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Branded By Excellence and Galloping Towards the PAC

Sean Mullen and Aaliyah Wilson: Two Mustangs "Branded By Excellence"

 

By Kyle Wylie

Coordinator of School Support Services

Kern High School District

 

“We Are Mustangs...Branded By Excellence.” These words hang over the students of Stockdale High School as they walk through the quad of their campus each day, reminding them of their responsibility as a Mustang in and out of the classroom. From David Carr being selected as the first pick of the NFL Draft, to countless CIF Central Section volleyball championships, to the 2017 World Champion Colorguard team, to a wide array of academic success both in competition and in the classroom, to many other accomplishments, it is safe to say that Stockdale High School has indeed been “branded by excellence.”  The 2017-2018 school years has not been any different for the students of Stockdale High School. 12 seniors signed letters of intent to play athletics collegiately further demonstrating that achieving excellence is very much part of the fabric of Stockdale High School. However, for two Mustangs, not only have they been “branded by excellence,” they have changed the landscape of Kern County athletics as they gallop towards the PAC.

 

Tenacious and determined. These two adjectives are perhaps the best words to describe track superstar Aaliyah Wilson of Stockdale High School. “Ever since she was a little child, Aaliyah was filled a genuine tenacity towards life,” states her father Julian Wilson, “She was always determined to overcome any challenge, problem or obstacle that came her way.” When learning a new skill as a child, Aaliyah required little instruction and very rarely was told how to do something more than once. “When she was given a simple task, Aaliyah was relentless in her pursuit to accomplish that task. It was as if she was born knowing what to do and how to do it.” As a child, Wilson spent her time trying to figure the direction in her life. She played a lot of different sports, but one thing was pretty evident at an early age - she was gifted with incredible speed. As a kid she whether competing in sports against others or just playing with friends and family, Wilson was just faster than everyone. “I felt like I could beat anybody at any time,” recounts Wilson, “It came easy to me - racing and beating others.”

 

By 7th grade, Wilson realized that her true passion in life was running track. She took to training with her mother Andralutte Wilson, who was a track athlete at California State University of Bakersfield in the 100m and 200m. As a young teenager, Wilson was training like a collegiate athlete as she took to not only sprinting, but incorporating weight lifting and longer runs to help with her overall endurance. It was common for Wilson to engage in two plus hours of training every day further demonstrating that she was determined to be the best. Wilson practiced with a tenacity that was uncommon for kids at her age, yet sometimes that tenacity was detrimental. “One thing that I have learned over the past few years is not to be so hard on myself,” states Wilson, “In junior high, I was extremely critical of myself and often, I became frustrated.”

 

When high school came around, it was still clear that Wilson was among the fastest athletes in school. As a 10th grader, Wilson posted 12.17 in the 100m which gave her a 2nd place finish in the CIF Central Section. However, what was more impressive for Wilson is that she took to the 100m hurdles and finished 2nd in the CIF Central Section with a time of 14.82. This combination of events for one athlete is pretty rare. “Our Valley has not seen a combo athlete like Wilson,” states Head Track Coach Dave Longsinger, “Most people with her speed cannot run the hurdles like Aaliyah because of the technique that is required in hurdles. But for her, she took to fine tuning her technique in both events after her sophomore year.”

 

Aaliyah Wilson improved on the 100m Hurdles by over 1 second from 10th to 11th grade.

This year, she is even faster with a recorded time of 13.69 (Photo by Nick Ellis)

 

After those two second place finishes, Wilson took to training harder than ever. Part of that training included eating healthier and shifting her mental focus each day at practice, concentrating on the relevancy of each of her movements. “One of my strengths as a track athlete is that I want to get better each and every day,” says Wilson, “I ask a lot of questions to my coaches because I want to find that edge to be the very best that I can be.” Coach Longsinger echoes such sentiments about Wilson’s curiosity. “After her sophomore year, Aaliyah put a lot of work into her hurdle technique. She asked a lot of questions, not in an insecure or annoying type of way, but in a genuine, tenacious, determined desire to be the best.” That hard work in the offseason paid of for Wilson as she recorded a 100m time of 11.67, winning the CIF Central Section, and placing 5th at state. Moreover, in the 100m hurdles she shed off more than 1 second with her season best time of 13.72, and winning the CIF Central Section title in the same event. “Even though I didn’t win my sophomore year, I learned a lot about myself. I knew deep down that I could win and my junior year, I proved just that my junior year.”

