Photo Credit: Nat Arios & Kirsten Nakashima
The score was nine to three when Mililani High School’s JV softball team ended the game on Oct. 17 at MHS. After the last strike was thrown, the team ran to their pitcher, dogpiling on the mound. They won the Oahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) Championship — the program’s third in a row.
“I think that was my favorite moment. Because that’s the moment where you just like — you know. And it’s like all your hard work has paid off,” said Sophomore Jacqueline Kirkpatrick.
Mililani was first up to bat. They took a five-run lead in the first two innings before Campbell scored three runs. Mililani scored four more — including Sophomore Paige Nakashima’s home run, which finished the game. “I felt relieved after I hit it (the home run),” said Nakashima. Kirkpatrick added, “We kinda got a little down and they scored those three points, but we were able to come back up from it. And we just held our heads high the whole time — kept positive.”
Conditioning began in July, which mainly consisted of running and crossfit, a fitness program where players do power-lifting or explosive movements. Conditioning was especially important for JV softball since they do double-headers, where the team plays two games in one day. “So we run before every practice. We run during practice. We run after practice,” said JV softball head coach Glenelle Nitta. “It helps them push beyond their barriers, so we condition a lot.”
Training was not limited to the physical side, however. With more freshmen players than returning sophomores this year, building team unity was a crucial part of their success. “So every year, it’s always a new feel with the girls. It takes a while, I would say, for them to kind of mesh together,” said Nitta. “But they do a lot of team activities too, so like team building, communication, trust.”
Most sports select one to three captains. In JV softball, every sophomore player is a captain of the team. As leaders, sophomores guide freshmen and prepare them for the next year, when they will be captains. “It’s not easy, but everyone participates in leading. So it’s not only like two people of the team. It’s everyone,” said Nakashima. Kirkpatrick added, “We’re kind of like sisters. We all trust each other in a sense, and we always pick each other up.”
Nitta planned for the structure to grow leadership skills. The goal was for everyone to play a part and feel important in the team. “Well my hope for anyone that comes to our JV level is that they feel confident in their ability as a softball player, but they feel confident as a person off the field. So my big thing is that we help build strong women to help lead other people, to help lead in whatever field they want to go to so that they can be better daughters, better students, better friends, and just go out and change the world,” said Nitta.
Nitta is also an assistant coach on the varsity softball team. Next year, when freshman players become new captains, sophomores like Nakashima and Kirkpatrick will get the chance to join the varsity team.