2017-18 MIL Athletes of the Year: Veronica Winham & Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore

Seabury Hall runner continued her school’s distance dominance; Baldwin two-sport star ruled the pool, led team to unprecedented heights

In her senior season, Veronica Winham repeated as state cross country champion and swept the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 meters at the state track meet. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore and Veronica Winham.

They both own multi-state championship gold medals. Both will be NCAA Division I athletes in the fall, one close to home, one far away.

They each leave their Maui Interscholastic League campuses with an undeniable sense of accomplishment.

One led her team to heights never seen by an MIL squad, the other helped cement a foundation for one of the most dominant programs in the state.

Each won the last individual race of their high school careers from qualifying spots well down the lists.

Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore won state swimming gold in the 100-yard backstroke and 200 medley relay, and led the Bears’ water polo team to a third-place finish in the state tournament. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Now, they are The Maui News co-MIL Girls Athletes of the Year.

Winham, the Seabury Hall graduate who is headed for Dartmouth University, won her second straight state cross country title in October and capped her career at Seabury Hall with titles in the 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs at the state track meet.

She won the 1,500 by 0.03 seconds for the first track title of her career, claimed the 800 by 0.18 seconds, and then about 10 minutes later, she hung on to win the 3,000 by 1.56 seconds. Moments later, she anchored the Spartans’ 1,600 relay team to third place.

“They were so stressful,” Winham said. “The two races I was most confident for were the 1,500 and the 800, which actually ended up being the two closer races. I went into the 3,000 seeded fourth, so I wasn’t even expecting to win. I was just hoping for a top-three finish. I ended up winning that one by the most, which was amazing to me. That one was really special.”

Buenrostro-Gallimore swam the opening leg on Baldwin’s 200-yard state champion medley relay team in February at Kihei Aquatic Center. She then finished second in the 50 freestyle, anchored the 200 free relay to second place, and moments later, climbed out of the pool a state individual champion in the 100 backstroke after going in with a seed time 1.7 seconds behind the leader.

Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore heads to a win in 100 backstroke at state. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

In the spring, she led the Bears to a No. 2 seed and third-place finish at the state water polo championships, both unprecedented heights for any MIL team. She will play water polo for national power University of Hawaii in the spring.

Buenrostro-Gallimore shakes her head when she thinks about her senior year, which came as part of a sports resurgence for the Bears athletic department. Baldwin won state team titles in girls wrestling, boys soccer and baseball in 2018.

“When I look back at it, I really finished it off strong in swimming and water polo and each season inspired me for the next one,” she said. “As soon as I finished swimming really well it inspired me for water polo. Then now coming into the summer season, and eventually college season, I’m really excited for all of it. I’m ready to work.”

Buenrostro-Gallimore joins Joelynn Naki (1992-93), Kari Luna (1993-94), Prestine Foster (1994-95), Aloha Santiago (1997-98), Nicole Garbin (2000-01), Ashlyn Russell (2002-03) and Kami Kapaku (2003-04) as former Bears to win the award. Naki, Luna, Santiago, Garbin, Russell and Kapaku all played NCAA Division I athletics.

Buenrostro-Gallimore joins Lahainaluna graduate Lalelei Mataafa — a two-time winner of this award — on the UH water polo team.

Veronica Winham celebrates as she wins the state 800 meters. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

“It’s a huge responsibility,” Buenrostro-Gallimore said. “There’s not that many girls from Maui who get to play at that level. It’s kind of inspiring that Lale’s out there, I will be out there to inspire all of my other teammates to say, like, ‘You can do this, too.’ “

Baldwin goalkeeper Kiara Espeleta joined Buenrostro-Gallimore on the all-tournament team at state. Espeleta will continue her career at Concordia University in Irvine, an NCAA Division II school.

“I’m going to miss her a lot because you can really trust her when she’s playing to keep the team spirit up and just score a lot of goals,” Espeleta said of Buenrostro-Gallimore. “She’s really good, she just works really hard to get where she’s at, she doesn’t give up.”

Winham was second behind teammate Ava Shipman in the two longer races and third in the 800 last year. Shipman also won all three.

Those sweeps of the longest races on the Hawaii High School Athletic Association docket was never done by Dakota Grossman, the daughter of Spartans coach Bobby Grossman who recently finished her career at the University of Utah. Winham points to Dakota Grossman as a role model and helpful peer when they meet in summer workouts.

Dakota Grossman, MIL Girl Athlete of the Year 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14

“I wanted to finish on a high note,” Winham said. “I have been training with coach Bobby for five years and I just wanted to do well for him and the team.”

The Spartans entered the state track championships as the defending team champions. Despite the 30 individual points from Winham, they finished second to Punahou this time around, 92-61.

“I knew that I would be a crucial point scorer for our team,” Winham said. “I wanted to help our team out in the best way that I could.”

Bobby Grossman pointed to the rising curve of state finishes for Winham at the state cross country meets as the most telling evidence of her prowess. She was 42nd as a freshman, 15th as a sophomore, then became just the fifth girl in state history to win multiple titles, by 20 seconds as a junior and by 31 seconds as a senior.

Dakota Grossman was the last repeat winner, claiming her fourth straight state cross country title in 2013.

“It didn’t come easy at first for her,” Bobby Grossman said of Winham. “She’s gotten better every year, literally gotten better every single year. The cross country thing is the impressive part because there’s only maybe five girls in state history that have repeated. It’s hard enough to win because you’re the overall winner — in track you can win because there’s a bunch of different events and stuff.”

Winham, who earlier this month was inducted into the HHSAA Hall of Honor, leaves Olinda with a legacy of her own.

“I wanted at least one (track) gold this year because it was my senior year,” she said. “I didn’t expect three, so that was really special for me.”

She joins Shipman (last year), Grossman (2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14), Tia Ferguson (2003-04) and Kimmie Ouchi (1990-91) as girls to win the award from Seabury Hall.

“It’s amazing,” Winham said. “I have been really lucky to have been able to run on Maui and in Hawaii because it’s given me a lot of opportunities that I don’t think I would have had in other places. With this honor from The Maui News, with the Hall of Honor induction two weeks ago, Gatorade, and other awards — I’m very, very lucky to live here.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

MIL Girls Athletes 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

2012-13–Dakota Grossman, Seabury Hall

2013-14–Dakota Grossman, Seabury Hall

2014-15–Lalelei Mataafa, Lahainaluna

2015-16–Lalelei Mataafa, Lahainaluna

2016-17–Ava Shipman, Seabury Hall

2017-18–Veronica Winham, Seabury Hall, and Rebecca Buenrostro-Gallimore, Baldwin

Note: No winner selected in 1999-2000