She strives for happiness, but there’s something about Gwen Maeha that is equally undeniable.
She seeks perfection.
“My favorite classes? Chemistry and trigonometry,” said Maeha. “They’re my favorites because they keep me on my toes. They challenge me.”
As a sophomore, the Leilehua scholar-athlete posted a 168 average on the lanes, then rose high at the state tourney on Kauai to win the girls individual championship. She became only the second champion from Leilehua; Kacee Taniyan took the girls crown in 2012, also at Kauai Bowl. For Maeha, it has been a lifetime of practice with occasional bursts of joy.
>> School: Leilehua High School, Class of 2018
>> Food (at home): Kalua pig
>> Food (eating out): Rib-eye from Outback in Waipio
>> Hobby outside of sports: “I take (hula) as a class at school, as an elective. I did hula when I was younger, but I had togive that up when I started bowling.”
>> Movie: “Mulan”
>> TV show: “Young and Hungry.” “I just can’t stop watching it.”
>> Music artist: Beyonce. “There has to be at least one Beyonce song when I warm up.”
>> Class: Chemistry/trigonometry. “They’re my favorites because they keep me on my toes. They challenge me.”
>> Place to relax: The beach at Ko Olina.
>> Motto/scripture: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” “I saw it on the internet and that’s the one I’ve followed since I started high school. ” It’s on (my mom’s) mirror.”
>> What your mom (Donna Maeha) always says that you can’t forget: “Always do your best and the right thing today because there may not be a tomorrow.”
>> What your dad (Sam) always says that you can’t forget: “Go for your dreams and I’ll always be there to help you fulfill them.”
>> How bowling (and softball) affect your daily life: “I set higher goals for myself knowing that my sports can help lead meto college to continue my education after high school.”
“Listening to music really calms her down,” Mules coach Rudy Domingo said. “Between sessions, I catch her dancing.”
Brandi Leong met her pal Gwen in elementary school, and they became friends through softball — Gwen’s other sport.
“Gwen always dances. When her music is playing, you’ll see her on the side going at it by herself, and if other people are dancing before her, she’ll usually join in,” Leong said.
Since fifth grade, when she followed her brother Gordon’s footsteps and began grinding away on the lanes at Schofield Bowling Alley every Saturday, Maeha has been a crafter of detail. Chad Pojas, a semi-pro bowler, helped her gain momentum along the way. Last summer, Maeha was one of a select group of local bowlers who competed at a national tournament in Indiana.
Domingo also is in charge of the National Honor Society. Pojas, Domingo and the late Keith Fukumoto, the Mules’ longtime coach who passed away last year, would count their blessings.
“Us three took her under our wings,” Domingo said. “We’re just enjoying the ride, to be honest with you. She just loves what she does.”
The need to compete
What Maeha does is take on a load of AP classes. She maintains a 3.81 cumulative grade-point average and a 187 pin average on the lanes. Her closest rival, Tyra Sanchez of Moanalua, was her roommate on the Indiana trip. It’s a frenemies situation — Sanchez is said to have a 189 average, which is perfect for Maeha. Going back to her sibling rivalry with Gordon, who is five years older, she has thrived on competition.
Gordon Maeha was even more prominent in NHS, graduating with a 4.25 GPA. By the time he entered college, he had accumulated 25 credits.
“I wanted to follow my brother and whatever he did. We just had friendly competitions,” Maeha said. “He always says he’s the brains and I’m the brawn.”
Gordon is in his fourth year at the University of Washington on a pre-med track.
“He’s smarter than me. I have no idea how I got into AP classes,” Maeha said.
She’s already surpassed Gordon’s personal bowling high of 279. Maeha rolled a 289 last year at Schofield, where OIA West competition is held.
“When we bowl against each other, it’s in the 200s,” she said. “But when I’m with my team, it’s about how I can help them.”
Leilehua, according to Domingo, has never won a title. They have a strong team, though, and could challenge perennial champion Pearl City. Maeha’s skill level won’t hurt the Mules’ chances, either.
“She’s very basic and fundamental. She’s not one of those people who like to curve a lot. She’s got a strong arm and she uses a 14- or 15-pound ball,” he said. “She throws the ball harder than me. She’s a revver.”
Revver, as in a lot of revolutions, which builds up power. It’s the kind of equation that low-key brainiacs like Maeha could probably scribble out on a napkin.
“When she hits the strikes, the pins run away,” Domingo said.
Donna Maeha has been by her daughter’s side constantly, whether it’s for bowling or softball. Maeha plays softball for Hana Pa‘a in the offseason — games are on Sundays this fall — and the mighty Mules in the spring. Gwen plays catcher, first base and outfield.
“That’s how she stays fit for bowling,” said Donna, who is the key link in a family that loves bowling.
Donna’s lifetime high is 267. It was Gwen who pulled her mom’s old gear out of storage and had one of the 14-pound balls redrilled. Gwen was in seventh grade at the time.
Donna’s father, Marcie Oyamot, had a perfect 300 game at now-gone Kalihi Bowl in 1967.
“She never got to see him bowl,” Donna said.
Between all the car rides, studying, practices and games practically seven days per week, Gwen has endured through the realities of life. Last year, her uncle, Gordon Oyamot, passed away. She dedicated her season to him.
“He was proud of her and always encouraging her,” Donna said.
Before that, Fukumoto, the Mules’ beloved, retired coach and band teacher, passed away. When he was still coaching, three Leilehua bowlers qualified for the state tourney in Kona.
“My dad (Sam) took the team — Kristi (Tamanaha), Shaianna (Liarinas) and me — out to dinner. I remembered that big, proud smile he had all night,” Maeha recalled. “He said, ‘Usually, I’m taking only one girl to states, but this year I have three and that makes me happy.’ “
“I’m privileged to be her adviser,” Domingo added. “Gwen and all of my bowling girls, I would allow all them to be a mentor to my own daughter. That’s how much I trust her.”
Maeha has her parents’ trust. They got her a car recently. Her longer-term goal is to land a college scholarship. She likes Maryland-Eastern Shore. Lindenwood also is very interesting. For now, her personal goal is about the Mules.
“She’s really focused more on the team,” Domingo said.