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Wichmann helps us run away from our problems


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POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do you need a break from the downers, too?

The confusion and controversy of recent weeks compounded a year of overall mediocrity on the playing fields for most University of Hawaii sports.

A trainwreck that will live on as the textbook example of how not to fire and hire a women's basketball coach went on and on.

The baseball team was supposed to make UH fans forget about a steady stream of earlier disappointments going back to the Hawaii Bowl debacle against Notre Dame. Instead, the excellent play of the early nonconference season made the conference collapse confounding.

Enough negativity already, it's been a rough 2009.

So I convened my own search (can't call it a committee, since it's just me ... hey that's an idea). I looked for something positive to write about — something that has nothing to do with losing streaks, rollovers, contracts, firings, buyouts, budgets or coaching candidates in limbo.

It didn't take long.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Annett Wichmann.

You say the name is vaguely familiar? Well, she's the most consistently excellent athlete at UH right now, and by a considerable margin.

“;It's under-appreciated, what she's done,”; said Derek Inouchi, the UH sports media relations director.

If she were a football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball or soccer player, she'd be the toast of the town. Track and field is her sport. It's one of the most popular in the world, but not here.

If this bothers Wichmann at all, she doesn't show it. She's been too busy earning a degree in kinesiology and rehabilitation, while dominating the multi-events in the Western Athletic Conference the past four years. Wichmann has won seven of a possible eight pentathlons and heptathlons.

And she's had fun. Wichmann loves the beach. That's where she was two nights before leaving for this weekend's regionals in Eugene, Ore.

“;Since we won't have the ocean for four days,”; said Wichmann, as she headed for the bus to the airport.

She even gets up on a surfboard once in a while. Is coach Carmyn James OK with that?

“;She introduced us to it,”; said Wichmann, with the smile and laugh that accompany just about everything she says.

“;She gets serious when it's time to compete,”; teammate Amber Kaufman said. “;But she's always upbeat and positive with people. That's how she really is.”;

Hawaii didn't recruit Wichmann, she recruited Hawaii — all the way from her home in Germany.

“;I didn't want to go anywhere else,”; said Wichmann, who is applying for a work visa to remain here. “;I knew about Hawaii from travel magazines, knew it was paradise and that nothing else can compare.”;

Last month she was presented with the Bonham Award, the top honor for a UH student-athlete.

She and her teammates — including Kaufman, who is second nationally with a 6-4 high jump — look to score well this week and again at the NCAA Championships, June 10-13.

Wichmann, Kaufman and another high jumper, Emily Sheppard, all earned All-America status last year and posted 10 points for a 25th place tie at the NCAAs — best in school history.

It hasn't been a great year overall for UH sports. But in a couple of weeks we'll learn if the best was saved for last.

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Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon