The Way I See It
SHE'S now the nation's ideal woman. Angie Baraquio. Beautiful, graceful, eloquent, drop-dead perfect in a bikini.
"There she is, walking on air she is," go the lyrics to the old Miss America theme song.
But anybody who remembers the new Miss America as a three-sport athlete at Moanalua High School in the early 1990s will tell you she certainly didn't walk on air when she played basketball.
"She was tough," said former teammate Tani Dutro.
"Very aggressive," said another former teammate, Samara Suafoa.
Certainly, there was an unmistakable charisma about the 5-foot-4 Baraquio from the first day she showed up to play varsity basketball with her three sisters in 1991.
Her former coach, Dana Takahara Dias, who's now assistant athletic director at Moanalua, said Baraquio had a way of drawing people to her with her personality. It's one reason why Dias made her team captain two seasons in a row.
"But when she stepped on the basketball court, she was a different person," Dutro said.
It was in-your-face time, and Baraquio played it to the hilt.
Pohai Frank, who played three years with Baraquio, remembers her as the defensive badger who helped Moanalua earn state tournament berths four years in a row.
"I remember her slapping the floor with both hands, like to say, 'Bring it on,' " Frank said.
"If there was a crucial point in the game when we needed a stop or something, that's when she would slap the floor."
Baraquio played basketball and volleyball and ran cross country, but basketball was her passion. She was the little engine that made Moanalua's undersized overachievers keep on running.
In four years of varsity play, including two Oahu Interscholastic Association titles (1992, 1993), she received West Division all-star honors only once -- her senior year.
You wouldn't read much about Baraquio. She did the kind of work not reflected in the box scores. She dived for loose balls, made steals and often was given the unglamorous assignment to cover the other team's best offensive player.
At state tournament time she had to defend superior talents like former University of Hawaii stars Nani Cockett (Kamehameha) and BJ Itoman (Iolani).
"She didn't care who it was, she'd get in their face -- she was a pest," Frank said.
"She played her defense from the heart," said Dias. "Angie made defensive stops no one else could make, and that's why she always had the toughest assignments."
I recall the way Dias conducted practice, and I'd say that Baraquio might owe her former coach for the laps she made her do. Dutro agrees.
"She was probably our fastest player, the one in the best shape of anybody," Dutro said. "So no surprise she won the swimsuit competition."
I was struck by how relaxed Baraquio looked throughout the pageant Saturday night, but her former teammates said they weren't surprised at all.
Suafoa said poise was always Baraquio's middle name.
She recalled that Baraquio picked up four fouls in the 1993 state semifinal that Moanalua lost in the final seconds (42-41) to Kamehameha. Yet she played the whole second half, defending Regina Kaaihili.
"She played just as hard with four fouls and that took guts," Suafoa said.
Suafoa said she believes Baraquio has wiped out forever the stereotype that a hard-nosed athlete can't also be a complete woman.
"I think Angie shows the perfect balance."
Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.