KAILUA-KONA — Hard work often pays off, but getting noticed on the state sports stage is no easy task, especially for an outer-islander. However, Kohala’s Mikayla Kekoa made a big impression over her four years playing for the Cowgirls and for her efforts, she has been inducted into the 2019 class of the HHSAA Hall of Honor.
“I am surprised but very grateful to be named to the Hall of Honor,” Kekoa said. “I have worked so hard and progressed so far since my freshman year. A lot of people helped me along the way and I am thankful for that.”
Kekoa goes into the Hall of Honor as a volleyball player, softball player and basketball player. It was in volleyball and softball where she really showed what she was capable of during her senior year.
Kekoa helped the Cowgirls volleyball team clinch its first ever BIIF title back in October with a four-set victory over Konawaena.
“It was amazing because I had a chance to watch us go from winning only one playoff game my freshman year to winning a league title,” Kekoa said. “We played together it was was a great experience for my last season.”
Kekoa picked up 19 kills in the championship match, helping Kohala complete a perfect season in Division II play. Kekoa was named 2019 BIIF Volleyball Player of the Year.
“Mikayla is our heart and she is always hyped,” said Cowgirls first year head coach Chyler Imai shortly after the victory. “When it is time to bring it she will always execute.”
For Kekoa, winning a league title was a surreal moment.
“My mind just went blank after the final point. I was just so shocked,” she said on the night of the victory. “I tried to play as strong as I could.”
After a successful volleyball season, Kekoa and the Cowgirls got off to a 4-0 start in the softball season, which included a major victory.
Looking to end Waiakea’s 42-game league winning streak, Kekoa took the circle in the fourth game of the year and struck out a career high 15 batters to help lead Kohala to a 7-2 win over the Warriors.
“We had a very young team, a lot of greenhorns coming out and it was very exciting,” Kekoa said. “They were willing to learn right away and it was a lot of fun.”
After getting swept in the BIIF championship series against Kamehameha-Hawaii, Kekoa and the rest of the Cowgirls rebounded in the state tournament, winning two games in a row to reach the semifinals for the first time in school history.
Kohala defeated Waialua 6-5 in the semifinals but lost to Saint Francis 4-1 in the championship.
“Even though we lost the final game it still felt like we won,” Kekoa said. “Coming from a country town, a small town, not a lot of people thought we would go that far. It felt great to play for the community.”
Kekoa was a major part of the state run. In the first two games of the HHSAA tournament, she struck out 40 batters in four games, including 29 in the first two rounds.
Though she did not play her senior year, Kekoa also found a lot of success in basketball, helping Kohala reach the state semifinals her freshman season.
The HHSAA selects 12 outstanding seniors each year to be inducted into the Hall of Honor by a 13-person committed of current and former sports reporters, athletic directors and coaches from around the state.
Joining Kekoa in the Class of 2019 are Naighel Calderon (Lanai), Duke Clemens (Punahou), Kelani Corbett (Leilehua), Kiran Costa (Kapaa), Sunshine Fontes (Pearl City), Dillon Gabriel (Mililani), Ashley Gooman (Kamehameha-Kapalama, Kameron Ng (Saint Francis), Kalina Obrey, (Kamehameha-Kapalama), Faatui Tuitele (St. Louis) and Noah Wusstig (Moanalua).
Criteria for selection is based mainly on athletic achievement but character, sportsmanship, academic record and community service also are taken into consideration.
Each inductee will be awarded a $2,000 scholarship.
“It is awesome to receive the scholarship because every little bit helps for college,” Kekoa said. “I could not have done it without the hard work of all the people who helped me.”
The 12 student-athletes will be formally inducted at an HHSAA Awards Banquet at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 2 at Dole Cannery’s Pomaika’i Ballroom on Oahu. For ticket information call 800-4092.
The Hall of Honor program has been recognizing the top Hawaii senior student-athletes each year since 1983.