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Satterwhite's tall order


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ashley Satterwhite stands head and shoulders above the competition in more ways than one.

The Punahou junior is among the top sprinters in the state and is a serious contender in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Friday's Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships at Kamehameha.

She has the state's fastest mark in the 100 so far this season at 12.74 seconds, and her 26 seconds flat in the 200 was tops until Radford's Andrea Hinkle edged it with a time of 25.96 at Saturday's OIA championships.

Besides her regular standing atop meets, Satterwhite also stands tall on the track. At an unusual 5-foot-10 for a sprinter, she's overcome the stigma that taller runners can't achieve the same success as lower-built competitors.

She's peaking at the right time, but getting to that point wasn't easy. It required sacrifice (she dropped basketball to focus exclusively on track) and perseverance (she missed nearly all of her sophomore season with a stress fracture in her left foot). She's also run through a nagging hip injury this season.

Satterwhite was undeterred. She knew which sport she loved, and it wasn't the one known for taller athletes.

Satterwhite (whose brother is Hawaii men's basketball player Gary Satterwhite Jr.) used the time off to form a closer bond with her track teammates. She previously saw only part of the time while she juggled hoops and track.

“;I learned more from watching the sport than doing it,”; she said. “;I learned more about my teammates, because I had to watch them and watch them get better. I learned that things can get taken away; you don't take things for granted, pretty much. Your career can end off anything. Work hard, do your best, because people can come up, and you think you're the fastest person.

“;Next thing you know, you're sitting on the sides.”;

Satterwhite knows all about that. Her father, Gary Sr., was a standout prep sprinter in New Jersey and NCAA champion at SMU. He had his career cut short by injury and was finished at 21.

Satterwhite Sr., a sprints coach with the Punahou boys, helps guide her alongside Punahou head girls coach Duncan Macdonald.

“;Her best track is three, four, five years down the road,”; Satterwhite said of his daughter. “;She is actually a rookie in track and field, honestly. She only ran half of her freshman year. She missed all of her sophomore year. Her potential, I think, is limitless. I really do. I think she can be an excellent, great runner. But as anything else, it depends on how much she wants it. She loves track, so you know, her best is yet to come.”;

She's well on her way. Girls head coach Duncan Macdonald calls her “;mechanically gifted,”; especially in the 200, which is tailored more to her form.

“;Yes, she's not your archetypical sprinter,”; Macdonald said. “;But it's not unheard of; you look at Usain Bolt, he's a very tall kid (6-foot-4). The typical problem that tall sprinters have is the start. That's really Ashley's weak point. Once she gets moving, she's hard to stop. But the start is a critical thing for her, because tall people do have trouble coming out of the blocks, getting up to speed as quickly as the smaller people.”;

If Punahou is to reclaim the mantle as the top girls team in the state, Satterwhite will need to have a huge say in the matter in her four events (100, 200, 4x100, 4x400). Prior to last year when Punahou was unseated by Kamehameha in the ILH, the Buffanblu won 10 of the last 12 and four straight state titles.

“;There's a lot more focus this year, than anything, because we have a lot of competition out there,”; Ashley said. “;You can be ranked No. 1 all season, but if you don't show up when it counts, it means nothing.”;