Since the Hawaii High School Hall of Honor enshrined 12 new inductees last night, and since today is the first day of a new newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, now’s a good time to bestow some more high school sports accolades.
First, though, another tip of the headgear to last night’s honorees: Jarrett Arakawa, Chaz Bajet, Taylor Crabb, Jacob Edwards, Ryan Ho, Danna-Lynn Hooper, Kamie Imai, Lawrence Lagafuaina, Ku’uipo Nakoa, Sarah Palmer, Courtney Senas and Andrew Skalman.
All truly deserving. Every year we are awed by a new dynamic dozen. What a treat to relive your accomplishments and share in your special evening — truly the elite with the championships and records to prove it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize some more fine high school sportspeople.
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing "The Preppies." Picked by a selection panel of two: Me, and a guy who covers about 200 Hawaii prep games a year, Star-Advertiser high school sports reporter Paul Honda (also a member of the Hall of Honor selection committee).
Criterion for a Preppy? One word: heart. Athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and teams who hit that place in our souls, who set off that unquantifiable emotion equal parts respect and chicken-skin. Doesn’t have to be an all-stater, a champion, or someone who won or even played in a single game.
Tiebreaker? None. If they made enough of an impression to come up in our conversation, they’re good enough to earn a Preppy.
Bias? Well, if you notice a lot of Division II, neighbor islands and public schools representation you might not be imagining it. We have nothing against dynasties and overwhelming excellence; it’s just that this recognition is about inspiration, and that often comes from the so-called "little guys."
Don’t agree with our choices or methodology? By all means, share your thoughts.
» Teams of the year: Campbell softball, Kamehameha football, Pahoa boys basketball, PacWest baseball, Punahou baseball.
PacWest baseball and its one win? Honda: "They formed a team out of thin air and beat Maryknoll, the defending state D-II champ."
» Athletes of the year: Jarrett Arakawa (‘Iolani), Jacob Edwards (Ka’u), Isaiah Ekau (Pahoa), Zachery Muenster (Punahou), Courtney Senas (Mililani).
Arakawa was a high-profile star in football and baseball, but did the dirty work in basketball, setting picks, defending down low against bigger guys. A humble winner and ultimate team player.
» Coaches of the year: George Gusman (Saint Louis baseball), Eric Kadooka (Punahou baseball), Harry Scanlan-Leite (St. Joseph basketball), David Stant (Kamehameha football), Eric Yoshimura (Pahoa boys basketball).
Honda on Scanlan-Leite: "He’s like a Mr. Rogers nice guy, but he keeps the kids in line."
» Behind the scenes sportsperson of the year: Natalie Iwamoto (HHSAA Director of Information)
This is the only one we could agree upon.
The media know her as provider of rosters and results at the state tournaments. But her job is much more than that. Iwamoto also supplies information to HHSAA member schools whenever it is needed and runs the organization’s office.
She also coordinates many details of the Hall of Honor banquet each year, including sponsors and accommodations for neighbor island guests.
"She’s very dedicated and takes pride in her work," said Keith Amemiya, the former HHSAA executive director, for whom she worked for several years.
There are many, many people who do thankless jobs to make high school sports go. What sets Iwamoto apart?
This year it is doing her usual great job before and after delivering her first child, 5 1/2 -month old Arianna. Natalie returned to work when Ari was 3 months old — able to do so because of plenty of family support, starting with her husband, Neal.
"If I didn’t, I couldn’t afford things like her swim lessons that started (Saturday)," Natalie said.
As you know, in high school sports, the kids always come first.