With football wrapped up and a track and field season to go before ending his collegiate run, defensive lineman and thrower Tyson-Jay Saena HM ’22 is bidding farewell to his experience as a biathlete at the Claremont Colleges.
“I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve done,” Saena said. “I’m just looking forward to doing as much as I can with the little time that I have left.”
Reflecting back on his athletic career, starting in junior high, Saena reminisced on how he picked up track and field in the first place.
“I was really playing football at the time, and my [football] coach, [who] used to throw in college, called up my parents and asked if I would want to try shot put,” he said.
His first practice with shot putting included practicing “weird things with a heavy metal ball.” Shortly thereafter, his coach decided to let him compete in his very first track meet two days after his first practice. He had absolutely “no idea what [he] was doing,” he remembered.
A crucial second throw landed him third place in this competition. His impressive performance encouraged him to continue the sport through middle and high school.
By the end of his tenure, Saena ranked fifth overall in Arizona’s high school standings. The main factor behind maintaining his excellence in both sports throughout high school was because of his intense training that focused on his explosiveness.
“When it comes to the shot put, or any of the throwing events, [maintaining] explosion from the hips is really important,” Saena said. “I always have to generate force from the ground and through the hips in football; [coach] figured that I would be able to transfer those skills into track and field into throwing the shot put at the time.”
Following high school, Saena chose Harvey Mudd College because the school offered the flexibility as a top liberal arts school to play multiple sports. HMC allowed him to pursue his interests in track and field as a walk-on while being recruited for football. A walk-on athlete is a collegiate student who joins a team without being formally recruited for the sport.
Within his first year as a walk-on to the track and field team, Saena received the team-chosen Karl Rossi award, given to the student-athlete whose mindset best emulates the spirit of the track and field program.
Saena’s sophomore and junior year athletics were virtually halted due to COVID-19, preventing him from practicing or competing in either sport. But he wasn’t entirely discouraged. He redirected to focus on his family and engaging in his hobbies.
This past season, he received all SCIAC Second Team honors, even after dealing with a hamstring injury before beginning the season and a dislocated shoulder four games before the season was set to end.
While reflecting on his athletic journey thus far, Saena reflected on the sentimental attachments he had for the two sports.
“I grew up playing a number of different sports, but football was the one that I really grew up playing seriously.”
Football is not only a sport he dedicated a lot of time and invested a lot of care into, but it’s also a means for him to connect with family and community.
“Whether it’s with uncles or even younger cousins, [football] is something that’s close to a lot of what my family does. I’m very big within the Polynesian community and I recognize that a lot of us compete and play football. And so that one always has that little part of my heart.”
As for throwing?
Saena teases, “I don’t have to run.”
In his free time, you can find Saena either proctoring at North Hall, playing and singing along to his ukulele or streaming Warzone on Twitch.