Photo credit: Callie Mullen
On Nov. 13, numerous athletes from MHS put pen to paper to commit to collegiate athletics. The early Signing Day is held prior to the National Letter of Intent Signing Day, which is scheduled to take place in early 2020.
“I felt really happy and relieved. Because just signing those papers means that you’re pretty much set and you’re ready to go. All you have to do is just stay healthy and be ready for college when it comes,” said varsity volleyball player and Eastern Washington University commit Senior Noa Torio.
For many athletes across Hawai’i, Signing Day is a time to recognize the hard work and dedication they’ve committed to their sport. The event honors the athletes and reveals which college and sport(s) they plan on continuing at the collegiate level. “I think it’s a good experience for athletes themselves because you get to sign with your teammates and maybe your soon-to-be teammates — you never know. But having family around (and) your friends and doing it with people — other people you don’t know, it’s a good experience,” said varsity soccer player and Idaho State University commit Senior Callie Mullen. Torio added, “Like I said, just signing those papers means you’re pretty much set. And especially since my parents were with me, they got to see that and like I said, it’s just a breath of fresh air.”
Many of the athletes began playing their sport from a young age. Over the years, many of them started to pursue their dream of playing sports in college through hard work and communication with college coaches. They also went on trips to the mainland to compete at national tournaments. “I joined the NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) recruiting program. And then I just emailed a bunch of coaches and went to a ton of tournaments and told them that I’d be playing so they can watch me,” said Torio. Mullen added, “It was just getting the communication back from the coach was more the hard part. Everything other than that fell into place very nicely.”
Along their journey of finding a college to play at, many of the athletes experienced hardships. Some of these hardships included mental challenges that had to be overcome, while others were physical injuries or difficulties. “Because the people who get recruited especially for Division One (sports), they’re like 5’8”, 5’9”, maybe 6-foot girls and they’re on the mainland, so they get more exposure than we do. But it was also mental because I’m one of the smaller girls on the team (and) I’m coming from an island. I mean, that’s already hard itself because you only get so much exposure because you only get to go on so many trips and if you don’t play club, then it’s like you’re done,” said Mullen.
Torio added, “Mostly just the timing (was the problem) — some schools I was talking to didn’t have an opening for one of my positions. So I really had to search deeper for a school that was offering a spot for where I play. So that was the hardest part, finding a place that had an opening.”
Aside from sports, the athletes took into consideration many different factors regarding the colleges they were interested in. Some of the biggest factors were the location and programs the college offered. “I plan to major in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience to later get a degree to be a psychiatrist and go into med school and all that fun stuff,” said Mullen. Torio added, “They (Eastern Washington University) had what I wanted to study. But at first I wasn’t completely sure. So I’m glad that they had more than one option. And also the location — it’s not somewhere out of nowhere. There’s still a really good family community there. And there’s Hawai’i girls on the team already so that made me want to join.”
The list of MHS athletes that committed are not yet finalized, but so far includes: soccer players Sydni Nakamura, Amber Gilbert, Jaylen Lum, Aislynn Crowder, Mehanaokalani Ortiz, Callie Mullen, Meagan-Samantha Tamashiro, and Kaleilehuaamealani “Kalei” Navares. The volleyball players are Noa Torio and Aysia Miller. Cross country runner Hope Ishizaka committed to Valley City State University.