By Trey Hunter
You might think Mustang’s Jayden Chestnut would be looking ahead.
The senior pitcher and University of Oklahoma-commit has a lot to look forward to, including senior prom, graduating from high school and playing for Patty Gasso and the Sooners next year.
But if you ask her and the players, coaches and family around her, the present is just as important as the future.
“I have one goal right now and that’s to win a state championship,” Chestnut said. “I know I’ve got a lot going on right now and I’m excited to play for OU, but right now that’s all I’m thinking about. We’ve come so close since I’ve been here. We made the semifinals last year. I just want to take that next step and get a ring.”
Chestnut’s abilities speak to the reason why she’s coveted by teams like Oklahoma. Her fastball touches 68 MPH and she can drop her changeup in at 37 MPH. She’s as dominant a pitcher as Mustang has ever had, but outside of her goal to win a state championship, it’s her leadership she cares about the most.
“I’ve been working on a lot of stuff inside the circle, but the main thing I’m focused on this season is becoming a leader for the other eight girls on the field,” she said. “I lead by example. Caisey (Jones) is more vocal, but I feel like I can affect my teammates by my work ethic and how much I care about the success of our program.”
“She and Caisey (Jones) have definitely stepped up as the team leaders so far this summer,” new Mustang coach, Bryan Howard said. “It all starts in the circle. The freshmen in the program think ‘Wow, Jayden Chestnut works hard every day and she’s a stud.’ That rubs off on our younger group. She’s really just a great kid and it’s been a pleasure to work with her in the short time that I’ve been here so far.”
Chestnut has spent the last three years under former coach, Tim Wade. Now she is trying to develop chemistry with her new coach, trying to match the intensity he has brought to the program since arriving in January.
“He’s been great,” she said. “He’s just so intense and has so much emotion. He wants to win a state championship as much as I do, so I listen to everything he has to say. He’s pulled me aside and explained how much I can affect the younger girls on the team by just having the right approach and working hard on and off the field.
Howard is an extremely intense coach, evident when he stands about three feet from the batter’s box, encouraging the hitter as if she’s about to tackle a college running back.
“He’s definitely bringing excitement to the team,” Chestnut said. “We’ve already become a lot closer and have built a great foundation for the upcoming season.”
Most high school athletes find ways to kill time. Whether it’s fishing, hanging out with friends and family or playing a different sport, there’s always something going on. However, with Chestnut, it may not be all softball, all of the time, but it’s as close as it gets.
“I don’t really do a whole lot outside of softball right now,” she said. “I’m in summer classes, so really it’s that and practice with the team. I’m just so focused on what we have going right now, I’ve been working on softball a lot.”
In the classroom, Chestnut is just as good as she is on the field. She plans on majoring in nursing while at Oklahoma and can attribute a lot of her classroom and life success to her family and her father, Craig Chestnut, assistant principal at Mustang High School.
“My dad has always been there for me,” she said. “Even when he’s been at work all day, he will take a couple of hours and play catch with me, work with me on my swing or just be my catcher. My family is great. They’ve helped me accomplish everything in my life and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
So if you think Chestnut has plans outside of the 2014 season, think again. Family, friends and coaches all agree the only thing on her mind right now is bringing home a state title.
“She wants it just as bad as anybody I’ve been around,” Howard said. “You won’t find anybody that wants to bring home a championship more than Jayden Chestnut.”