2018-19 MIL Athletes of the Year: Chloe Gangnath

Gangnath, the last of Seabury’s historic 2016 state title team, truly shined as a senior

Chloe Gangnath

Chloe Gangnath is the last of a remarkable group at Seabury Hall.

Gangnath was 21st in the HHSAA state cross country meet in 2016 as a sophomore and seventh on the Spartans’ unit that finished 1-2-4-5-17 in front of her. That pure team score of 29 is one of the best in the history of the state girls meet that dates back to 1973, and arguably the best cross country team in the history of the Maui Interscholastic League.

Since then, Gangnath has simply continued the pipeline of excellence in Seabury Hall girls running, over the hills and grass of cross country courses and tracks across the state.

She won the 2018 state cross country title and followed it with state track titles in the 800- and 1,500-meter runs to go along with a fourth-place finish in the 3,000, and the anchor leg on the 1,600 relay team that finished second.

When the team scores were added up, the Spartans were in second place with 50 points, 24 of which were scored individually by Gangnath.

Chloe Gangnath won the girls state cross country championship in October before capping off her prep career with state titles in the girls 800 and 1,500 meters — she is the third straight Seabury Hall athlete, and sixth overall, to be selected as The Maui News Girl Athlete of the Year. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Now, Gangnath is the third straight Seabury Hall runner to claim The Maui News MIL Girl Athlete of the Year award, joining fellow multi-state champions Veronica Winham and Ava Shipman from that all-time cross country team of 2016.

“It feels amazing, I’m just so grateful for everything that’s happened and all of my coaches, and family and friends, and teammates that have supported me this whole time, that have helped me to achieve this,” Gangnath said. “I’m so happy.”

Gangnath joins a stellar group of Seabury Hall girls to win the award that also includes Kimmie Ouchi, the first winner of the honor in 1990-91, Tia Ferguson (2003-04) and Dakota Grossman (2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14), the only three-time winner of the award and also a standout runner.

“It’s definitely an honor, I’m glad that I get to have another opportunity to be among the greats,” Gangnath said.

She will continue her running career at Baylor University, where she also plans to major in chemistry to pursue a pre-medicine path with hopes of being a dermatologist. Her cumulative grade-point average at Seabury Hall was 3.43 with a class list loaded with college-level courses.

Chloe Gangnath runs alone as she blows away the field to win the girls title at the Honolulu Marathon Cross Country Championships in October on Oahu. Gangnath won by more than 47 seconds. KYLE SAKAMOTO photo

“It’s a school that has a lot of tradition, a lot of school spirit, which is what I really wanted,” Gangnath said. “At Seabury I think that we had a lot of spirit for such a small school, but I did want a school that had even more spirit.”

Very few MIL athletes end up at Big 12 Conference schools to continue their careers, and Gangnath is excited to blaze a trail.

“I definitely want to represent Maui and home for everyone else on the Mainland because I know that there’s not a lot of people from Hawaii or Maui who go on to play sports on the next level,” Gangnath said.

Baylor was not on her college wish list until the last minute. Baylor edged out Fordham as Gangnath’s college destination.

“When I got in there I looked at it more and I filled out their athletic questionnaire and the coach actually replied to me,” Gangnath said. “I did more research on the school and I was surprised because it had everything that I wanted as a school. I was, like, ‘Wow, I think I want to go here.’ “

She has already begun workouts for college cross country in the fall, running up to 50 miles a week. She stepped away from basketball — and a team that made the state Division II championship game — to concentrate on training for her final prep track season. As a youngster, she was a competitive swimmer for more than five years.

Gangnath admitted, “I’m a little bit nervous because I know the training is very intense and time consuming, but I think that this year, especially during cross country, it really prepared me.”

Naighel Calderon, The Maui News MIL Boy Athlete of the Year from Lanai, knows Gangnath through basketball.

“I met her in Vegas at a basketball tournament and I just admired her, how she runs, all this good stuff — she has this strong mindset,” Calderon said. “I could tell because I watched her run at the state track (meet) on Maui and when she was here for cross country. She comes for basketball all the time.

“She has a strong mindset and I admired it and I went up to her and talked about it. We talk here and there, we try to hang out as much as we can, but her being athlete of the year on Maui is amazing. She’s a great person.”

Bobby Grossman has coached all of the recent Seabury Hall female cross country and track standouts to come before Gangnath.

“He means a lot to me, he’s definitely become part of my family and I’m so grateful to have met him,” Gangnath said. “I’ve only been working with him since freshman year, which is not quite as long as some, but he has definitely made the biggest impact in my life out of any person. He just cares so much about everyone he coaches, he will do anything to, like, teach people the way to practice, the best habits, he wants everyone to do well.

“The slowest to the fastest, he wants everyone to learn something and take something away from running.”

Gangnath won the 2018 state cross country title by more than 47 seconds over second-place Jaden De Souza of Island School.

“I’ve definitely been surprised by myself a couple of times,” Gangnath said. “My freshman year I came out and I got 13th and I didn’t expect anything to happen. I thought I was just going to be lost in the crowd, so I was surprised by that. Then the next two years I kind of was just, like, floating along. I wasn’t as focused and I definitely didn’t really lock in.”

That changed as a senior, coming off the heels of a second-place finish in the 800 and third in the 1,500 at state track as a junior, both times behind Winham. She did not qualify for the state track meet as a freshman or sophomore.

“I definitely knew then that I had some goals that I wanted to reach and my coach was telling me what I could do and I just trusted in the training and him,” Gangnath said.

Her feeling of leaving the field in her wake at the state cross country meet “was definitely a moment that I’d thought about for the whole summer leading up to it, the whole season, every practice — it was what I was working for the whole time.

“I was just in awe. It didn’t feel real. When I crossed the finish line, I thought, ‘Wow, I just did it.’ “

Grossman said he has seen Gangnath grow up, both on the track and off. Erika Preseault and Darby Mulligan joined Winham and Shipman as top-five finishers at state on the Spartans’ 2016 cross country team.

“This year, she was the last of the Mohicans, the last one from that great cross country team and distance runners that we had,” Grossman said. “Ava, Veronica, Darby, she even took a backseat to them. Kallalei (Ryden) and all these great runners, Erika Preseault. She kind of had to sit back and almost like ‘wait your turn.’ “

Grossman saw a light turn on for Gangnath last summer.

“Coming into summer, we were just kind of doing some of those summer track meets and she was coming to help out,” Grossman said. “I told her: ‘Don’t think you can’t win.’ I don’t know what that sparked, but she made a big effort to start getting some miles in and making more of an effort throughout the year.

“We spent a lot of time together this year, just getting the workouts in. I think that was a big part of it, just making that conscientious effort to every day and do what you need to do. She got fast.”

Gangnath grew up in Billings, Mont., before moving to Maui prior to the sixth grade, when she began at Seabury Hall. She was adopted by parents Gary and Leslie Gangnath as a 13-month-old from China.

“I think the thing that shocked me most when I got here is how nice people are,” Gangnath said. “Just, like, friendly. The aloha is really prevalent.”

Her parents told her that when she “was very, very young I would mumble in my sleep in Chinese.”

Her learning process has come from those who came before her.

“Ava, I definitely learned a lot about how to be on the team,” Gangnath said. “From Veronica, I definitely learned about putting your head down and working to get what you want to achieve.”

Now, she has firmly stamped her name alongside those Seabury Hall — and MIL — legends.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

MIL Girl 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

2018-19–Chloe Gangnath, Seabury Hall

Note: No winner selected in 1999-2000