Award winners all show leadership with aloha

Kaiser's Taiyo Nosaka caught a pass in the Cougars' only game played in 2017 due to a lack of available players. They wouldn't have been allowed to play had senior Bobby Wood not suited up for kickoff before leaving to go to the airport to attend the funeral of his great grandfather. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Every athlete’s story is unique. Some are extraordinary — that’s the case with all 28 of the Hawaii student athletes who were either inducted into the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Honor or recipients of an HMSA Kaimana Award scholarship this month.

(Click here to read Dave’s story in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

Even among these elite groups, Bradley Wood’s saga of a one-play senior football season stands out. It wasn’t a success at all by any conventional standard of measure. But helping to keep a group together through hard times is a prime example of the greatest intangible quality in sports: leadership. You just know it when you see it.

As a senior co-captain, Wood saw it as his duty to try to keep his team together, before the season was canceled and even after.

The Cougars knew it might be a tough road from before the season started, as they were assigned to the Oahu public schools most competitive division with such a small roster of players: just 22.

“My mind-set was I was going to give it my all, set a good example, and what happens, happens,” Wood said. “We didn’t know when we would play and when games would be canceled.”

In one of the cruelest ironies in a story full of them, the final cancellation came during homecoming week. That didn’t stop Wood, who suited up for the opening kickoff of Kaiser’s only game — a 71-0 loss to Campbell — before heading to the airport to catch a flight to attend the funeral of his great-grandfather. Kaiser only had 22 available players for the game. If Wood didn’t suit up and start, Kaiser wouldn’t have been allowed to play the game.

“We still had get-togethers, players meetings. We had to keep the unity, because it was still a team,” he said, in an interview after he received one of 16 HMSA Kaimana Awards scholarships on Saturday. “It was a very volatile situation. I did what I could by making sure the locker room was in a good place and in good spirits, making sure the team was keeping its head up.”

He’s described by those who know him as not a rah-rah guy, but a quiet and polite young man who mostly speaks through his actions.

That’s how most of the scholarship winners in both programs are. In recent years the Hall of Honor has allowed banquet-goers get to know the new inductees through a “talk show” format where three at a time they are interviewed by Felipe Ojastro (great idea by the way).

Some of them are comfortable and gregarious. For some reason, it made sense to me that Gwen Maeha, a champion from Leilehua in bowling and softball, fell into that category, with the personality of a born entertainer. Maybe it’s because her sports are two of the most fun.

Some are not at ease talking about themselves in the limelight. But all do take the opportunity to thank the parents, coaches, teammates, teachers and many others who have supported them.

At the Kaimana Awards, there was a new twist when co-host Liz Chun read text messages that the honorees were asked to send to their parents in appreciation.

A couple of long streaks came to an end at the Hall of Honor this year. For the first time in its 37-year history, a football player was not among the 12 selectees. Also for the first time, a student-athlete from the Kamehameha Kapalama campus was not among the class. These are likely both anomalies.

In addition to Maeha and Wood, the honorees from the two scholarship programs are Justin Abe, Saydee Aganus, Teniya Alo, Matthew Anzalone, Corey Cabanban, Makanahele Emmsley, Cayenne Gabaylo, Maya Gee, Daniel Huang, Andre Ilagan, Gerri-Co Jenks, Braeden Jensen, Nainoa Kahale, Caitlin Kawaiaea, Kawai Kaneakua-Rauschenburg, Taegan Keep, Anna Kimata, Hope Kudo, Sariah Mokuahi, Cherilyn Molina, Taysia Pimental, Mikayla Tablit, Natalie Uhr, Ally Wada, Ryan Wilcox and Veronica Winham.

I’m in awe of their accomplishments, and I hope they all fulfill their dreams, wherever they may take them. I also selfishly hope those that don’t stay here eventually find their way back to Hawaii — because while these young men and women are all unique as students and athletes, there is a common trait: leadership. And from what I can tell about them so far, it is leadership with aloha.

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