Eriksson & Harada win BIRR Scholarships
Members of the Big Island Road Runners’ scholarship committee recently met to read over the many applications for a cash gift the club awards to two Hawaii Island high school seniors who will be attending college this fall.
Applicants were required to attach an essay to their applications describing how running has influenced their lives.
“It was a very difficult process as there were many well written essays from many gifted students,” committee member, Virginia Alderson said.
The BIRR was founded as a non-profit organization in 1973 and its main purpose is to promote health and fitness through running and walking activities.
In 2006 club officers, with the help of Richard and Virginia Alderson, decided to create an annual college scholarship award and presented its first two $500 checks to Hilo High’s Stefano Barbis and Malia Williams.
Both Barbis and Williams attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo and both are runners on the schools cross-country team.
In 2007 the BIRR raised the annual award to two $1000 checks and selected Hilo’s Sarah Chitwood and Konawaena’s Eamon Harrity as its recipients.
Chitwood attends UH-Manoa in the college of engineering and Harrity is at Western Washington University where he majors in environmental studies.
Also in 2007 the BIRR provided a half-scholarship to Christian Liberty’s Keoni Ucker where he attends UHH and is on the schools cross-country team.
Last year a pair of Keaau students was selected for the awards in Nick Hagemann and Jamilia Epping. Both former Cougars attend UHH and Hagemann also runs cross-country for the school.
In 2008 another half-scholarship ($500) was awarded to CLA’s Nick Ucker (Keoni’s brother) and he has also joined the UHH harrier team.
“Malia (Williams), Stefano (Barbis), Nick (Hagemann), Keoni and Nick (Ucker) have all benefited from the scholarships given by the BIRR,” UHH cross-country coach, Jaime Guerpo said.
“Financially the scholarships have helped them with the addition of the UHH athletic scholarships they received. Those kids all maintain a GPA of 2.5 and 3.3 and they have all flourished as runners,” Guerpo said.
This year the BIRR scholarship committee made up of Richard and Virginia Alderson, Dan Banks and Joseph Kamelamela, with the Big Dog serving as the chair of the committee, selected Keaau’s Amy Eriksson and Waiakea’s Bryce Harada.
Eriksson has a 4.1 grade point average and has won numerous athletic awards while at Keaau which include, Soccer Coach’s Award, Cross Country Outstanding Athlete, Track & Field Coach’s Award, Female Athletic Director’s Award and was a two time BIIF All-Academic Basketball Team Member.
Upon graduation Eriksson will attend Brigham Young University-Hawaii and major in Biology for which she hopes to pursue a career in the medical field. “I hope to become a doctor and return to Hilo to be close to my family,” she wrote.
Eriksson believes that running has strengthened her both physically and mentally. “I’ve become more determined, and confident in my abilities,” she wrote. “Running has truly opened up my eyes to my full potential. My running career influenced my academics because through believing in my own abilities, I am now receiving the Valedictorian honor.”
Bryce Harada also carries a 4.1 GPA and will be attending the University of Hawaii in the fall. During the past three years Harada has received the Athletic Achievement Award, he has also received the Presidential Physical Fitness Awards, has participated in the HHSAA tennis and cross-country championships and served as a co-captain for the cross-country team.
“My plan is to start at UH-Hilo’s pre-engineering program and later to transfer to UH-Manoa to get my Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering,” he said.
“After I graduate, I want to work in Hilo as an engineer, designing safe roads, bridges, drainage structures, etc. I also want to be involved in community sports activities because I know the value of keeping our youth busy in organized and supervised activities.”
Surprisingly, Harada never intended to become a runner, instead he dreamed of being on the high school basketball team. Harada stumbled upon running as a result of signing up for the cross-country team in his freshman year.
“I ran cross-country my freshman year only to get myself into condition and prepare myself for the rigors of basketball,” he said. “What began as a means to an end turned out to be an end in itself as I became hooked on running.”
“Although distance running is grueling, it is also very satisfying and rewarding. For me, running is the best medicine for stress-relief; it helps me unwind and clear my head,” Harada wrote in his essay.
“Yes, running has become a very important part of my life. I love it and I plan to continue running for as long as my body lets me. It is great for both mental and physical fitness, and for this reason, I am a runner for life,” Harada concluded.
The BIRR will be honoring Eriksson and Harada at its next 3.1-mile fun run/walk to be held on Sunday, June 7, starting at 7 a.m. from the entrance to the Moku Ola (Coconut Island) parking lot in Hilo.
The public is invited to participate, simply come down to the starting area beforehand and sign in. There will be a $2 entry fee for non-BIRR members. Post race refreshments will be provided.
For more information on the scholarship program or the “Scholarship 5K run/walk” contact the Big Dog at 969-7400 or go to http://waynejoseph.wordpress.com.
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