By Annie Dittberner – [email protected]
In Max Jackson’s first two years of collegiate athletics, he became a significant contributor on two separate teams.
As a defensive back on the football field and an outfielder on the baseball diamond, the St. John’s sophomore manages a schedule packed with yearlong practices and games.
“For the most part, I am able to focus on one sport at a time leaving plenty of time for school work,” Jackson said. “The coaches are flexible and easy to work with and talk to, so there aren’t very many difficulties.”
In Jackson’s rookie season for the St. John’s baseball team, he helped lead the program to its second consecutive MIAC playoff championship. He started 45 of 46 games for the Johnnies and set an SJU first-year record in batting .320 with three home runs and 30 RBI.
“It was awesome to be a part of the team last year,” Jackson said. “The older guys took great care of us and made every day fun. Everyone enjoyed going to practice day in and day out. Our team chemistry was second to none which made it even more enjoyable.”
As the Johnnies approach the second half of the baseball season, Jackson continues to make a difference as one of the team leaders in at-bats, hits and runs.
“I’m looking forward to working toward another successful season,” Jackson said. “We were able to take out a lot of positives from last season and we had a lot of players return this year. Our goal is to make it to the playoffs and win another MIAC championship.”
In Jackson’s first-year football season, he contributed to the Johnnies’ special teams unit in all 10 games. In his sophomore year, Jackson improved his kick and punt return averages and earned snaps as a defensive back, recording one interception and 12 tackles in 2016.
“Whether it’s in the classroom or on the field, Max always displays a strong passion toward what he is doing, while maintaining an enthusiastic and fun demeanor, which makes him such a tremendous teammate and leader,” sophomore football teammate Will Gillach said.
According to Gillach, Jackson’s competitive spirit and commitment to his team does not go unnoticed.
“The fact that Max competes in two collegiate sports at an incredibly high level is very impressive,” Gallach said. “It is extremely fun to compete alongside Max on the football field, and then be able to watch him achieve so much success on the baseball diamond.
“I think that teammates from both football and baseball would attest to the fact that they love to see Max succeed, because he is a great guy and represents St. John’s very well.”
For Jackson, competing in two sports allows him to experience all that Division III athletics has to offer, and he’s looking forward to keep playing with both teams.
“I consider myself lucky to be on two successful teams,” Jackson said. “One of the best parts of playing on two teams is being able to make connections with so many different people. That’s something I don’t think everyone else gets to experience.”
For three years, junior Niki Fokken has proven she has got what it takes to be a multi-sport athlete at CSB.
Some days, she can be found working on her jump shot in the gym, while others you will find her working on her high jump on the track.
Fokken works double time, competing on the CSB basketball team and the CSB track and field team—simultaneously.
“Basketball has always been a part of my life,” Fokken said via email. “I started playing on a team in fifth grade. As for track, I began in seventh grade when my mother said that I would have to ride the bus home if I didn’t join a spring sport. I really didn’t like riding the bus so I ended up joining track and field.”
As a nutrition major, Fokken knows what it is like to have a crazy schedule but still make time for the things she loves.
But this doesn’t come easy.
Fokken must commit time to work on skills on the court, on the track and in the classroom.
“Niki’s work ethic is exceptional,” CSB basketball Head Coach Mike Durbin said. “She has always displayed a willingness to work on her skills in and out of season.”
This past basketball season Fokken played in all 27 games for the Blazers, averaging 9.4 points a game and snagging 134 rebounds over the course of the season. She finished the season as an All-MIAC player.
But her success did not end there.
In the middle of basketball season, track and field began.
“Life gets a little more interesting when the two [sports] conflict,” Fokken said. “I know it seems a little crazy to have two different sports going on in the same day, but I enjoy every minute of it.”
There were a few days when Fokken hit the track before hitting the court and even a day or two where she had multiple competitions.
On Jan. 28, Fokken was double booked, with a track meet at SJU in the morning and a pivotal basketball game against St. Thomas in the afternoon.
Unafraid of the challenge, Fokken competed in both. In fact, she excelled in both.
She won the high jump with a jump of 1.52m before returning to CSB where she took the court with the Blazer basketball team to compete against the toughest team in the conference.
“Since she is a nutrition major, she would sometimes run from a lab to basketball and still make it over to practice track at St. John’s to jump,” senior basketball teammate Macy Kelly said.
As Fokken competes at a high level on a daily basis, Durbin recognizes how much she is learning as a student-athlete here.
“Niki’s work ethic is exceptional,” Durbin said. “Within the last year I have witnessed a certain maturity that now allows Niki to understand no sport or sport performance can be perfect.”
“Initially I was dead set on just doing basketball in college,” Fokken said. “However, when spring season came around and I didn’t have to go to practice, I was lost and I realized that I really missed high jumping. I didn’t
realize how much I loved track and field until it was not a part of my life. Luckily for me, the day I realized this was the same day that [Head Coach Robin Balder-Lanoue] emailed me and invited me to come to practice.”
Currently, Fokken is competing on the track. On April 1, Fokken placed ninth in the high jump at the Hamline Invite, clearing a jump at 1.50m.
Only a junior, Fokken still has one more year to make her multi-sport experience a really great one here at CSB.
“My coaches and teammates have been so supportive of my goals and have helped me in any and every way possible,” Fokken said. “I’ve had a great experience as a multisport athlete here at St. Ben’s.”