LOI Day: Punahou SS picks Columbia

Of the 59 signees this morning, none is going further than Punahou's Krystin Wong, who will play softball at Columbia University in New York City. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser
Of the 59 signees this morning, none is going further than Punahou’s Krystin Wong, who will play softball at Columbia University in New York City. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

She swings a mighty bat, fields with a leather glove and one day… Krystin Wong will be handling scalpels and saving lives.

The Punahou softball player was one of 59 student-athletes from around Oahu who signed a letter of intent this morning during the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance signing ceremony at the Honolulu Elks Lodge, Waikiki. There were also signees for track and field, football and swimming.

Volleyball and soccer players comprised much of the list of signees, but Wong was one of the few with a clear vision of her future. She signed with Columbia University (New York City), making her the signee with the most mileage ahead.


“New York is different and outside of my comfort zone, but it’s exciting,” Wong said.

Washington, UCSD and UCLA were other appealing schools.

“The offer from Columbia came out and I was excited because it’s the Ivy League. I got financial aid and they’re generous. That was the scary part of it. For me, academics come first,” said Wong, who plays shortstop for No. 5-ranked Punahou.

It’s more than just moving to an East Coast campus and taking college courses that she’s looking forward to.

“I want to study biochemistry, and then follow along the pre-med track. I want to become a cardiac surgeon,” she said. “I take a lot of biology classes and medical classes, so I’ve always been interested in that.”

It’s more than an interest. On Tuesday, the day before signing day, Wong and her classmates dissected a heart. Not a frog heart. Not a pig heart. A human heart.

“It’s always interesting. I was scared that I might get woozy or something because it’s an actual heart,” she said. “But it’s manageable. I like it.”

Dr. Krystin Wong, M.D. Nice ring to that. She credits Dr. Morris, her grandfather’s doctor, as an influence.

“I just like doing something, saving people’s lives for your job,” she said. “Everyone says, like, why would you want to do something that’s, like, you could kill somebody, you know. But the chances of you saving somebody are much bigger.”

Bobby Makahilahila, her coach, has been a fan long before she began to dream of a career in medicine.

“It’s not just that. She is a good person. Everybody loves KW,” he said.

(Note: Hours later, Wong belted a two-run homer against Maryknoll in a 7-2 loss.)

Former Kealakehe and Cal track and field sprinter Francesca Weems was the guest speaker. Weems, who graduated from Kealakehe in 2005, is now part of the Hawaii News Now team.

“You may not think so, but kids are watching you out there. They’re seeing you day in and day out, saying I want to be like him one day. Hey, I want to go to school. Hey, she did it,” Weems said. “I just want you guys to embrace that.”

While school coaches, administrators and teachers — and teammates — take pride in the success of the signees, it was also a special morning for club coaches. One of them is Lehua Kadooka of Team Piko, a volleyball club that celebrated the LOI signing by five of its players: Annika San Nicolas (Lewis & Clark) and Savannah Baldomero (Casper College, Wyo.) of Kapolei, Briana Halemanu of Kaiser (Casper College), Ashlyn Jones of Roosevelt (College of Southern Idaho) and Cassidy Apo of Kamehameha (Saint Martin’s University).

“And two signed in the fall, and one is going to walk on at UH-Hilo,” Kadooka said.

One of the state’s big hitters, Lia Gaogao of Moanalua, signed with Montana.

“It’s nice. It’s beautiful, lots of hills,” said Gaogao, an all-state Fab 15 selection. “The teammates and coach made me feel really welcome.”

She considered Blinn College (Texas), a premier two-year program in women’s volleyball.

Two Punahou football players inked their paperwork to play at the next level. Jerrod Mose signed with the University of Redlands (Calif.).

“They’re the No. 1 team. Well, they’re going to be,” said Mose, who plays defensive end and plans to throw the discus on the track and field team.

The other Buffanblu who signed in football is Alex Kidani, who also plans to do track and field. He signed with Chapman University.

“I chose this school because it’s much like Hawaii. I felt really comfortable, everybody’s nice and I’ll get a great education there,” he said.


Leilehua’s all-state guard, Jerri Maluyo, signed with Colorado Mesa.

“I feel good. It’s a full ride,” she said. “At one point, it was (walking on) at UH, but I was just thinking about it and I want to try it on my own. It’s just a blessing because I’ll be the first one in my family to go to college. I’m ready. Kind of ready to be responsible.”

Maluyo has an interest in becoming a sports trainer and may major in kinesiology.

Kiana Burnett of Kamehameha signed to play softball at the College of Southern Nevada, a two-year school.

“I have family there, two hours away. I’m excited for college, but I want to enjoy every last bit of high school,” she said. “I looked at Hartnell, schools in Texas and Utah.”

Kamehameha volleyball player Codie Conching signed with Whitman College.

“The moment I stepped on campus, it was just beautiful. I felt like I was at home already, and the coach is from Hawaii,” she said, referring to former Molokai coach Matt Helm. “The small population there really feels like home. The people are really warm, just like from home.”

She considered Cal Lutheran, Fordham and Lewis & Clark.

University High’s Markayisha Mansani, a two-sport athlete, signed with Jackson State to play volleyball.

“They gave me an offer that I couldn’t give up. They have psychology and I love helping people. Also, everything is free. They gave me a full-ride scholarship. I wanted to stay home, but I do want to travel,” Marsani said. “I know Timmy Chang is the offensive (coordinator) there.”

