It’s been a whirlwind fall for Mikala Tockstein.
The Hart High graduate, who cemented herself as one of The Master’s University’s all-time best cross-country athletes over the last four years, got married in October, changing her name from Fairchild.
On Nov. 3, she ran arguably the best race of her life at conference finals, winning the individual title and setting a collegiate record for TMU’s course at Central Park in Saugus.
On Friday, she entered NAIA nationals poised to finish in the top 15 and earn her second straight NAIA All-American honor. It wasn’t to be.
Tockstein came in 110th place. “It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what God provided,” she said. “So I’m happy.”
The senior wasn’t finished reflecting positively on her time at Master’s, where she helped lead the program to its first-ever Golden State Athletic Conference team title in 2017.
Her thoughts were both humorous – “Now I can eat a cookie without feeling guilty” she said – and serious.
“I learned it’s not so much about how you race, it’s about glorifying God and being a part of people’s lives,” she said.
That’s the part she might miss most: competing alongside runners who hold the same purpose.
“That’s going to be hard to be away from,” she said.
In some ways, though, she will remain a part of the program. TMU freshman Arianna Ghiorso said earlier this season how much Tockstein had pushed her in practice. The impact will last long beyond this season.
“I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for having her as a training partner,” said Ghiorso, who finished 86th at NAIA nationals.
The future, Tockstein believes, is bright.
“I think Arianna is going to be one of the most talented female athletes that Master’s has seen,” she said.
Takes one to know one.
Senior surpasses 1,000 points
Senior Delewis Johnson has seen it all.
In his first year with TMU men’s basketball in 2015-16, he started on a team that went 4-20 and underwent a coaching change.
Over the last two-plus seasons, he has played a variety of roles for a program that’s won 59 of its last 68 games and made two consecutive trips to the NAIA national tournament.
Saturday night in a win over the University of Saint Katherine, Johnson surpassed 1,000 career points at TMU.
It was a moment to honor his loyalty.
“When you have someone who has stuck it out, who’s been here four years, it shows he’s a team guy,” said head coach Kelvin Starr. “He’s faithfully played his role and submitted in areas when he potentially wanted a bigger piece. He’s bought into the philosophy and our coaching, and it’s a credit to him.”
Starr, who took over before the 2016-17 season, valued Johnson’s contributions as a bench spark as a sophomore and as a starter on last year’s Golden State Athletic Conference championship team. The Mustangs reached a No. 1 ranking in the NAIA’s top 25 for the first time in program history last season and opened 2018-19 at No. 1.
“He’s an integral part of turning the program around,” Starr said.
TMU struggled defensively on Saturday night, allowing the Firebirds to pull within three at halftime. Even though the Mustangs pulled away late, the inability to keep St. Katherine out of the paint remained on Starr’s mind after the game as he answered a question about TMU’s next opponent.
The Mustangs will travel to the University of Antelope Valley on Tuesday night. The Pioneers dealt TMU one of its three losses last season in a game that was also played in the AV.
“We’re motivated to play well,” Starr said, “but I don’t care who we play Tuesday, we have to get better defensively. That will be Monday’s focus.”
Pools announced for NAIA volleyball national tournament
The Mustangs women’s volleyball team learned Monday which teams will be in its pool at the NAIA national tournament in Sioux City, Iowa, next week.
Master’s, the tournament’s No. 12 seed, will be paired with No. 5 Dordt College (Iowa), No. 22 Corban University (Oregon) and Reinhardt University, a program that hails from Georgia and which received votes in the most recent NAIA top 25.
Master’s will play each team one time from Nov. 27 to Nov. 29 with the top two teams in the pool advancing to bracket play beginning Nov. 30.
For more information on TMU Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.