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Speaking with fellow Athletes of the Year leads to reflection

Fall series on past Maui News AOYs coming soon

Seabury Hall’s Dakota Grossman competes during an MIL cross country race on Oct. 5, 2013. — The Maui News file photo

Run, eat, homework, sleep, and repeat.

I religiously lived this motto for about 15 years, and I’m sure many other student-athletes on the Valley Isle can relate to the grind. From Haiku Elementary School to Kalama Intermediate, from Seabury Hall to the University of Utah, I always had running shoes on hand.

If you step outside my front door today, you will find a few dirty pairs because yes, I still run.

Competing and constantly pushing myself to become faster and stronger was physically and mentally demanding, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Everything I know about commitment, leadership, work ethic, drive and gratitude was learned through sports.

It makes it all the more exciting to speak with some other former Maui County student-athletes to see where sports have led them, where they have been and what they are up to.

For The Maui News’ upcoming fall series, veteran sports reporter Rob Collias and I will interview a handful of past Maui Interscholastic League Athletes of Year, a sports honor that has been awarded by The Maui News all but one year since the 1990-91 season.

Just a taste:

We will catch up with former players like Aina Kohler, who starred on the basketball court and on the softball field for Lahainaluna before competing in college and overseas, and then settling back down on Maui as mom and business owner. Then there’s former state champion Reid Hunter, a 2009 King Kekaulike graduate who continues to race in high-level running events, like the Maui Marathon, and winning!

We will also feature 2001 Baldwin graduate Nicole Garbin, a Pac-10 Player of the Year who now runs a youth sports foundation with her husband, former NFL player Matt Toeaina.

While going through the list of MIL AOYs, I feel honored to see my name up there three times. I am grateful to have memories full of unforgettable student-athlete experiences, and now to have the ability to create more in the sports community as a reporter, coach and avid runner.

It’s also really cool to see some fellow Spartans — Ava Shipman ’17, Veronica Winham ’18, and Chloe Gangnath ’19 — up on that list as well.

Stories of the Adolpho siblings — Kalei and Manu — from Molokai come to mind when I see their names, and of course, two-time World Series champion Shane Victorino, a St. Anthony grad, is up there too. I’m also lucky enough to have been on island to watch recent AOYs earn the spotlight this past year, like Lahainaluna grads Nanea Estrella and Joshua Tihada, and Naighel Calderon of Lanai.

While prepping for interviews, memories from my own athletic career come to mind and I find myself answering my own questions. What have I gained from my student-athlete experience? Where am I at now?

It seems like just yesterday I was clutching my teammate’s hand while waiting for the results, feeling exhausted after racing four events, and then immediately crying when I heard our Lady Spartans’ name announced on the loudspeaker as the winning girls team of the 2014 HHSAA Track and Field Championship. That dream was four years in the making, and I’ve never experienced anything like it since.

It also seems like just last week I was competing in the Pac-12 Conference in a Utes uniform, lining up against hundreds of talented and strong women, traveling weekends with the team, embracing cold weather and attending massive football games at Rice-Eccles Stadium with our faces painted red, white and black.

I remember one eight-hour bus ride that the team took to Montana for a cross country race. We had been training in the Salt Lake City heat, but by the time we reached Bozeman to toe the starting line, snow began to fall. I think I ran my personal best that day, running the 5K course as fast as I could just to get a jacket on.

So what do I take from it all? These types of experiences don’t come around too often.

I’m interested to hear what stories our former MIL athletes have to share, and because Maui is such a small community, you the reader may already know more than I do about some of the past AOYs.

Writing for The Maui News is somewhat an evolution of my sports journey, with a mix of new and old adventures. At the end of the day, I’m still that runner girl at heart, but this time I’ll be standing on the sidelines.

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com

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