 

Aaliyah Wilson has always been fast, running with a lot of tenacity and determination.

(Photo by Nick Ellis)

 

With her tenacity, determination, and success, Wilson was recruited for her ability. One of the schools that actively pursued her was Fresno State University - the school in which her father was a wide receiver on for the football team in the 1980s. However, Wilson was not 100% sold on being a Bulldog. “I was set on going to Fresno State University because it was one of the only major schools interested in recruiting me. Something inside told me to wait and I am glad that I did.” As a result of her patience, the University of Washington (PAC 12) offered Wilson a full track scholarship. “I am excited to be a Husky. Bakersfield has shaped me into the person that I am today, but I am excited to go out and see the world; in a place that is slightly cooler,” jokes Wilson.

 

Julian Wilson (#49), father of Stockdale High superstar Aaliyah Wilson,

played football at Fresno State in the 1980's.

 

On the track this season, Wilson has set personal records in both the 100m and 100m hurdles with recorded times of 11.64 and 13.69 respectively and is on pace to win another CIF Central Section title and finish among the top in the state in both events, but for Wilson getting better each day is the goal. “My goal is to stay focused each and every day on what I have to do to be successful. That’s it. The rest will take care of itself.” Coach Longsinger also states, “Aaliyah is detailed oriented every day. Every movement for her has a purpose - from warm up to drills to competition - Aaliyah is driven with purpose.”

 

“At Stockdale we are so proud of Aaliyah and all of her accomplishments,” notes Athletic Director, Justin Roberts, “We all know of how special of an athlete she is, but she is also a great student, been involved in the band for four years, and donates her time to volunteer at the hospital. I have no idea how she can get so much done in a day and be phenomenal at everything she does.” Longsinger continues, “Aaliyah is understanding her role as an upper level athlete while maintaining a very unique and humble demeanor.” Aaliyah Wilson is tenacious, determined, and “branded by excellence,” galloping towards the University of Washinton and the PAC-12.

Aaliyah Wilson will run track at the University of Washington next year on a full scholarship in both 100m and 100m Hurdles.

 

 

Since he was 7 years old, Sean Mullen has been around the Stockdale High School baseball program. “This year has been special for me because he has been around this program since he was little,” states his father and assistant coach, Sean Mullen Sr., “It’s very bitter sweet because he is my youngest and Stockdale baseball has meant so much to our family.” The younger Mullen always knew that he had a strong arm growing up as he took to not only playing baseball, but football as well. “I grew up playing a lot of different sports, but I always loved the game of baseball and loved coming to Stockdale baseball games,” states Mullen, “There is just something about this game. From the pop of the glove while playing catch to the smell of the grass on game day. There is nothing like the game of baseball.”

 

As a 9th grader in 2015, Mullen committed himself solely to baseball, giving up other sports that he enjoyed. “I truly enjoyed football, but when it came to high school, my focus became on the sport that I loved - baseball.” As a result of his commitment and dedication to baseball, Mullen was called up to play varsity as just a freshman. However, the season was a turning point for Mullen as he encountered a disappointing rookie campaign. “I learned a lot after my freshman year,” recalls Mullen, “Baseball was always really fun, but when I got to high school, I realized that I had to put in a lot more work to the game I loved. I struggled as a freshman.” Struggle he did -.212 AVG in 29 games, 5.58 ERA in 12 appearances. “Immediately after my freshman season, I took to practice and training. That summer I found my identity as a player and on a personal level. The key thing I learned how to do is to deal with failure and control my emotions. I struggled as a freshman, but I learned that failure is vital towards growth. I learned that the game of baseball is far more mental than it is physical.”

