By Rick Assad
When Kaynan Chrysikos first became enamored with softball around the age of seven, she knew that being on the Burroughs High softball team was something she wanted.
After one season on the junior varsity, Chrysikos realized her goal.
A pitcher by trade, Chrysikos, currently a freshman at UC Irvine where she is majoring in public health policy with a minor in psychology, suffered a serious back injury during her first season.
Being in the circle with all eyes glued on the pitcher was no longer an option. Chrysikos had to decide what she wanted to do.
Knowing she still wanted to wear the uniform and be on the field, Chrysikos opted to play first base and left field.
“I wanted to play a sport in high school because I loved softball and wanted to be able to play for Burroughs. I grew up watching the games and knew I wanted to be the one on that field one day,” she said. “I think overall it was one of the best decisions I made because, although it took a lot of time and hard work, it was so fulfilling and rewarding as it gave me some amazing memories, friendships, and valuable teamwork skills that I know I am going to continue using throughout the rest of my life.”
Those four years were filled with dedication and lots of ups and a few downs.
“Being on the softball team took a lot of commitment, hard work, and strength, but in return it gave me several lifelong friendships and great memories,” said Chrysikos, who finished her first quarter in college with a 3.9 grade-point average. “In order to be the best player and best teammate possible, I had to dedicate a lot of myself to the sport. But looking back on it now, every moment I spent on the field was worth it, as I truly did enjoy the experience overall.”
Chrysikos, skilled with the bat after hitting .357 in 27 games with 56 at-bats, 20 base hits that include two doubles and a triple with 16 runs scored, six runs batted in during her senior year for the Bears, went on: “I believe that being a part of a team is a special experience that I was lucky to have for so many years. What I enjoyed most about my experience was being able to be surrounded by such a great group of girls that strived to work hard and grow together as a team,” she said. “Although our team faced a few bumps in the road towards the beginning of my senior season, the finalized group of girls we ended up with was truly amazing. We ended up all working so well together and accomplished such great things together. The closeness and bond our team had off the field made our performance and dynamic so much stronger on the field.”
Burroughs carved out a 22-11 mark in all games and 8-5 for third place in the Pacific League last season and made its way to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs.
The run began with a 13-3 win over Santa Clara in the first round. The Bears then held off Dos Pueblos 6-5 in the second round before hammering Yorba Linda 4-0 in the quarterfinals. The streak ended with a 7-2 loss to Temple City.
Longtime Burroughs coach Doug Nicol saw Chrysikos’ development as a player and as a person.
“I enjoyed my time coaching Kaynan. She was a three-year varsity letter winner who always gave her best and really improved each and every year. Kaynan is extremely smart, as evidenced by her GPA and going to UC Irvine,” he said. “She is very analytical and always brought those smarts to the field and in everything she did while at Burroughs. She is a great representative of Burroughs and of the softball program as well.”
While the games were always fun, the day of the game delivered almost as much excitement for Chrysikos.
“Game day was different from other days. On game day, I spent most of the school day mentally preparing for the game to come and would be thinking about the approach I wanted to take against the specific team we would be facing that day,” she said. “Also, on game day our team would always rep[resent] our softball apparel at school and would often have team lunches together to prepare us and get us in the mindset to play.”
For most people that indulge in an athletic endeavor, it’s usually helpful later on and it was for Chrysikos.
“Being a high school athlete taught me a lot about the importance of dedication and teamwork. Looking back on it, being a high school athlete is not an easy thing to manage and takes a special person to be able to juggle all of the things that come with it,” she said. “I had to be dedicated not only to my schoolwork and the sport, but also to myself. In order to be a successful student and athlete, I spent countless nights staying up super late after a practice or game to finish some homework or study for a test despite how tired I may have been, because that is what it took to be successful, especially in my AP [Advance Placement] courses.”
Many athletes have a routine they follow and Chrysikos was no different.
“To prepare for a game I would start by visualizing the game to come throughout the school day. I would think about the approach I wanted to take in the batter’s box against the pitcher I was going to be facing and would think about how I would likely be positioned in the outfield,” Chrysikos explained. “I would always eat a Chick-Fil-A nugget meal on game day too because I believed it made me play better.”
