WASCO, Calif. — “Everyone has their own sport, this is my sport, and I want to get better at my sport.”
At just 12-years-old Kaitlyn Taberna earned her black belt, won gold in the 2019 USA Nationals, and recently fought her way onto the Amateur Athletic Union National team.
This Bakersfield native isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon.
“I’m here every single day, five times a week, sometimes six. I’m always thinking about it, you know, how am I going to get better, it’s just a big part of my life," Taberna said.
Kaitlyn’s athletic career didn’t begin on the mat, but her first passion helped with the transition.
“I always thought I was going to be a dancer (laughs) but no, here, I didn’t think I was going to be as good at this sport but turns out I have a big talent," Taberna said.
Coaching her talents into success, Tiger Martial Arts Master Alex Solorio knew she was special from the beginning despite her small stature.
“She’s very flexible, she’s very smart, and she’s very tough, and she has a big heart," Solorio said.
He noticed her dedication, too.
“She’s always coming to practice, gives it 100% and she has the drive and motivation," Solorio said.
That dedication begins with a daily drive to her training facilities including the Tigers Martial Arts Center. Something her dad makes sure happens.
“Every day he’s driving me from Bakersfield to Shafter, then Shafter to Wasco, then Wasco back to Bakersfield," Taberna said.
All those miles already paying off.
“My favorite part is seeing the joy in her that, everybody that doubted her is now seeing that she can do it. It’s pretty cool to see all the kids look up to her and say wow I can do that one day if she can do it," Solorio said.
Whether she’s sparring with boys or girls, there's one aspect that Kaitlyn is pretty darn good at.
“That’s my favorite thing to do is just kicking in general," Taberna says with a laugh.
And she’s kicking butt everywhere she goes, now with the chance to compete on an international stage with Team USA in the AAU competition in Canada in October.