Recently I attended the athletic awards ceremony for Waiakea High School and was impressed with the high number of scholar athletes (those that maintained a 3.3 grade point average or higher) that participate in sports.
One example was the Warrior cross-country team which awarded varsity letters to 46 boys, 31 of them scholar athletes, and 17 girls, with 13 scholar athletes, an impressive number by any standard.
Many of those young harriers were also student body leaders, involved in community service clubs and a couple was serving as their schools valedictorians.
Distance running is one of the oldest sports known to humans, if not the oldest. It requires internal motivation and perseverance and can serve as a marker for how much time and effort were devoted to this single pursuit.
The only community based, non-profit organization, which recognizes the efforts of the high school runner through a cash grant scholarship is the Big Island Road Runners.
Four years ago the BIRR started a scholarship program for graduating public high school seniors that gave a modest $500 to a boy and $500 to a girl. The BIRR has since doubled their scholarship to $1000 each and has, for the past three years, given an additional $500 to a private school runner.
This year’s public school awards went to two valedictorians in Keaau’s Amy Eriksson and Waiakea’s Bryce Harada, with the private school partial scholarship award going to Kamehameha’s Kaitlyn Yamamoto.
Eriksson and Harada concluded their high school careers with cumulative grade point average of 4.1 and Yamamoto finished with a 3.9 making them exceptional scholar athletes who performed well in running and in the classroom.
Eriksson is headed to Bingham Young University-Hawaii, Harada to University of Hawaii-Hilo and Yamamoto to UH-Manoa.
On Sunday the trio was on hand at the BIRR Scholarship 5K run/walk to take part in the morning run followed by a brief award ceremony to receive their scholarship checks.
During the race it was newcomer Donald Truesdell getting out to a quick start with Hilo’s Johan Dana and Akira Tanaka giving case.
Dana managed to stay within a stride behind Truesdell before the youngster from Chico State began to separate himself.
Truesdell, who finished his freshmen year at Chico State where he runs cross-country, won in 17 minutes flat with Dana clocking in at 17:36 and Tanaka, finished at 17:58.
“I was hoping to run under 17 minutes today,” Truesdell said after the race, “but I’m satisfied with the effort. I took two weeks off distance running to concentrate on doing track work, and I’ll be staying on the island for a month before heading back to California.”
Truesdell is the nephew of Kamehameha cross-country coach, Joel Truesdell, as both were on hand to see Yamamoto receive her scholarship award from the BIRR.
Following in fourth place was Amlsom Teklai, 18:01, with Christian Liberty’s Justin Pang, 19:20; Waiakea’s Bryce Harada, 19:39, Keaau’s Shannon While, 20:19; Alex Hatzis, 21:02, Steve Pavao, 21:04, Jeremy Buttz, 21:43; Adam Busek, 22:24 and Dano Banks, 22:49, rounded out the top men.
For the women it was Cindy Fuke, a nurse at Hilo Hospital, leading the way to win in 23 minutes and 13 seconds.
“This was a perfect day for running,” Fuke said after the race. “I’m hoping that I can someday run under 22 minutes for a 5K as it is something that I’ve set as a goal.”
Fuke used the 5K run as part of her morning workout and later hit the road to do another nine miles. “Sunday’s are always my long runs and I was hoping to get 12 to 13 miles in this morning,” she said.
Following Fuke for the women were Kaitlyn Yamamoto, 23:55; Amy Eriksson, 24:57; Esther Kanehailua, 24:57; Rae Mori, 26:45; Jill Macki, 27:47; Betty Maeua, 33:01; Jill Osborn, 33:25; and Kekai Wong-Yuen in 37:02 wrapped up the top women for the day.
Following the event the BIRR held a scholarship ceremony to honor Harada, Eriksson and Yamamoto.
“Even though I may not be leaving the BIIF (Big Island Interscholastic Federation) with many championships and titles, I consider myself a dedicated runner an am honored that this association has found me to be a worthy recipient of your scholarship. In return for this honor, I will stay worthy and commit myself to running throughout my life,” Eriksson said.
Yamamoto, who is headed to UH-Manoa, plans of being a walk on for the Rainbows cross-country team and Harada, who will be attending UHH, will continue to run in local community races.