Sea Lion Spotlight of the Week: Meet Jenna Bernath

Photo courtesy of PLNU Athletics.

Editor-in-chief of the Point Loma Nazarene University Mariner Yearbook, sports editor for The Point newspaper and cross country and track athlete, Jenna Bernath is a fourth-year multimedia journalism major with a writing minor and she’s leaving a legacy at PLNU.

Bernath’s running career began her freshman year at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California. There, she was named the team’s most valuable and most improved runner and was the JV League champion in the 3200 meter and 1600 meter events.

Bernath spent most of her adolescent years playing softball for school and club. She made the decision to switch from softball to cross country and track in high school due to “too much pressure,” she said.

In addition to the switch, Bernath also discovered her love for writing that year. Her English teacher, Todd Pollard, pulled her essay from a class assignment and provoked the idea of a career in writing. Bernath was named to the “Top 20 to Watch” list for excellence in writing.

When she began looking at colleges for a higher education, Bernath knew she wanted to continue running. 

She reached out to the PLNU cross country coach, Jerry Arvin, her senior year of high school with an interest to run for the team. She was a walk-on, then later earned a scholarship to continue running for both cross country and track teams.

“I’m really glad I did it [continue to run in college]. All of my teammates really care for each other, and that’s what made me stay,” Bernath said.

Reflecting on her final track season, Bernath reminisced on all the runs she’s been on with her team and the “fun conversations” they’ve had. One of her favorite memories was going to Hawaii for the PacWest (Pacific West Conference) championships her second year in 2022.

Her first year track season, Bernath was named to the Academic All-PacWest Team with a 3.99 GPA (grade point average) and qualified to run in the 10k (kilometers) event in the PacWest meet in Fresno, California. That’s 25 laps around the track. 

On top of spending most of her time running, Bernath oversees PLNU’s yearbook, despite not having prior experience with yearbook.  

PLNU’s journalism program founder and professor, Dean Nelson, encouraged Bernath to take up the position as the Mariner Yearbook editor-in-chief (EIC). 

With all of her commitments already as an athlete, student and editor for The Point, Bernath wasn’t sold on taking on another role. “I had never done yearbook before and I’m involved in athletics [and The Point], but Dean does what Dean does — pitched it to me and I agreed to do it,” Bernath said. 

It’s the 50th anniversary of PLNU being on the Point Loma campus since moving from Pasadena, so Bernath and the yearbook staff were excited to design this special edition yearbook. The design is modeled after the 1974 first edition of the Mariner.

“I didn’t realize how quickly it’d turn into a passion project,” Bernath said. “Especially as a senior, just remembering all the things that I love about this campus before I leave it.”

As the EIC, Bernath’s job includes preparing the budget, working closely with PLNU’s printing services, organizing the staff meetings, staying in communication with the marketing team so students are up-to-date with the yearbook and sending out emails to PLNU parents.

The Mariner is on pre-order for 20 dollars now until the end of March. After that, it goes up to 25 dollars.

Bernath has been writing for The Point newspaper since her second year. Her third year, she became the sports editor. 

Every Friday of the week, Bernath receives all the sports articles written by staff writers and completes their edits by Sunday. 

Her interest in journalism sparked in high school. 

Bernath was a teacher’s aid for her cross country and track coach, Brad Peters, where she would complete reports for each of the team’s races. 

“I started getting more into it. I knew he was going to have me write [the report], so at the meets, I would talk to my teammates and get quotes from them. I didn’t know that I was doing journalism,” Bernath said.

As she began applying to colleges, Bernath didn’t know what major to declare and realized that she had already been doing journalism and wanted to continue. 

“Everyone has a story, [people] have so many stories. Getting to hear about what [athletes] have overcome to be great in their sports, I really want to tell that story, and highlight those people and inspire others who are going through similar things,” Bernath said.

Once she graduates with her journalism degree, Bernath plans to pursue a career in sports media. 

With her two years of experience as editor and covering the success of PLNU’s sports teams this year, Bernath is also interested in becoming an athletics communications assistant or director for a college team.

“[As sports editor], I get to know the players, know the community, know the coaches, and that’s just something I really like,” Bernath said. “I love getting to see athletes succeed and excel over time.”

The spring semester of her third year, Bernath studied abroad in Manhattan, New York through New York City Semester in Journalism in The King’s College and wrote for amNew York, which is one of the cities largest daily newspapers by circulation. 

According to Bernath, she worked primarily remotely and would write all day two days out of the week. 

“It was really awesome to get my bylines in physical papers in New York,” Bernath said. “I got to write a lot about food and beverages. I got to cover businesses and talk to business owners who are still reeling from the effects of COVID. It was cool to see my work also get people to support these businesses in their last days.”

Aside from writing, Bernath got to learn from professors who worked for the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and the head of videography for The Insider. 

Bernath wanted to prove to herself that she could travel to New York by herself for a whole semester. “It was out of my comfort zone which is the main reason why I wanted to do it,” Bernath said. “I wanted to grow as a person and prove to myself that I can survive on my own in a huge city.”

Despite not being able to compete in the track season that semester, Bernath still needed to keep up with her training, so she’d go to the gym after work. During the day when she’d have free time, her and her roommates would explore the city.

Her favorite thing to do on her own was walk around Central Park. “They had a broadway softball league and they would play against each other, so I’d sit and watch. It was so fun,” Bernath said. 

She also explored all the different food options that were offered. She enjoyed the pizza and Indian food, but her favorite place was Leo’s Bagels. “New York City is so diverse, so any type of food you want, you can find a good place,” Bernath said.

Bernath also upheld her sports editor position while away. 

She received the articles she needed to edit Friday night and would complete them by Sunday despite the three hour time difference. “It was still a fine system, it wasn’t that big of a difference,” Bernath said.

Bernath’s family are her biggest supporters. Her brother, Matthew, is committed to PLNU for baseball next year and Bernath noted that they are very close. 

Her parents, Arlene and Tom, are her biggest influences. Tom played hockey and Arlene played soccer for several years.

“My dad is really hard working and if you need something, he’s the first to volunteer, and my mom is so patient, so kind and gentle, and I want to bring [those things] to people I’m interacting with in journalism [and the people in her life],” Bernath said.

, Bernath is thankful for growing up in a Christian household, but said her faith didn’t become her own until she attended PLNU. 

“I’m glad [PLNU] has a faith-based community where I could explore [Christianity] more,” Bernath said.

Bernath attends Crossroads Church in Corona, California and got baptized in the summer of 2023. “Since then, I’ve been trying to live out God’s will as best as I can — trying to be the best imperfect version of myself,” Bernath said.

Bernath loves reading in her free time, specifically in the mystery genre. However, her all-time favorite book isn’t a mystery; it’s called “Till We have Faces” by C.S Lewis. She also loves watching Marvel movies, her favorite being “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  

A piece of advice Bernath would give to someone who is balancing a lot in their schedule would be to set priorities. “Something that my dad tells me is you don’t have to be all things to all people. Try to do good and be good. Pick what your priorities are, which can change every day, and stick to them that day. But, make sure to also prioritize things where other people are relying on you — things that are bigger than yourself.”