PUHI — Island School senior Jaden DeSouza was floored when she first spoke with the Saint Mary’s College in California running coach.
“They said my times were too slow,” said DeSouza, who captured the female Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation cross country championships in 2018. “At first, they thought I was a boy.”
The confusion was settled and DeSouza continued to pursue her dream of running with the Saint Mary’s College Gaels cross country team, an NCAA Division I program.
“She was flying,” said Jerry Jona, the Island School athletic director. “There were runners who are totally spent when they hit the finish line at the KIF championships. But Jaden flew past the mark and all the way to the end of the track. She could have flown to Disneyland.”
Instead, surrounded by a small group of her family, friends, and supporters, DeSouza put the ink to her Letter of Intent to run cross country for St. Mary’s College in California, flashing her heart of love to the audience before lifting the ‘I’m In!’ banner high over her head.
The St. Mary’s College Gaels just finished a “handful of races” on its season by finishing sixth in the 2020 West Coast Conference Championships held in Las Vegas in late February. The 6k race that was strapped with pandemic hurdles was broken down into two groups, the first being led by eventual champions Brigham Young University, and the second group that included the Gaels running close to the top of that group before ending sixth, overall.
Top SMC finisher Abigayle Mitchell finished just out of the Top 30 on a 22-minute, 54.8-second run after gaining seven spots overall in the final two kilometers to finish 31st, overall.
“Once they figured out the mistake, SMC coaches were very helpful,” DeSouza said. “Without a KIF season due to the pandemic, I’ve done a couple of virtual events. Olivia Lutkevich, Sky Stewart and myself, we run also run in the mornings before school to stay in shape.”
As the days count down before graduation, DeSouza is excited about joining the SMC runners.
“I’m excited to learn more from their coaches,” she said. “I’m going to learn more from the girls, and I want to see what I can do.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island