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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 30, 2010

Accepting the Challenge

 •  Mahelona has learned to live life to the fullest

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

While most of his Kaimuki High School classmates were greeted by their parents with mountains of lei after last Sunday's graduation at the Waikiki Shell, Eddie Char had to wait until the next day to share the special life moment with his father.

Someday, he hopes to share it with his mom.

"My dad is in prison, so he couldn't come," Char said. "My mom is homeless. We haven't seen her for a couple months, we don't know where she is."

Char was raised by his grandparents, Joe and Harriet Char, in Kapahulu.

"I'm really thankful for them," Char said. "They brought me up, along with my brother and my sister. They took us to church (Diamond Head Seventh-day Adventist) and taught us to be respectful."

Char said he "didn't have money" to play youth football or baseball, but he proved to be a quick study after joining the JV teams as a Kaimuki freshman.

Char impressed coaches not just with his athleticism, but also his courage. He eventually became the Bulldogs' varsity starting quarterback and ace pitcher.

"He's a fighter, that's just how that kid is," baseball coach Reid Yoshikawa said.

Earlier this month, Char was named Baseball Co-Player of the Year in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association's White Conference. He said playing sports helped him avoid the paths his parents took.

"It kept me going," Char said. "It made me focus more, and taught me discipline, responsibility, dealing with adversity. It taught me a lot of things for life."

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2456. Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com.


By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kahuku's Amber Ah Sue was faced with a tough decision: let down her teammates or let herself down.

The Kahuku girls wrestling team entered the final day of the state championships in contention for the title. The meet was scheduled for Saturday, February 27, but was pushed back to Sunday due to a tsunami warning.

Because of her Mormon beliefs, Ah Sue chose to attend church instead of wrestle. When she told her teammates, they showed support through their tears.

"They each said something to me and a lot were crying," she said. "All I could do was wish them good luck. Most of them said they support my decision, but (said it) with tears.

"I felt terrible, because I felt like I cost them their title if they got a couple of points more, and I wish I could contribute more to my team."

Ultimately, Ah Sue said it was her sister Erin, also a competitive wrestler, who helped her make the decision.

"She would go to national tournaments and wrestle on Sundays, but she said she regretted it," Ah Sue said. "She doesn't remember half the t­hings that seemed so important at the time. That kind of helped me a lot. I was looking at the big picture."

Ah Sue made her announcement delicately, because she wanted to respect her other teammates who worshipped in the Mormon faith, while trying to explain to others why she wasn't competing on a Sunday, "because it was my decision," said Ah Sue, who didn't feel right making "an exception."

Words of advice: "It's very important to me to do what feels right, even if you have to do it by yourself, (so) in the long run, you don't regret anything. To me, it's blessed me a lot more than if I had taken an individual or team title."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.


By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

When Mililani shortstop Courtney Senas was struggling this past season, she would look to the skies and ask for help.

"When I  (went) up to bat, I would look up to the sky and talk to God and to (my dad)," Senas said. "I didn't do the best I wanted to do, and I felt I was struggling, and I would look skyward and just ask."

Senas' father, Chad, passed away in February, right before preseason, from complications from cancer.

"When I'm in the game, I don't really think about it," Senas said. But it was the moments after the games, and especially during the state tournament, when it affected her the most. Last year, when the Trojans won the state title, her father was there to help pass out the championship medals.

"He was always the first one to greet me," said Senas, a three-time All-State player. "He was always at my games. He would always sit near the dugout with his scooter."

Senas, a recent Mililani graduate who is headed for Florida State to play softball, said being in-season helped keep her mind off the sorrow.

"It helped get my mind, not focus on him, and go somewhere and do something I want to do and be someone I wanted to be," she said. "I want to go far (in softball), so of course when I play it, I want to practice hard and focus on it."

Words of advice: "Just stay active, but even if you do stay active you're going to think about it. There's no cure for the emotional feelings, so a quote I always think about is: 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.' Express yourself all the time, because it helps you."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.


By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Right before Waimea long jumper Torrey Santiago was about to make his final jump at the state championship meet, he said a few words to himself for Kelii Shigematsu, who passed away in April.

"During my last jump, I kind of said something to him, I asked him to help me with the jump. I said, 'It's all for you.' That's the jump that I jumped the farthest," Santiago said.

Officially, Santiago won with a jump of 22 feet, 5 inches, but when he finally landed in the pit and the judge called out his distance, Santiago felt "that (Shigematsu) helped me fly."

Santiago, who will attend George Fox in the fall, and his 4x100-meter relay teammates — Moses Fierro, Malcolm Carter and Jordan Kitabayashi — wore T-shirts they designed in graphics class to honor Shigematsu.

