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Graduating Cyclones

Graduating Cyclones (From left to right): Lupe Cazares, Katja Davis, Leslie Neill, and Alissa Chasten.

The empowerment within

Lupe Cazares has been a Cyclone runner on the cross country team for all of the four years she’s been at Mills College and on the track team for two. Her passion for running began before her arrival at the College — Cazares competed in track and cross country in high school as a junior and senior.

Breaking away from the Division I competition when she came to Mills, Cazares said she wanted running to be not only about the competition but about her teammates enduring tough times together.

“It’s about my teammates sticking with it because it is what makes them feel good — like strong women,” Cazares said.

On intertwining her daily life and running, Cazares said, “I have made it through other obstacles in life so I can endure one minute of a hill climb.”

After she graduates in May, Cazares plans to run half a marathon and a full marathon, ensuring that running remains part of her life after graduation.

“Some wake up and eat. I wake up and run!” she said.

A transfer to land and water

Senior Child Development major Katja Davis is leaving the Cyclone worlds of both land and water.

A co-captain of the soccer team for two years and a member of the swim team her senior year, Davis has submerged herself in sports since the age of six. Basketball, softball, track, cross country and gymnastics are among the handful of sports Davis has competitively played throughout her academic career.

When Davis was a junior, she transferred to Mills College from Cal Poly, where she competed in long distance biking. Her arrival at Mills marked her return to team sports in favor of individual sports.

“The team aspect of not being alone, that we can fight for something as a group, is great. It’s okay to put passion in – lose, win or draw – as long as we are giving it our all,” Davis said.

Davis’ motto is to “compete with and for her teammates” because, in pushing each other, the team will grow in strength on and off the field.

A decade of dedication

Senior Leslie Neill, who’s been playing soccer since she was 8, will be graduating from Mills College in May and leaving the team she has dedicated the last four years to.

“I tried basketball one time, but I don’t have the hand-eye coordination it takes to play other sports,” Neill said, a defensive player and child development major.

Skilled on her feet, Neill found her passion on the field.

“I have stuck with the sport because I love soccer,” she said.

Being a seasoned member of the soccer team for the past four years is an accomplishment, said Neill, since half of the Cyclone soccer athletes currently on the team have never played before.

“It is hard to deal with the turnover of the team,” she said. “I don’t know how conducive it is for the collegiate level, but it is an awesome way to start off the sport.”

But Neill handled the pressure of competition well.

“Being a student athlete is hard, but games were a time to relax and de-stress,” Neill said. “It is a good way to take your mind off of things.”

Though she’ll be leaving competitive soccer behind, Neill said she still wants to play the sport on a recreational basis.

Diverse intensity

When she graduates in May, International Relations major Alissa Chasten will leave her four-year position on the Cyclone volleyball team.

“I played soccer, track and volleyball in high school, but volleyball is my favorite,” Chasten said. “I get to take the energy out on the ball.”

Besides relieving stress, the sport has given Chasten the opportunity to experience other aspects of the community and the College that she said she would not have otherwise experienced.

“Just think about it: That one sport brings you all together,” Chasten said. “You get to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t hang out with.”

Throughout her time as a Cyclone, Chasten has proven herself to be a team player.

“I work hard for my team. You join a team to be dedicated and responsible for that team,” she said. “You become accountable for each other.”

More than half of the volleyball team is graduating, and Chasten said she looks forward to the team growing next year.

Aside from being a student athlete, Chasten is currently working as an intern in the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.