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Cowell wins UH’s Bonham Award

Colton Cowell, a graduate of King Kekaulike High School, is the male recipient of the University of Hawaii’s Jack Bonham Award, considered the highest honor of the school’s athletic department. UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII ATHLETICS photo

The Maui News

King Kekaulike High School graduate Colton Cowell is the male recipient of the University of Hawaii’s Jack Bonham Award, the school announced Wednesday.

Cowell, a member of the Rainbow Warriors men’s volleyball team, joined women’s tennis player Petra Melounova as this year’s winners of UH athletics’ highest honor.

“Being recognized for this specific award, it brings with it a significant sense of pride and fulfillment,” Cowell told The Maui News last week, already having been notified of the honor. “And I recognize how many other distinguished athletes representing our athletic department have won this award in previous years and I’m extremely honored to join them.

“It’s an inspiration knowing that I am also surrounded by so many, many incredibly talented individuals that represent the university’s athletic department amongst their respective sports. It just provides me with a strong sense of affirmation that I’m representing my family and the island community of Maui with honor and respect and that prioritizing my commitment to the University of Hawaii has ultimately paid off.”

The senior outside hitter from Makawao earned second-team AVCA All-American and first-team all-Big West Conference honors this season. After a breakthrough junior season during which he helped the Rainbow Warriors reach the national title match, Cowell led the Rainbow Warriors to a 15-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking this year before the season was abruptly halted in March due to the coronavirus; he and his fellow seniors, having been granted an extra year of eligibility, have said they will return next season.

A former walk-on, the 6-foot-1 Cowell was having the best season of his career. He ranked No. 3 in the Big West and No. 15 nationally in kills per set (3.77) while hitting for a .362 clip. Despite missing four matches due to injury, he tallied double-figure kills in eight of 12 matches while hitting .400 or better seven times.

In addition, Cowell has given back to the community, coaching club volleyball while teaching and mentoring local youth to achieve what he’s done through hard work and perseverance. He is also the team’s top scholar-athlete, three-time Big West all-academic, and recently earned his bachelor’s degree in economics. He will begin a graduate certificate in renewable energy and island sustainability in the fall.

“The Colton Cowell story continues to be one of achievement and great inspiration for people all over the world,” UH men’s volleyball head coach Charlie Wade was quoted as saying in a press release. “He came to UH as a under-sized, under-recruited local kid from Upcountry Maui, who has, through the belief in himself and commitment to our team, become one of the best players in all of college volleyball, a scholar-athlete, and a respected teammate. With all of his success, he has maintained his humility, his pride in his local roots, and is always a great ambassador for our university and our state.”

The Jack Bonham Award has been given annually since 1974 to the top male and female senior student-athlete who “best exemplifies the ideals for which Jack Bonham stood for in the areas of athletic excellence, academic achievement, public service, leadership and character.” It is named for the late assistant athletics director who was killed in 1974 in a plane crash in America Samoa. Bonham was returning to the islands from New Zealand, where he was on a recruiting trip at the British Commonwealth Games.

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