Having been a part of so many varsity games, there is one that still lingers in Chrysikos’ memory.
“A game that stood out to me would be my Senior Night, the Burbank versus Burroughs game. Growing up playing softball, I would always go watch those games and be so in awe and just look forward to when I could be playing in that game, and then being able to experience that feeling myself, really felt like a full circle moment,” she said. “It was so nice to be celebrated with all of my family, friends, teammates, and coaches as my softball career was coming to an end. The game itself was also very intense and memorable. The energy from the packed Olive Park stands brought so much life to the game. It was a very emotionally strong game, but it showed that our team really had each other’s backs. I remember I got a base hit during that game and the energy was so intense. It was a great feeling.”
Chrysikos’ family includes father Tom, mother Darla and brother Kyle.
Chrysikos has put her softball career behind her and is concentrating on her studies.
“When it became time to apply for colleges, I knew that I wanted to apply to schools for my academics as I had always been a good student and was capable of getting into highly regarded universities this way,” she pointed out. “Although I had a love for softball, I decided it was time for me to complete this chapter of my life when the time for college rolled around. Softball was such a huge component of my life since childhood, but it felt like at this point in my life it was more important to focus on my higher education. I feel like that was the best decision for me as I feel happy with how my softball career ended and am eager to continue working towards my degree.”
There are a few things about softball that Chrysikos wishes she could still be connected to.
“What I miss the most about playing softball is probably being part of a team who all shared a common goal,” she said. “I played with many of the girls on the Burroughs softball team on rec[reactional] ball, Little League, and travel ball teams many years before high school. It was really great being able to rekindle those old friendships, but also so great to create so many new ones throughout the years as well.”
Chrysikos continued: “I miss seeing the girls every day. We shared such a special bond with one another, and I believe that played a huge part in what made us so successful,” she said. “We always had so much fun together but always knew when it was time to get serious as well. Although I don’t see many of the girls anymore, as a lot of us are off in college, I do keep up with most of them on social media.”
Being a fulltime student is hard work and challenging, much like it was playing softball.
“Being in college is definitely different from high school. In high school, my schedule was jam-packed from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. Then I would have to come home and do hours’ worth of homework before getting ready for bed. In college, I only have a few lectures per day,” Chrysikos said. “The lectures are mainly spent listening to the professor and taking notes, and most of the work is done outside of class. I spend a lot of my time doing readings and studying for midterms which come up pretty fast because UC Irvine is on the quarter system.”
Chrysikos added: “Something I enjoy about UC Irvine being on the quarter system is that I am able to take so many different classes because each course is only 10 weeks long,” she said. “Overall, I enjoy college life. It is very independent, but I have surrounded myself with a lot of great friends, so I am always having fun. UC Irvine is only about five miles from Newport Beach, so I spend a lot of weekends there as well.”
Having gone through what it’s like being an athlete and a high school student, Chrysikos shared some thoughts on the matter.
“My biggest advice that I would give to a high school freshman may sound cliche, but I think it is so valuable. It would simply be to enjoy every second of your time in high school, because it really does fly by so fast. Although it can be tiring and may feel never ending while you’re experiencing it, high school is a special time in your life that you are never going to get back, so it is important to enjoy it and make memories while you can,” she said. “Some of my greatest memories and accomplishments took place during high school and I am glad I was able to enjoy so much of it despite spending my whole junior year in online school due to Covid. Be involved. Join sports teams and clubs. Go to school dances, games, and events, because that is what will make your experience a memorable one.”
Nicol has no doubt that Chrysikos will succeed.
“I thought she grew this year from a leadership standpoint, and part of our success last year was her being willing to be a supportive teammate and always have her teammates back, while also not being afraid to hold others accountable when it was needed,” he said. “We would not have had the success we did last year without her contributions to the team. She has a very bright future and I look forward to seeing what she accomplishes at UC Irvine and beyond.”