 

With a new maturity to the game he loved, Mullen’s production increased. Offensively, Mullen hit .312 with 19 RBIs and 1HR, but it was his arm that on the mound that saw a big increase. Mullen finished his sophomore campaign with a 8-3 record, 1.94 ERA, and 65 strikeouts in 14 appearances. “His overall improvement from his freshman to sophomore year was night and day,” stated Head Coach Brad Showers, “He learned to become a pitcher that year - not just a kid that could throw hard.” With his impressive ability on the mound, Mullen started to get a lot of attention from schools all over the nation including powerhouse schools like the University of North Carolina, Duke University, the University of Oregon, and UCLA.

 

Sean Mullen has developed into a powerful opposite field hitter. (Photo by Nick Ellis)

 

As a junior, Mullen committed early to UCLA as a pitcher because of his lively arm. Moreover, Mullen continued to establish himself as one of the best baseball players in Kern County. On the mound Mullen went 9-1 with a 3.48 ERA, but it was his approach at the plate that put Kern County and UCLA on notice. Mullen hit a video game like .470 AVG, with 7 HRs, 47 hits, and 29 RBIs. “After last season, UCLA let me know that they were interested in more than just his arm, they were starting to see what he can do at the plate,” noted Showers, “He has truly become a true gap to gap hitter. His approach and ability to understand how the pitcher is going to pitch to him is pretty remarkable.” Last season, in one multi game stretch, Mullen had 9 straight hits to the opposite field including 2 HRs. “Sean shifted his entire approach of hitting and focused on driving the ball to the opposite field,” indicates Showers, “Not many people throw inside to him because he can turn on it, but now with his power to all fields, he has become a pitcher’s nightmare.”

Sean Mullen was an early commit to UCLA as a pitcher, but the future Bruin may be asked to hit as well. (Photo by Nick Ellis)

 

This year, Mullen is continuing to grow, develop, and maintain his presence as a baseball superstar. “Sean is a four year varsity kid at a Division 1 school, which is extremely rare. This year, everyone takes notice where Sean is on the field.” says Showers. Currently, Mullen is batting .398 AVG, 33 hits, 6 HRs, and 27 RBIs. On the mound he is 6-1 with an impressive 1.68 ERA and an even more impressive fastball. “On average, Sean hits 92-94 mph with his fastball and every game he gets at least 95 mph once,” indicates Showers, “He has evolved into a three to four pitch pitcher with a 2 seam, 4 seam, changeup, and slider.” But more than his gaudy numbers and his rocket arm is his presence. Fellow superstar and teammate, Jalen Smith stated, “Sean has a calm presence about him that we all try to follow. When things aren’t going our way, Sean calmly tries to carry us to victory. He is a great teammate.” Coach Shower feels the same way. “I am going to miss Sean. He commands such a presence that others want to follow. Kids with his skill set, mental toughness, and presence don’t come around too often.” As Mullen warms up for practice and takes grounders from coach, his mental approach to the game is noticed. “Our goal is to win a league title, but our ultimate goal is a valley championship. We have to get fine tune our approach in practice because when we play how we can truly play - we can’t be beat,” states Mullen. Mullen is focused, mentally tough, and “branded by excellence” - galloping towards the PAC.

 

At times, Sean Mullen is clocked at 95 MPH on his fastball. His average is between 92-95 MPH. (Photo by Nick Ellis)

 
 

For Stockdale High School, two Mustangs have demonstrated what it means to be “branded by excellence." Aaliyah Wilson and Sean Mullen have left an incredible mark as Mustangs on athletics in Kern County. They gallop towards the PAC 12 to play in one of the top conferences in collegiate sports with tenacity, determination, mental toughness, and the ability to compete among the best.