Wednesday, September 15, 1999
She was on her way to UCLABy Cindy Luis
before Hawaii came in
with an offer
This is the fourth in a weekly series featuring the University of Hawaii's first national volleyball championship in 1979.
RUNNING has long been a part of the life of Paula Gusman Jenkins. From being a high school track star to an ultra-marathoner to running around Oahu as a chauffeur for her four children.
Jenkins also played a big part in the 1979 title run of the Hawaii women's volleyball team. But her role as an outside hitter for the Wahine very nearly didn't happen.
"I was all set to go to UCLA, had my dorm and everything," said Jenkins. "But the summer before my freshman year, I was playing on the junior national team with (incoming Wahine freshmen) Roxanne Elias and Ann Goldenson.
"We were at this camp and I got a call from (UH women's athletic director) Donnis Thompson about coming to Hawaii. I made my decision right then, even though I had never been to Hawaii before. I had no idea what to expect."
Jenkins said she landed at the airport and waited over 90 minutes for someone to find her. She was at the gate while Wahine teammates waited for her at baggage claim.
"Even though I waited and waited, I didn't panic," she said. "I had no idea who to call or where I was going. But I had faith that it would work out.
"It was one of those decisions that changes your whole destiny."
Through her first three years, the Wahine had finished second once and third twice at the AIAW national tournament. Jenkins was one of eight seniors on the team that went to Carbondale, Ill., in early December.
"It was everyone's priority to win," she said. "We felt we were going to win. We had come so close the other three years and this was our last chance. We were going to do it.
"We were such a short team, had so many personality differences. But everybody came together."
Jenkins had subbed out and was on the bench during the end of Game 5 in the final against Utah State.
"I remember wishing I could do more, wishing I could be in there," she said. "Utah State was our nemesis. It was a match to die for.
"Everyone contributed to that win. I remember being numb afterward. No one could sleep that night. No one believed that it had actually happened."
Jenkins said what sticks out in her mind are the ti leaves the Hawaii fans brought to the national tournament.
"I thought that was pretty incredible," she said. "It's something that continues through today. The fans are so great.
"Getting the national attention, being the first team in any sport to bring back a title, was special. People wanted to come here because of the program. I'm so impressed how the sport has grown everywhere. When I was growing up in Northern California, it was fairly new. Now, it's giant."
In 1979: Senior middle blocker.
PAULA GUSMAN JENKINS
In 1999: Beginning her masters program in clinical psychology.
Home: Lives in Kaneohe with husband Charlie Jenkins. Three sons: Nate, 15, Gabe, 13, and Jacob, 11, and daughter Case, 9.
Post-UH career: Runs marathons and ultra-marathons, plays tennis, softball and volleyball.
Jenkins, who married all-American setter Charlie Jenkins in 1984, has stayed active in the running community, playing tennis and softball. Her fulltime job has been that of mother to four children: Nate (15), Gabe (13), Jacob (11) and Case (9).
"I've been a chauffeur, coach, team mom for them, basically every volunteer position there is," she said. "I have a hard time saying no.
I've been fortunate to have been able to stay at home all these years. I think it's helped the kids be well-adjusted. But now it's time for mom to do something."
Jenkins is going back to school for her masters degree in clinical psychology. She said she hopes to put the degree to use in a job that would help children through sports.
"I have to see if I can juggle all of these," she said.
Jenkins continues to play volleyball when she can. She played in the semipro league here in the early 1980s and competed for Outrigger Canoe Club at USVBA competitions.
"I would have loved to have played pro beach but it wasn't an option back then," she said. "I'm very grateful for my volleyball experience. My kids play and I hope that they will get the same thing out of it. And that they enjoy it."
Ka Leo O Hawaii