back and see what she’s done in the program.

“I played all five years here at Midwestern State. I appreciate the opportunity I had to impact the women’s basketball program while I was here. Not only playing under Coach J did I meet alumni but boosters, and community members. Each person is able to look at this program and be proud of what they’ve done and now I get to do the same. My personal goal is to have 1,000 points in my career and I’m on track to do that,” Reynolds said.

Reynold’s will be moving back home and going on to get her masters in health administration, where she plans to then work at a hospital. One of her favorite moments was learning to play the guitar with Coach Johnson.

“My favorite memory here is not related to athletics but more so the relationship I had with Coach J. When I was a sophomore, and had weird gaps in my schedule, I would come into her office and we learned how to play the guitar together. Her whole practice board which was suppose to have basketball stuff on it had cords, notes and strings. And we would spend like two, three hours doing that every day. I feel like a lot of people can’t say they learned to play an instrument with their head coach between classes,” Reynold’s said.