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Amid coronavirus pandemic, Mackenzie Kestler quickly re-adjusts college plans
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Amid coronavirus pandemic, Mackenzie Kestler quickly re-adjusts college plans

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One day after getting the jolting news that playing softball for her dream school, San Diego State, was no longer a possibility for next year, Righetti High School senior Mackenzie Kestler got busy putting her plans for college on re-start.

"I called Cal State San Marcos and asked if the door was still open," said Kestler. "They said it was, and we got the process rolling."

Kestler said she will be a preferred walk-on at NCAA Division II Cal State San Marcos, the same position she would have been in at Division I San Diego State had the situation not changed.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation in March of the rest of the NCAA 2020 spring sports season. Because of that, the NCAA ruled that all affected players could keep that year of eligibility for next year.

With 2020 seniors on the San Diego State team staying there for that restored year of eligibility, "(San Diego State) called me two or three weeks ago and told me I needed to find another place to play," said Kestler.

"I was really sad. But I called Cal State San Marcos the next day," and the Cougars told her she had a spot as a preferred walk-on.

Kestler was a four-year varsity softball player at Righetti. She led the 3-5 Warriors in hitting with a .500 average before the pandemic caused the cancellation of the rest of the team's 2020 season.

Other teams throughout the state met the same fate. Schools statewide were closed in March because of the pandemic, and the rest of the CIF state spring sports season was subsequently cancelled.

“My athletic director (Claudia Terrones) saw that. She pulled me into her office and talked to me.”

Simmons said she had two conversations with Terrones “and the one we had before my senior year, the second one, helped me turn the corner.”

She said those discussions helped her to shift her outlook from an ideal of perfection, which she could never achieve, to “live for me,” Simmons wrote in the essay.

The CIF state office formally announced on April 3 that all spring post-season events for 2020 were cancelled. The last sports event on the Central Coast took place March 13. 

Multiple programs talked to Kestler, and San Marcos was one of them. However, though she didn't have a scholarship offer from the Aztecs, Kestler went with San Diego State, since that was her school of choice.

Before that, "I went to a camp at San Marcos, and they offered me a partial scholarship," she said.

Then, "I went to a camp at San Diego State, and they said I could be a preferred walk-on," so Kestler went with that option.

This spring came the startling news that option was gone, so Kestler will start anew at San Marcos.

She will start there without a partial scholarship, but it will be a start.

"I don't have any aid to go to San Marcos," said Kestler. "But since I'm a preferred walk-on, I'm pretty sure I will make the team.

"I'll probably play in either the infield or outfield."

Kestler, who was also a left-handed pitcher for the Warriors, played two years of varsity volleyball for Righetti. In 2019 she was third in kills for a Warriors team that made it to the CIF Central Section Division 3 final and won two matches in the Division 4 state tournament.

As far as trying to stay in shape, Kestler is doing what athletes across the land are doing in this era of cancelled team workouts — the best she can.

"I have a batting cage in the back yard. I've been working out there," she said.

When it comes to distance learning, "I would definitely rather be in the classroom," said Kestler.

"With everything that's going on, San Marcos said they didn't know," the status of courses at the school for the 2020 fall semester, said Kestler. "They said they would find out in early June."

She said she is undecided on a major.

"I feel like everything happens for a reason," said Kestler. "San Diego State was my dream school, but I think I will be really happy at San Marcos."   

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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