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StarBulletin.com

Athletes find sports fulfilling


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POSTED: Monday, May 25, 2009

“;I look up to Ipo more than any player on the team,”; said Katie Case, a freshman teammate. “;When we were playing volleyball, she followed every mistake she made by trying ten times harder.”;

Ku'uipo “;Ipo”; Nakoa was raised by her stepmother Kiyo Hoover and her dad, Daniel Harry Nakoa, with a mix of western and Hawaiian culture. With eight older siblings and two younger brothers, Ipo Nakoa claimed that as the only girl around the ranch, she was very “;tomboyish.”; She played football, broke horses and even wrestled in the mud.

Raised in a 2,500-acre playground, Nakoa remembered, “;My stepmom bought a giant bell to call us home, since we would run so fast and so far in an hour, we just couldn't hear her yelling for us to go home.”;

Nakoa's speed and agility allowed her to become one of HPA's best athletes in track, volleyball and soccer. Ipo led the soccer team in scoring, notching two decisive goals against Honokaa to lead her team into the semifinals. In track, she has participated in the 100-meter sprint, 200-meter dash, 400-meter run, the 4 x 100-meter and 4 x 400-meter relay, long jump, triple jump and pole vault. For winning the 200-meter run, the long jump and triple jump events at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Championships, she joined fellow HPA runner Noe Vargas as tournament MVP.

Nakoa looks up to senior Korey Tsubota for inspiration. “;I wish I had known him for longer then just these three short years,”; Nakoa said. “;Korey Tsubota is just an amazing person. He's like a titan rising from the ashes to build a castle.”;

Through Tsubota, Nakoa has learned to live by the motto of “;There are no boundaries; the sky is not a limit, because once you believe that there is a limit, all battles are lost.”;

Devin Fujioka doesn't look like the typical dominating fastball pitcher, but looks can be deceiving. Born to Lisa and Edward Fujioka, he grew up in Waimea and loved baseball from fourth grade on. In ninth grade Fujioka left Waimea Intermediate School for new challenges of HPA. Looking back on his team's fifth-place finish at this year's Division II championships and his being named to the all-tournament team, he remains proudest of making the transition between Waimea and HPA. “;It was tough academically and emotionally,”; Fujioka said.

From freshman year, Fujioka started and finished just about every game for the Ka Makani. His greatest contribution this season didn't come on the pitching mound, however. Fujioka had to miss the opening round of this year's BIIF playoffs. This didn't stop him from showing his leadership as captain, though; he flipped over all the benches in the dugout so no one could sit down and yelled at everyone to be louder. The fans picked up the cheering. The electric environment helped push the team to a win.

Fujioka pitched 6 1/3 innings of the BIIF championship, leaving only because he was suffering from back cramps. He followed that performance by pitching nine innings in the state championships, losing one game and figuring prominently in the two wins. From the beginning of his freshmen year until his last game against rival Honokaa, his energy and dedication on and off the field lifted HPA from a perennial doormat to a championship team. At 5 feet 5 inches Devin might not look like a champion baseball player, but you can't see his heart.