Catching up with the Class of 2020: Yurie Heard, Jay Kim & Rebecca Salaway

This week, we are excited to feature three all-stars from the PPWT (Pomona-Pitzer Women’s Tennis) Team’s Class of 2020: Yurie Heard ‘20 from Kansas City, Missouri; Jay Kim ‘20 from Los Angeles, California; and Rebecca Salaway ‘20 from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Yurie majored in Economics at Pomona College. As a first-year, she achieved a 4-2 record in doubles and a 4-0 record in singles by defeating opponents from JHU (Johns Hopkins University), Bates College, and three SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) schools. While managing physical therapy and treatments for an ongoing wrist injury between 2018 and 2019, she earned two doubles wins over Occidental. Early on in her senior year, Yurie reached the quarterfinals of the Division III Women’s West ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) Fall Regional Doubles Championships with her partner Maria Lyven ‘22. Although her senior spring season was abruptly ended by the pandemic, she was also undefeated in the SCIAC in 2020 and claimed an outstanding victory over West Point (U.S. Military Academy) at No. 3 doubles alongside teammate Georgia Ryan ‘23

Having studied abroad in Hong Kong in the fall semester of her junior year, Yurie knew that she wanted to move to the bustling East-meets-West city upon graduation. Her original post-Pomona plan was tabled due to COVID-19 restrictions, so she took a data analytics job at SelectQuote Insurance Services in her hometown. After a few months, an opportunity to teach English in Hong Kong presented itself. Yurie never expected that she would become a teacher, but absolutely loves her current job.

Jay majored in Math at Pitzer College. While partnering primarily with Shivani Doraiswami ‘18 in her sophomore year, Jay captured two wins over Redlands and another win over Whittier at No. 3 doubles. Jay ended the Spring 2019 season with an 11-5 doubles record alongside fellow Sagehen Caroline Casper ‘19. The duo competed at all three doubles positions, defeating three SCIAC pairs as well as numerous nationally-ranked teams. During her senior year, Jay achieved a career-high No. 20 national doubles ranking with Maria. The Pomona-Pitzer pair earned a 7-1 doubles record, notching impressive wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles over West Point, CSU (Colorado State University), CMU (Carnegie Mellon University), MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and CSLA (California State University, Los Angeles). She also rounded out the shortened Spring 2020 season with four victories at No. 5 and No. 6 singles over CSU and MIT, as well as two SCIAC opponents.

Jay applied for graduate school to discover more practical applications for math because she always loved the subject. In the spring of 2020, she gained acceptance to Vanderbilt University, where she is currently pursuing a Master’s in Data Science. She realizes that, in a way, she will never find her “true passion” because it will continue to change to match her circumstances. Her two years in Nashville, Tennessee have been very humbling, as she has met people who are very different from her, and has been living in a part of the U.S. that she had never imagined herself.

Rebecca majored in Economics and minored in Politics at Pomona College. After overcoming a challenging foot injury in her sophomore year, she showed well at numerous singles positions (between No. 3 and No. 6 singles) as well as two different doubles positions (No. 2 and No. 3 doubles) for the PPWT Team. In the Spring 2019 season, Rebecca defeated opponents from Middlebury College, Tufts University, UCSD (University of California, San Diego), CSLA, Sewanee (University of the South), Williams College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Babson College, and numerous SCIAC schools. She tallied an outstanding 13-6 record in singles action and earned Second Team All-SCIAC honors by the end of her last full season with the Sagehens. During the abridged Spring 2020 season, she was undefeated in SCIAC competition and came out of the ITA Division III National Women’s Team Indoor Championship with a commanding singles win over MIT. Rebecca received SCIAC All-Academic honors and ITA Scholar-Athlete honors in her last three years on the PPWT Team. Off the court, she not only participated in Sustainable Sagehens and ASPC (Associated Students of Pomona College), but also worked as a clerk at the Coop Store, the best spot on campus for Pomona gear and snacks. 

Rebecca embarked on her job search in the fall of her senior year. She knew that she wanted to stay in California after college and liked the idea of moving to San Francisco to experience a different part of the state. Since she was not quite sure which direction she wanted to take, she applied for a wide range of roles and learned about her current employer from Jenn Wilcox Thomas ‘08. Rebecca now works as an Investment Research Analyst at Hall Capital Partners LLC and loves being in the city of San Francisco.

We are immensely proud of Yurie, Jay, and Rebecca for all that they have achieved before and after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Our three Class of 2020 graduates were incredible leaders whose hard work, determination, and growth—both personally and collectively—continue to inspire younger Sagehens. It has been over two years since the pandemic suddenly cut their senior spring season short, so we hope that you can join us in celebrating them when they return to campus. In the meantime, we feel incredibly honored to share some of their candid reflections, favorite stories, course recommendations, and pieces of advice.

