College on the horizon: Kealakehe’s Leann Hamilton on her way to competing in DI track

  • Kealakehe's Leann Hamilton will sign a national letter of intent with Cal State Northridge this month. (Leann Hamilton/Courtesy Photo)

  • Seabury Hall's Chloe Gangnath leads the field of the girls 800 as Kealakehe's Leann Hamilton finishes in second at the state track and field meet last season. (Maui News/Courtesy Photo)

  • Kealakehe's Leann Hamilton competes in the 1,500 in a BIIF track and field meet last season. Hamilton has several scholarship offers from colleges around the country, including the Division I Cal State Northridge. (Jared Fukisaki/Hawaii Tribune Herald-File Photo)

In track and field meets and in practice during her high school career, Kealakehe’s Leann Hamilton has continued to push herself to new heights, winning medal after medal.

Even if it meant waking up before sunrise for training, Hamilton had her sights set on continuing her track and cross country career in college.

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Now, that hard work has paid off as the senior Waverider looks to continue her career at a Division I school. This month, Hamilton is expected to sign a national letter of intent to compete at Cal State Northridge, a school in the Big West Conference.

“I’ve been to Los Angeles. I go there every summer, so I have family nearby to help support me through college.” Hamilton said of her decision to become a Matador. “I talked to the coach and his training methods seem closest to what I have now. Their team is small, even though it’s a big school, so it just felt like it would be closest to home.”

Hamilton has won more than 30 BIIF races in the 800 and 1,500 meters during the last two years, and walked away from last year’s HHSAA state track and field meet with a silver medal. Hamilton has also received scholarship offers from multiple Division II and NAIA schools, such as Southern Oregon University and Brescia University in Kentucky, but her heart is set on California.

She plans on majoring in elementary education, as both her parents are teachers and she wants to carry on the family legacy.

Hamilton has to wait until April 15 to officially be a part of the Cal State Northridge team, since all Division I and Division II signings are suspended until that date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic and stay-at-home orders for the state of Hawaii has also put a damper on Hamilton’s senior season with the Waveriders.

All HHSAA sports were suspended indefinitely last month, and it’s unclear whether Hamilton will be able to compete in another track and field meet for Kealakehe before heading to the mainland.

”I was pretty bummed out. I was upset because I had been training extra hard this year,” Hamilton said. “Between cross country and track season, I do paddling, and I was getting up every morning at 6:15 a.m. with my coach. We were running workouts in the morning on the soccer fields by my house, and I felt like I was going to run a 2:18 this year in the 800, and I never got a chance to do that. But every person who did track is going through the same thing so you can’t be too upset about it.”

While sheltering in place, Hamilton is still training for her collegiate career.

“My coach will give me workouts to do, and then I’ll go and do them. I’ll go on our local trail and I’ll run and I have a soccer field by my house and it’s pretty big, so the next day he’ll give me interval workouts and I’ll go do them down there,” Hamilton said. “So it’s not as fun as being with a whole team but I’ve got to keep training for college.”

It’s Kealakehe assistant track and field coach Patrick Bradley that has been assisting Hamilton through high school and now as she waits for the world to return to normal.

“I couldn’t have done it without Coach Patrick,” Hamilton said. “He pushed me to choose a D-I school to challenge myself, and he’s been training me with his own college workouts so when I get to college, I’ll be ready.”

Bradley said Hamilton is a “very talented and dedicated athlete” who has always been willing to put in the effort it takes to become a collegiate athlete.

“It’s been very rewarding for me to be her coach,” Bradley said. “She’s earned this D-I scholarship for sure. We were training between the cross country season and the track season we were supposed to have. So November through February, we were training at 6 a.m. in the dark and she never missed a practice.

“You won’t find many kids in Hawaii in high school willing to do that.”

Bradley said he believes Hamilton would have shined during this year’s track season, had it not been postponed, or potentially, canceled.

“I think this year she had a chance to not only win state, but set a state record, and it’s just sad it looks like we’re not gong to have a track season,” Bradley said.

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Even if it comes down to missing her senior season, Hamilton is ready for whatever comes next.

“I know that running in college, there’s a lot more competition, and that’s going to push me,” Hamilton said. “So my goal is to, at least for my freshman year, get down to like 2:17, 2:16 for my 800, but just all in all improving my time, especially in cross country.”

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