"Sports helped me. I kind of looked at it as everything I do in this sport, I can excel for him," Santiago said. "I use him as motivation."

Words of advice: "Don't try to deal with everything by yourself, go to the other people that you love and that you're close to. They'll help you get through it.

"He was one of my best friends and so were the boys we used to cruise with. What I was going through, the rest were going through it too, so it made it a lot easier."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.


By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

From the outside, 'Iolani School senior Kryn Masutani appears to be the typical, carefree, healthy teenager.

Actually, more than typically healthy: She was a three-time Interscholastic League of Honolulu softball all-star and part-time starter on the Raiders' state semifinalist basketball team this past season.

But unlike most teenagers, Masutani never takes her health for granted, because she has no other choice.

"Kryn has Type 1 diabetes," said her mom, Joni. "Her pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin to control her blood sugar. And since it's Type 1, she'll have it the rest of her life."

Masutani was diagnosed four years ago, and ever since — every single day — she's followed a strict diet low in sugar and carbohydrates, checks her blood sugar before every meal and also before she goes to bed, and injects herself with insulin when necessary.

"I have to watch what I eat ... not too much rice, noodles, sweets ..." Masutani said. "I hardly ever have regular soda or juice, it's usually diet. And I have to always exercise, because if I don't work out, I can get really sick."

Masutani disguises her condition well not just with aggressive participation in sports, but also with a bright, easy-going personality off the field and court.

She will attend Whittier College in Southern California, hoping to continue her softball career.

"I want to try," she said.

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2456. Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com


By Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer

Fear can be debilitating.

Fear can be overcome.

C'era Oliveira feared her father would not return from Iraq.

Col. Bruce Oliveira, then commander of the Hawai'i Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was deployed twice during C'era's high school career. He missed out on the achievements of his three teenage children, and it was a difficult and emotional time for the entire family, dealing with his absence and the dangers that existed thousands of miles away from home.

C'era, now a senior at Hawai'i Baptist, channeled what she described as an "immense fear" into her three sports — volleyball, soccer and track.

"By the end of my sophomore year, when I realized he'd be leaving my junior year, I realized I have to start focusing," said C'era, who will play volleyball at San Diego. "I need to get recruited, I need to do all these things and I can't just focus on the fact he won't be here and be all negative. I need to start being positive, work hard and channel all that towards sports and academics."

Freshman year was especially difficult, adjusting to high school, her father's deployment, and not making the varsity team. Her mother tried to bring the three siblings together, but each retreated to their own method of handling his absence.

C'era eventually channeled her feelings into playing for her father, using his absence to motivate her on the court. She also found support in teachers, coaches, and friends. She won three Division II state volleyball titles, two Division II soccer titles, and was a member of HBA's 4x400 relay team at states.

Her father returned this year, attending her games and taking pictures before her senior prom. Most importantly, after spending so much time apart, he was apart of her daily life.

Words of advice: "I'm not a venting kind of person, I bottle it up. My coaches and certain teachers know me well that they force me to vent out and that's what helps me to stay positive and to see the situation in a better way. Basically, just to channel everything towards what you're working for."

Reach Stanley Lee at sktlee@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2451.


By Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer

Pāhoa High School's first state title was for the community and the entire Big Island.

The community is still beaming with pride over the Daggers' Division II state basketball title won in March. A few weeks ago, Pāhoa finished second in the Division II state boys volleyball tournament, capping off the best athletic season ever for a school with about 400 students. Located in the Puna area, resources can be few and challenges are embedded into the community.

What Pāhoa did at the state's biggest level was remarkable.

"We had every district cheering for Pāhoa because of the adversity a lot of the students face in Puna. They have their socioeconomic challenges," said Hawai'i County Mayor Billy Kenoi, who grew up in the town of Kalapana in Puna. "What made everybody proud wasn't that a true underdog won the state championship.

"What made everybody really proud was there were these kids, most come from difficult and challenging backgrounds, and they conducted themselves with so much class and sportsmanship. That's what made us proud."

A fire truck blasted arches of water over the plane carrying the basketball team as it arrived in Hilo. Kenoi was among dozens of fans waiting at the airport, and he read a proclamation declaring March 7 as Pāhoa High School Day. A parade through Pāhoa town was held later. The community was every part of the Daggers' improbable run to the state crown. Short on funds in reaching Honolulu for the state tournament, the team washed cars, sold chili, and asked the community for donations.

"They really overcame, showed kids coming up behind them 'no excuses, we can compete,' " Kenoi said. "That example of overcoming to attain your goals and dreams is priceless."

Athletic director Ron Tomosada said this year has set the tone for next year.

"For us, when something good happens, it really gets magnified," Tomosada said. "It sets an example for others to follow."

Reach Stanley Lee at sktlee@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2451.