How did your experiences as a Pomona-Pitzer student-athlete prepare each of you for life after college? 

Yurie: Being a student-athlete taught me to value health and fitness even when I was stressed or occupied with studying for exams or doing assignments. As an adult, life can definitely get hectic but I always make time every day to lift, go hiking, or go trail running with the dog. Even though I’m no longer a student-athlete, it’s hard to forget an athlete’s mentality.    

Jay: I learned how to manage my time efficiently and I learned conflict resolution. Conflict resolution is the big one. Being able to admit that you’re wrong is important, but the hardest part is being able to recognize that you’re wrong. It takes maturity and humility. Being on the PPWT Team taught me that and, of course, I am still learning.   

Rebecca: This is a somewhat tough question to unpack… but my education at Pomona and experiences on the PPWT Team definitely prepared me well for tackling life after Claremont! Playing for PPWT taught me a lot about being a member of a team—both in that it can be super fulfilling and fun but also a lot of hard work and self-sacrifice. Time management was an important skill that I developed over the years, too! 

What was one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of being a student-athlete at Pomona and Pitzer Colleges?

Jay: Being on the team was such a joy that it’s hard to think of a challenging part. The word “joy” doesn’t even cut it. I absolutely loved my time on the PPWT Team, and there isn’t a word that quite captures the love that I felt. All of the “challenges” were immediately covered by something amazing and positive. For example, a time-consuming schedule? Practice was always so much fun because you would clear your head while playing for two and a half hours with your best friends under the SoCal (Southern Californian) sun. 

Rebecca: It was certainly challenging balancing the time-intensity as well as the combination of physical and emotional exertion that came with being a student-athlete, particularly at the 5Cs (Claremont Colleges) where courseloads can be difficult to manage and there are so many other interesting and enriching activities to partake in around campus. That said, I found tennis to be incredibly empowering over the years, as I felt myself improve and grow as a tennis player, a friend, and a leader on the team.

Can you tell us about one of your favorite memories from a team trip?

Yurie: The occasional trip to Lemonade after a match. Not only is it the BEST post-match meal, but it’s also the time to talk about the highs and lows of the match and how we can improve as a team.

Jay: The whole weekend at the Malibu house was wild. To sum up, our house not only felt like it was haunted but also happened to have some of the dirtiest floors, to house mice, and to have a dead lizard floating in a freezing pool. I don’t even remember who we played or what happened in our matches. But I do remember we ended that weekend with a stop at the Malibu Country Mart, which I had never been to before. Coach Mike Morgan bought us ice cream and Grace Hruska ‘19 tried to throw hers in my face. Good times!!!!!  

Rebecca: Cooking meals together at Indoors each year! We rented out an AirBnB for these trips for three of the years I was on the team, and I loved the process of going to the store together, convincing Coach Mike to get us a somewhat excessive (but always entirely consumed) array of snacks, and then cooking breakfast and dinners (and at least two packs of cookie dough) together at the house!

What was one of the most enjoyable classes that you took outside of your major and why?

Yurie: Hands down Intro to Acting (THEA 001A PO). You really push yourself out of your comfort zone in this class, especially if you have no theater background at all! Performing a self-written monologue in front of 20 other students during the second week of class had to be the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. It proved to be the most effective icebreaker as I bonded with many classmates in that class! 

Jay: Introduction to Film (MS 050 PO) was my favorite class that was outside my major. It was just so interesting to see what goes behind filmmaking and how nothing happens by chance. Everything you see on the screen was carefully and intentionally curated to help tell a story—from the colors to the lighting and the camera angle. Everything!

Rebecca: I loved Introduction to Geology (GEOL 020 PO) in my first year. The content was super interesting. And fun fact, it was the biggest class that I ever took at the 5Cs, with approximately 60 people, including some teammates! 

What advice would you give to incoming Sagehens? 

Yurie: Don’t stress out too much about figuring out what you want to major in right away! Take advantage of the liberal arts experience by taking classes across departments and colleges.  

Jay: There’s not much advice I can give. The things that I learned in college, I learned at the right time. I did the best that I could, given what I had at the time, and that was okay. One thing that I can say girls should learn is to stand up for themselves when necessary. To anyone. They should NOT let anyone take advantage of them.    

Rebecca: Take time to really get to know your teammates. The bonds you can make on the team can last well after your time, and it makes it even more fun to compete and cheer alongside your friends!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yurie: Friday lunch at Scripps is a must. I never could pass up their fish tacos and sushi!

Jay: Take advantage of dining halls as Yurie said. It’s a luxury to not have to cook every day. 

Rebecca: Go Hens!

(Images courtesy of Yurie Heard, Jay Kim, Rebecca Salaway, Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and Pomona-Pitzer Athletics)

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