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Senior Spotlight: Almeida never too far from supportive twin bro

KSM softball standout excited to continue career at Dixie State

Kamehameha Schools Maui shortstop Lauren Almeida stretches for a throw as Baldwin’s Lia Castillo slides into second with a stolen base during an MIL game in 2019. Almeida is headed to Dixie State University in the fall. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Senior Spotlight is a special series highlighting standout MIL student-athletes as they reflect upon their high school careers and look toward the future. Stories will run periodically in The Maui News.

Even after Lauren Almeida parts ways with twin brother Dylan in their college pursuits, she knows they’ll still support each other like they have since day one.

The Almeida siblings both played youth softball and baseball growing up, and then for teams at Kamehameha Schools Maui, where they both made the honor roll– continuously pushing each other on and off the field.

They’ve been together to celebrate every birthday but one, and have attended nearly every one of each other’s sporting events.

Things will certainly change this fall when Lauren heads to Dixie State University in Utah, where she’ll continue her softball career, and Dylan enrolls at Grand Canyon University in Arizona.

Lauren Almeida carries twin brother Dylan as they pose for a photo. Dylan Almeida plans to attend Grand Canyon University in Arizona and possibly walk on to the Antelopes’ baseball team. — CHARISS ALMEIDA photo

“We’re super competitive so it definitely drives me,” Lauren Almeida said last week. “He’s always there for every single one of my games, so I never want to let him down, same with my mom, but being twins, we’re super tight. We just push each other to be better.”

From league games, to club, to tournaments on the Mainland, Dylan knew his sister “was gonna go far in softball.”

“I even remember watching her one game and was like ‘That’s my sister,’ “ he said. “She was just doing super good. I was just proud watching her compete against those other people on the Mainland. It’s a different level of play when you go to the Mainland, but my sister was able to handle and I was very proud of that.”

Even having lost their last two Maui Interscholastic League seasons to the COVID-19 pandemic, the twins have been able to overcome the obstacle together.

“It was definitely easier, even though it was super tough and wouldn’t want that to happen, being able to support each other has made it easier because we’re with each other every day,” said Lauren, a 2019 MIL All-Star. “Even though the MIL season is not happening right now, we still try to do stuff with the resources we do have.”

Lauren Almeida bats for the Maui Titans during a game for the club team. — CHARISS ALMEIDA photo

She is going to a Dixie State team that recently joined the Western Athletic Conference. She plans to major in biomedical sciences for a career as a physician’s assistant.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play at the college level,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to play at the (NCAA) D-I or D-II level so the fact that I’m playing at D-I, I’m grateful for that.”

Dylan said he might try to walk on to the Antelopes’ baseball team.

“It’s very cool that my sister is going to play at the D-I level and hopefully she does good,” he said. “It’s a whole new ball game but I have confidence in my sister’s skill that she’ll do good up there.”

In the meantime, Lauren said she’s been training and “doing whatever I can with what I have” until she leaves Hawaii. She’s also had time to reflect on what could have been with her Kamehameha Maui teammates.

“I’m ready for school to end, but at the same time I’m trying to soak it all in too,” she said. “I definitely had a lot of memories my junior year, although it got cut short, but (the Warriors) always talked about how that would be our year and maybe possibly go to states.

“We were super tight, that group of girls was just unbelievable.”

However, she is still looking “forward to the college life and playing ball at the college level” in St. George, a longtime dream that will become reality in August.

“I’ve been watching (Dixie State) games a lot, so I know that I have to keep training hard. Their team is really, really good,” she said. “I love it up there, it’s super diverse too, so it feels like home and it’s super nice; lots to do and I like the people up there. I instantly felt comfortable with the coach and the community there.”

Kamehameha Maui softball head coach Mark Vaught noted how Almeida treated each practice like game day, always “determined and hardworking,” and will fit right in with the Trailblazers.

“She definitely takes her sport seriously,” Vaught said. “She’s got good size, strength, she has a very strong arm, and she gives 100 percent at all times, always self-motivated.”

Dennis Harmon, coach and president of the Maui Titans Fastpitch Organization, has been working with Almeida through the program since she was 9 years old, watching her “excel in the classroom and on the field.”

“She’s a very hard worker. Whatever it takes for the team to get better she’ll do,” Harmon said. “She works hard on her own to improve her game; sort of a quiet leader, leads by example.

“I think she’s going to do really well,” he added. “I think Dixie State is a good fit for her and her family.”

Since 2017, the Maui Titans have helped over 20 Maui County softball players pursue a collegiate career, which became even more of an assist for Almeida after MIL seasons were canceled due to the pandemic.

“The recruiting process wasn’t that bad because coach Dennis and the Titans crews did a good job at helping us get seen, like, all my life I’ve been traveling but I wasn’t ever expecting to be recruited back home on Maui,” Almeida said. “In one tournament, I wasn’t expecting to be looked at by a D-I team, so I was definitely shocked by that.”

Competing on the Mainland and participating in exposure camps over the years opened the doors for Almeida to advance her skills, Harmon said, which “helped to get her noticed and do what she needed to do to play at the next level in college.”

And since family runs deep, Lauren and Dylan Almeida were always accompanied by their parents and grandma along their student-athlete journeys.

“They have been a part of our travel ohana for a really long time,” Harmon said. “They’ve been part of our entourage, and you know, they’ve just been with us for so long, they’re family now.”

When Lauren Almeida isn’t training or studying, she’s having fun spending that extra time with them “every chance that I get.”

“I just want to be with my family,” she said. “My mom, my grandma and my brother definitely play big roles in my life, so I take the time to give back to them.”

However, time is nearing for the Almeida twins to part ways. With one sibling in Utah and the other in Arizona, Dylan Almeida said that the separation might be a little tough, but nothing they can’t handle.

“For me, a lot of the things we do now are always shared, so like out of our whole life, I think we only celebrated one birthday away from each other and that’s when I was visiting Arizona and even that alone, it didn’t feel right,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be different but it’s only about a three-hour drive away, so I’ll be visiting my sister throughout our college years and just keeping in touch.”

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com

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