Bookout makes track comeback

Joe Bergman, Photo & Sports Editor

Sometimes taking the road less traveled makes all of the difference, especially for Jacob Bookout, who is finally back in action as a member of the Bakersfield College track and field team.

Bookout, who will be turning 21 in May, has been away from the sport that he loves since his junior year in high school, but his journey started much earlier.

Bookout was introduced to track and field in the fourth grade by his father John, but unlike other competitors, he didn’t just excel at one event, he excelled at five, competing in the pentathlon.

The pentathlon consists of five different events: 80-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump, and 1,500 meter run. The results of all five events are converted to points, and the athlete who earns the most points wins the pentathlon.

Looking back, Bookout remembers always being one of the most athletic children in school. He wasn’t the biggest child, but his drive and passion for sports was huge, and most likely influenced by his genetics.

His mother, Monique Bookout, was a three-sport athlete at Delano High School, competing in volleyball, basketball, and softball. While at Bakersfield College she competed in volleyball, basketball and track.

Her track coach at the time was Pam Kelly, who stated, “She ran the 800 and was also a high jumper. She was just an excellent athlete.” Additionally, she was an all-conference volleyball player, and was named the team’s MVP.

Following her stint at BC, Monique went on to play volleyball at Cal State Bakersfield, where she was a member of the 1989 National Championship Team.

His father, John Bookout, was also a three-sport athlete at Delano High School, competing in football, soccer, and track. He received an athletic scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he competed in football and track.

As Jacob continued to grow, so did his athletic abilities. While in the sixth grade, he set the Central Valley record for the 80-meter hurdles.

While in the seventh grade, Bookout qualified for both the USA Track & Field (USATF) National Junior Olympics and the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) Junior Olympic Games.

“It really didn’t feel like a competition, I was out there just having fun,” stated Bookout, when asked about being nervous on a national stage at such a young age.

Bookout went on to finish in fourth place at the USATF National Junior Olympics and finished in third place at the (AAU) Junior Olympic Games in the pentathlon.

Bookout went on to Frontier High School for his freshman year, and then Independence High School for his sophomore and part of his junior year. The change of schools was a result of his parents switching custody. When you add the change of schools and Bookout’s lack of size, it made it difficult for him to fit in athletically.

While at Independence High School, Bookout was on the football and basketball teams, but didn’t play much. “I was too small,” he said.

Midway through his junior year, family again caused a change in his high school, and Bookout found himself enrolled at Midland High School, in Midland Texas.

Due to his transfer, Bookout was restricted to participating in junior varsity sports only. Bookout competed in the high jump and triple jump while at Midland High. “I was putting up high marks at every meet, beating all the varsity marks,” Bookout stated.

But the good news seemed to stop there, because Midland High School was now having difficulty with Jacob’s transcripts. Bookout stated, “several of my classes would not count, so they wanted me to become a super senior, meaning two more years of high school to graduate.”

Bookout didn’t want to become a super senior, he just wanted to get through high school, and that was when he decided to return to California. He didn’t return home to Bakersfield, instead going to Los Angeles. “I wanted to be away from home. I wanted to live in Los Angeles,” Bookout said.

Without a high school diploma, Bookout enrolled at West Los Angeles Community College, and tried to join the track and field team. Initially school was going well, he was able to practice with the team, but was not allowed to compete, due to his lack of a high school diploma.

Things began to unravel at that point, because not being able to compete affected his overall motivation. Jacob eventually withdrew from all his classes and returned home to Bakersfield.

Part of his deal in returning to his mother’s home included Jacob having to get back in school. Bookout went to the Bakersfield Adult School, where he learned he only needed two classes to obtain his high school diploma.

Bookout graduated from the Bakersfield Adult School in November 2015.

Following his graduation, Bookout enrolled at BC, with no plans of participating in sports. He just wanted to continue his education. Ideally, Bookout would like to be a firefighter, and is taking fire science courses.

But he then eventually “ran into Coach Pam, who talked about coaching my mom,” Bookout said. One thing eventually led to another, and now he is on the track and field team.

Bookout thought his days of competing in sports were over, especially after the path he had taken. But he is taking advantage of this opportunity and using his maturity to help him succeed.

“I live everyday putting God first, family second, school third, and track fourth. Plus, it helps when my coach is friends with my mom, she keeps an extra eye on me, makes sure I am doing good,” Bookout said.

In his first meet, Bookout won the high jump event, clearing 6 feet 6. inches, and feels that as the season progresses, he will only get better. He would like to qualify for the state track meet, and understands the hard work he must put in to get there.

Ideally, Bookout would like to attend a Pacific-12 Conference school, so he can remain close to home. Eventually, Bookout would like to become a firefighter, because he really wants to help others and feels he would like the hands-on nature of the job.