Circle of Honor inductees Jason Elam, George Uyeda and Jeanne Childs Siragusa spoke at a luncheon yesterday.


Inductees humbled
to join ohana

They speak of the honor of induction
and their love of Hawaii at a banquet

By Cindy Luis

There has always been a sense of ohana, of family, if one competed for the University of Hawaii. George Uyeda felt it in the late 1940s as the captain of the Rainbow track team, setting national long jump marks.

The same with Jeanne Childs Siragusa, who left the high-pressured atmosphere of the University of Texas to swim for the Wahine and set national marks in the 1980s. And Jason Elam didn't know what to expect when he got off the plane to kick for the Rainbow football team but wound up with a slew of records and even more friends upon finishing his career in 1992.


The trio share more than just athletic accomplishments and UH degrees. Yesterday, they all spoke of being surprised and humbled by their selection into the UH Sports Circle of Honor during a luncheon at the Bank of Hawaii.

"This is very cool," said Elam, who owns most of the UH, Western Athletic Conference and Denver Broncos kicking records. "I was very surprised to get the call. Ever since I first came here, I've always felt so welcomed by the people of Hawaii.

"The days I spent here at UH I wouldn't trade for anything."

Ten years after he last played for the Rainbows, he remains the UH and WAC leader in career scoring (395 points). The third-round draft choice of Denver in 1993 has two Super Bowl rings and has returned to Hawaii to compete in the Pro Bowl three times.

"I try to get out here a couple times a year," said Elam, who signed a five-year contract with the Broncos last week. "The first few months of 2003 have been very good for me. And it's fun to be back here for this."

Siragusa was here last May for the 30th Celebration of Wahine Athletics as the top swimmer in the program's history. This week, she returned from Florida with her husband, Michael, and children Megan and Cole.

Jeanne Siragusa is one of a few women to have won national titles and earned All-America honors at the AIAW and NCAA levels. The AIAW governed women's intercollegiate sports through the spring of 1982, Siragusa's junior year; as a senior in 1983, she swam under the NCAA aegis.

"It's kind of neat," said Siragusa, who won the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events at the AIAW and NCAA nationals. "Being in the last AIAWs, nobody can beat the records. We closed the book. And it is strange to think of being the first in the NCAA book."

A two-time All-American at Texas, Siragusa said she left the Longhorns because "the program was so big and high-pressured."

"I needed something small and I hated cold weather," said Siragusa, a prep All-American at Cherry Creek High School in Denver. "And I needed a coach who would help me with my breaststroke. I learned that that would be Mr. (Al) Minn."

Minn, the former Wahine swim coach, sat with Siragusa and her family during yesterday's luncheon.

"That first team meeting, Mr. Minn spent a long time talking about 'ohana,' " said Siragusa, who set the American record in the 200 breast in 1982. "That was the first thing he taught us. It's one of the things I am teaching my children."

Uyeda, who turns 80 tomorrow, has waited the longest to be inducted and was the most emotional of the three yesterday.

"I'm all shook up," said Uyeda, considered the greatest long jumper in UH history. "I feel very humbled to be honored with my fellow athletes Jason and Jeanne, and to now be along with some of the great athletes of Hawaii."

In 1947, Uyeda had a jump of 25-feet, 3/8-inches at the Hawaiian AAU Track & Field Championships. The jump ranked second in the U.S. and third in the world that year.

It was a remarkable jump, made more so by the fact that Uyeda was just 5-foot-4.

"It's even more impressive, considering the heavy shoes at the time, the wet sand and the long cleats," said UH athletic director Herman Frazier, a 1976 gold medalist in the 4x400 relay.

The Class of 2002 will be inducted during a halftime ceremony at tonight's Hawaii-San Jose State men's basketball game at the Stan Sheriff Center. The plaques of Uyeda, Siragusa and Elam will join those of 57 other individuals and five UH teams on the inner concourse of the Sheriff Center.

UH Athletics

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