Tiana Young-Mauchly of Mid-Pacific signed with Northwestern Oklahoma State. She was one of four players from Abunai Soccer Club to sign on Wednesday morning. The others are Kanoe Morihara (Whittier College), Robyn Peiler (Taft College) and Rochel Dizon (Treasure Valley Community College) of Mililani.

“They offered me the most amount of (financial aid) money,” Young-Mauchly said. “I wanted to go someplace off the rock. I had offers to go to the West Coast, but I wanted to go to a university. I don’t have to be in debt.”

Morihara believes Whitter College is the right fit for her.

“It’s D-III, so it’s a good balance between competitive soccer and athletics. I like the area, too. Disneyland is a half-hour away. I’m planning to go a lot,” she said.

Peiler likes the location of her college.

“It’s a universal area, so it’s easy to go from place to place,” said Peiler, who plans to major in nursing. “I can easily get a job up there and get residence instead of out-of-state tuition. It’ll be worth it.”

Dizon is looking forward to life in Oregon.

“I’m kind of going in blind. I like their four seasons, and there are two other (neighbor island) players going,” she said. “I was thinking of California, but they had a better offer for me.”

PIAA Letter-of-Intent signing ceremony
Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2015
First Name Last Name School Sport Committed To
Lindsey Kalehua Ah Soon Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Softball Pace University Westchester NY
Kailie Alama Aiea High School Softball Pierce College
Makoa Alvarez James Campbell High School Swimming Pacific University
Nashlynn Anguay James Campbell Softball Chaminade
Danielle Antolin Saint Francis School Softball University Of Hawaii at Hilo
Cassidy Apo Kamehameha High School VB, Track & Field Saint Martin’s University
Savannah Baldomero Kapolei High School Volleyball Casper College
Ronald Bartenstein Iolani School Soccer Pacific University-Oregon
Cade Brittain Punahou Football add: Lake Forest College
Kiana Burnett Kameahmeha Schools-Kapalama Softball College of Southern Nevada
Codie Conching Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama Volleyball Whitman College
James Copelan James Campbell high school Football Valley city state university
Mackenzie Crowley Leilehua High School Football University of Redlands
Karley Tepoerava De Mello Kaiser High School Volleyball College Of Southern Idaho
Roschel Dizon Mililani High School Soccer Treasure Valley Community College
Silerolia Gaogao Moanalua volleyball University of Montana
Briana Halemanu Kaiser High School Volleyball Casper College
Sydney Kealohi Hao Kailua High School Volleyball Western New Mexico University
Leilani Herrera Kapolei High school swimming University of Northern Colorado
Kailey Hifumi Punahou School Soccer Pacific University
Kaylen Higa Punahou School volleyball Willamette University
Kayla Higuchi Aiea High School Softball Chaminade university
Christine Hipa Kamehameha Kapalama Softball Cal State Univ Bakersfield
Kellie Hirotsu Punahou School Volleyball University of San Francisco
Shandy Hopeau Kapolei High School Soccer Taft college
Kai Hoshijo Kamehameha Schools Kapalama X Country, Track & Field Seattle University
Ashelyn-Lorraine Jones Roosevelt High School Volleyball College of Southern Idaho
Alexander Kidani Punahou Football Chapman University
Raelynn Leong Kailua Volleyball University of Antelope Valley CA
Percie Lyons Kalaheo High School X Country, Track & Field Radford University
Katelyn Mahelona Kamehameha Softball Salt Lake Community College
Jerrilynn Maluyo Leilehua High School Basketball Colorado Mesa University
Markayisha Masani Unviersity Lab School volleyball Jackson State University
Rainelle Matsuoka Henry J. Kaiser High School Softball Chaminade
Airel Miyasaki Mid Pacific Institute Volleyball Saint Johns University
Janell Molina Roosevelt High School Volleyball Taft College
Kanoe Morihara Mililani High School Soccer Whittier College
Jerrod Mose Punahou Football University of Redlads
Rachel Ogasawara Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama Softball University of Washington
Robyn Peiler Mililani High School Soccer Taft College
Tiare Mahealani Pescaia Kamehameha – Kapalama Volleyball Hawaii Pacific University
Chloe Pojas Leilehua High School Softball Marymount California University
Johnny Richardson Punahou School Football Lewis & Clark College
Kailee Russell Unviersity Lab School Softball Missouri Valley College
Annikah San Nicolas Kapolei High School Volleyball Lewis & Clark College
Kaitlin Santos St. Francis High School Softball Midland College
Casady Saole-Teixeira Moanalua High School Volleyball Larimie County Community College
Lacey Satele Saint Francis School Volleyball New Mexico Miliary Institute
Taylor Takeda Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama Volleyball Dowling College
Alyssa Tanigawa James B. Castle High School Soccer Chaminade University
Luana Thompson Maryknoll High School Volleyball University of Antelope Valley
Tane Tuifua Saint Louis Football Dixie State
Jazmayne Williams Farrington HS Volleyball & Softball Mount Hood College
Shandlynn Willing Kalani High School Volleyball Southwestern Oregon College
Krystin Wong Punahou School Softball Columbia University
Ryan Yoshida Iolani School Soccer Pacific University
Tiana Young-Mauchly Mid Pacific Institute Soccer Northwestern Oklahoma State
Sierra Yuen Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Volleyball University of California, Santa Cruz
Trey Yukumoto Leilehua High School Baseball California State University Eastbay
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Krystin Wong is headed to Columbia to play softball. / Honolulu Star-Advertiser Photo by Krystle Marcellus
Krystin Wong is headed to Columbia to play softball. / Honolulu Star-Advertiser Photo by Krystle Marcellus

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