OLINDA - There isn't a whole lot that intimidates Dakota Grossman, but when she successfully backed in to a parallel-parking stall between two monster truck tires anchored by concrete at the War Memorial Stadium parking lot on Monday, she breathed a big sigh of relief.
Seabury Hall's five-time state champion was practicing for her driver's license test in a 1995 Honda pickup truck with her father and coach, Bobby Grossman, in the passenger seat and little sister Isabella, 3 1/2, tucked safely in a child seat in the back.
"I'm nervous," Dakota Grossman said. "Parallel parking scares me a little bit and just dealing with the traffic."
Dakota Grossman upped her state gold-medal total to five, winning a second consecutive cross country title and during the track season repeating as the 3,000-meter champion and winning the 1,500, sharing MIL Track and Field Athlete of the Year honors. She also played for Seabury Hall’s league-champion basketball team.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The telling smile on her sister's face notwithstanding - Isabella seemed to realize that this parking thing isn't easy - Grossman stands at the brink of history midway through her high school career.
Her latest accolade is The Maui News Maui Interscholastic League Girl Athlete of the Year award. Grossman is the first sophomore of either gender to receive the honor, now in its third decade.
She has a chance to become just the second Hawaii athlete to win four state cross country titles - Punahou's Eri MacDonald took first place each time from 1995 to 1998 - and in track and field, can match her sister Hailey with a third 3,000-meter state crown next year.
The Maui News MIL Girl Athlete of the Year
1990-91-Kimmie Ouchi, Seabury Hall
1991-92-Jean Okada, Lahainaluna
1992-93-Joelynn Naki, Baldwin
1993-94-Kari Luna, Baldwin
1994-95-Prestine Foster, Baldwin
1995-96-Aina Kohler, Lahainaluna
1996-97-Aina Kohler, Lahainaluna
1997-98-Aloha Santiago, Baldwin, and Lisa Arcangel, Lahainaluna
1998-99-Cassie Coffin, St. Anthony
2000-01-Nicole Garbin, Baldwin
2001-02-Ashlyn Russell, Baldwin
2002-03-Chandi Bickford, King Kekaulike
2003-04-Kami Kapaku, Baldwin, and Tia Ferguson, Seabury Hall
2004-05-Emalia Suehiro, King Kekaulike
2005-06-Tiara Dole, St. Anthony
2006-07-Chelsea Machida, Maui High
2007-08-Bailey Massenburg, King Kekaulike
2008-09-Bailey Massenburg, King Kekaulike
2009-10-Kalei Adolpho, Molokai
2010-11-Kalei Adolpho, Molokai
2011-12-Dakota Grossman, Seabury Hall
Dakota Grossman is already tied for third on the all-time list of state titles for girls.
Baldwin swimmer Chelsea Nagata also won five state crowns, King Kekaulike runner Bailey Massenburg garnered six and former Seabury runner Tia Ferguson totaled seven despite spending her junior year at a California school.
It all adds up to a shoulder shrug and sly smile for the 16-year-old Grossman.
"You know, in my mind I just try to do it one year at a time," she said. "But everyone has been talking about how one has ever won four years in a row in cross country, so I think that would be a huge goal for me to look forward to."
Dakota Grossman has received plenty of advice from Hailey - now a cross country runner at Hawaii Pacific University - over the years and looks forward to doing the same for Isabella.
"I'm excited for her to go out and do her first cross country race, since I have been doing it all my life," Dakota said. "I know all of the different types of situations, so I'm going to be, like, talking to her: 'You can do it, go out and do your best.' That's going to be pretty fun."
Running is family affair for the Grossmans. The Spartans had never won a track meet until last season, when Bobby guided them to the MIL crown and second place in the state in his first season at the helm.
"It is nice to have him there," Dakota said. "He tries not to have that father-daughter advantage, you know, he spends an equal amount of time with everyone."
Bobby Grossman, a former high school runner who has previously coached football and basketball, has grown as a coach along with his daughters.
"I think I have learned as we've gone," he said. "There is a challenge between being dad and a coach and balancing those two things. It has been maybe a little bit harder on (Dakota), but she is pretty tough. She is kind of a cool customer and she stays pretty relaxed. We have a pretty strong relationship and I guess she can deal with me."
Father and daughter will attend the U.S. Olympic track and field trials next week at the University of Oregon, which Dakota called her "dream school."
Bobby Grossman feels watching the women's 1,500 final - Dakota Grossman won that race last month at state finishing second in 2011 - will only fuel the dream. He is conscious of not letting her train as much as she might want to, and has set a limit of 30 miles per week. He also encouraged his middle daughter to play basketball this year - the Spartans won the MIL Division II title - even though it set back her training for the track season.
Dakota Grossman is training for the Western Regional cross country race in the fall, but just keeps on smiling and shrugging those shoulders.
"It is an honor to get this (award) because there are so many great athletes in the MIL," she said. "I was pretty surprised with how I did at states, but I am pretty proud of what I have accomplished so far. People always go for the people who have been winning, so it is kind of more pressure for me to keep that going. I don't really think about it. I don't really get stressed out from pressure."