Quartet of champs honored
It was a moment that even Dakota Grossman hardly dared to imagine.
In a track and field season where the Maui Interscholastic League accounted for more than one-third of the 28 individual state titles, the all-time winner from the league in all sports was joined at the finish line of her prep career by an equal.
And it was a teammate, at that.
Alyssa Bettendorf matched the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sweep that Shane Victorino pulled off for St. Anthony in 1999, Grossman won the 1,500 and 3,000 for her ninth and 10th state gold medals of her Seabury Hall career and the Spartans ran away with the first track and field team title ever for an MIL girls unit.
In two of the previous three seasons, they had finished second by fewer than three points. They won this year’s title by 35.
Grossman will attend the University of Utah and Bettendorf is set for Northern Colorado – both on full-ride scholarships – and they will take The Maui News co-MIL Girls Track Athletes of the Year awards with them.
“I think it definitely has sunk in,” Grossman said after school last week. “Everyone was telling me, ‘Oh, you have it, you guys won’ before they announced it and it still didn’t hit me until they actually announced it. I think that’s when it hit me and we still talk about it every day. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that we haven’t talked about it.”
Four MIL boys won state championships, but only two of them – Lahainaluna’s Emerson Liburd in the 110 hurdles and Seabury Hall’s Daniel Pietsch in the 400 – did it in an event they won at the MIL meet.
Pietsch, who tied the MIL meet record in his event, and Liburd were each within 0.3 seconds of state-meet records in their championship runs. They share The Maui News MIL Boys Track Athletes of the Year award.
The best pair of female track teammates in state history, according to Seabury Hall coach Bobby Grossman, stamped an emphatic exclamation point on the end of their high school careers.
“It was very exciting and it had a lot of standards to it,” Bettendorf said of being a teammate of Grossman. “That just made it a lot more of a prestigious thing to be on that team, especially with her being one of the most decorated athletes in Hawaii. So, it makes you a little more confident and a little more nervous at the same time – it was a very good thing.”
Grossman brought out the best in Bettendorf, who won all of her titles in come-from-behind fashion and broke the state-meet record in the 200, her final individual race of the competition.
“I’m a very competitive person and having someone be that good made me want to be better,” Bettendorf said. “I’m not as good as Dakota Grossman, but she made me want to get up to that level and want to push that hard. She just brought out the competitive spirit in me.”
Pietsch watched his Spartans’ girls teammates on their way to the state crown.
“It definitely makes us want to win more,” Pietsch said. “I mean, we kind of feel overshadowed by them, but then it is also inspirational and we can see how good it makes them feel and we can share in it, too.
“It allows us to see what’s possible, too, our small school doing so well.”
Pietsch will run for Emory University, an NCAA Division III school in Atlanta, next season. He wants to combine business with engineering in college, so he will attend Georgia Tech simultaneously.
“It will be a five-year program to get two degrees,” he said.
Pietsch competed in track and field in only his junior and senior seasons at Seabury Hall.
“I just started running my junior year and I didn’t have any expectations,” he said. “I used to run when I was way younger and I kind of quit because I wasn’t doing so well at it, but I came back to get in shape. Soccer was my main sport.”
Liburd, a junior, is the only one of the foursome who will be back on an MIL track next season. He is now chasing the MIL and state marks set by former Maui High standout Dana Navarro-Arias in 1999.
“I feel like I had a great season,” Liburd said. “I had very good coaches that helped me out and they taught me everything. It was just a great experience to have such great coaches and such a great team.”
Lahainaluna hurdling coach Ray Yamat and head coach Andy Clayton were large for Liburd.
“We had two great coaches who really impacted the team, made it a family,” Liburd said. “I couldn’t have done it without them and all my good teammates and supporters and fans. My goal was to get two state championships in the 110 and 300 hurdles and that is my goal for next year, too.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com