The smell of freshly cut, emerald grass. The sound of hooves trampling the earth. Fans cheering their favorite team on. In the midst of all of this, physical education teacher Michelle Myers races through the polo field on her horse, mallet in hand.
Around 20 years ago, Myers was introduced to polo by one of her clients at the feed and veterinarian supply company she owned then.
Her client recommended trying out one of UC Davis’ polo seminars. Myers took some lessons and quickly got hooked on the sport.
“I fell in love with it — the horses, the people that we played with,” Myers said.
Myers practiced with the UC Davis polo players on a field in Yuba City for a couple of hours every Saturday and Sunday.
Then, every weekend during polo season — January through April — Myers went to polo matches in Palm Desert.
Myers grew up riding horses, so she had some experience before she started to play polo.
“My parents sent me to a horseback riding camp when I was 5, and then over the years I just kind of kept riding,” she said.
Myers’s favorite polo horse was a chestnut named Pepé.
“He was such an easy keeper. He ate well; he never got injured. The minute you asked him on a field to go do something, he was spot on,” Myers said.
Myers loves a lot of aspects of the sport of polo.
She admires the competitive but friendly atmosphere and the intense speed, as well as the sound of the horses’ hooves galloping down the fields.
Because polo is only played four-on-four, she loved having the camaraderie of a small team.
Although everyone was very competitive, she still loved to meet new people who travelled to tournaments from all around the world.
Internationally speaking, Myers often traveled to Argentina, Amsterdam and Switzerland for polo tournaments during polo season.
Unfortunately, due to overuse from years of athletic coaching, Myers had to have surgery on her right shoulder in April. She hasn’t been able to play polo since then.
A polo accident in 2018 could have also contributed over time to her need for surgery.
“During a match, there was a player who didn’t know the rules and rode me off. My horse went down and I fractured my arm, so I have plates in my arm,” Myers said.
Myers’ least favorite part of the sport is having to play with new players who don’t know the rules, as she finds them to be very unsafe.
Although Myers will be able to play polo again in 2023, she has chosen not to.
“I think it might be time to stop that high-risk sport,” she said.
Despite the sadness that came with Myers having to end her over 25 years of polo, she had amazing experiences that she will keep with her forever.
“I met people, travelled the world, and have had students from Country Day come to watch me,” Myers said.
— By Ava Eberhart
On Tuesday and Friday afternoons, you can often find Spanish and English teacher Diego Panasiti running down a grassy field on the UC Davis campus playing soccer with his non-competitive team.
Soccer is close to Panasiti’s heart and home. He’s been playing since he was 4 years old and grew up watching his dad, older brother, uncles and cousin play.
“Soccer had a very positive influence over me and my academics by instilling within me a deep sense of discipline,” he said. “It helped me dedicate my energy to academics once I stopped playing competitively in my junior year of college.”
Panasiti’s role model is Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi.
“He’s an example of how someone can balance being the best player in the world while not letting himself be corrupted,” Panasiti said.
However, unlike Messi, Panasiti only plays for fun. After he moved to Davis, he found the community-driven group he plays with through some UC Davis graduate students. The team communicates through a shared email thread and gets information on where and when to play. Because of this, the team can range from 14 to 22 people, and on the higher turn-out days, they can field an 11-on-11 game.
“It’s great to build community as well as physical fitness,” Panasiti said. “It’s also fun to share that kind of same sentiment with other people.”
His favorite positions to play are forward and midfield because, he said, “who doesn’t like scoring?”
Panasiti said Tuesdays were given the nickname “Toxic Tuesdays” because a few men who come on those days get “all aggro” instead of playing a relaxed match like it’s supposed to be.
“We’re trying to infuse positivity in Toxic Tuesdays,” Panasiti said. “We want to be overly positive to the point where it’s like the toxicity doesn’t know what to do.”
He enjoys playing despite the occasional overzealous athlete, but recently he suffered a minor tear to his calf muscle after playing in a last-minute soccer tournament not related to his usual team. Because of this injury, he’s been out of commission for over a month.
“You have to give calf muscles a lot of time to heal or else you’ll be likely to get a recurrence of the injury,” Panasiti said. “But hopefully I get back to the field soon, and I can report on good news.”
So while he’s off the field, Panasiti will have to settle with watching his favorite teams like the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, Barcelona’s team and the Argentinian league, Boca Juniors.
— By Emily Cook
English teacher Jason Hinojosa has been running ever since he was young, using it as an activity to clear the mind.
“I think I started taking it seriously in middle school or high school,” Hinojosa said.
Although Hinojosa mainly competed in swimming during high school, he continued to run as a cross-training activity. He also trained past high school.
“At the height, in college, I ran a marathon and was running five to six times a week,” Hinojosa said. “These days. I run maybe once a week in the 4-mile range, occasionally twice. It’s harder to find time with kids at home.”
Although Hinojosa looks back on the experience positively, he recalls some hardships. Specifically, one thing he wasn’t prepared for was the toll running had on his toes. Hinojosa often experienced bloody toes after training for long periods. Although he runs less today, Hinojosa still has faced serious injuries.
“I recently damaged my Achilles tendon last summer and never really bounced back. I was off my feet for about three months,” Hinojosa said.
Now, past his competitive running phase, Hinojosa runs to get exercise and process things.
“It’s been kind of this go-to thing for mental health or physical activity. It’s a great way to clear my mind, de-stress and focus again.”
Sometimes when Hinojosa runs, he gets into a creative space.
“If I’m working on a difficult passage when I’m writing something, the answer will sometimes come while I run,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa also likes the convenient aspect of running.
“Having lived in a bunch of different places, it’s not always easy to find a gym or a team or anything like that, but it’s always easy to have running shoes and an open road,” Hinojosa said. Hinojosa usually runs at Ancil Hoffman Park near his house.
Although Hinojosa has done occasional runs with others, he primarily enjoys running as a solo, meditative activity. In the far future, Hinojosa looks forward to continuing to go on runs.
“I imagine my daughters one day, and I could see us running together. It’s kind of nice to foresee.”
— By Saheb Gulati
Originally published in the Nov. 16 edition of the Octagon.