Contributing From Outside The Continental 48
Jan. 10, 2006
Added as states No. 49 and 50 in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii have always had a sense of being overlooked as part of the United States. It seems as though student-athletes from both those states carry that same chip on their shoulders when approaching their given sport.
Gonzaga University has been fortunate enough to benefit from the services of student-athletes from both these states and that chip on their shoulder has helped them succeed as members of the Bulldogs family.
Currently 11 Gonzaga student-athletes hail from Alaska and Hawaii, competing in nine of the Bulldogs 14 intercollegiate sports. Men's soccer goalkeeper Vito Higgins was named an honorable mention All-West Coast Conference member this year and women's rower Jennifer Pierce helped Gonzaga claim the Freshman 4+ title at last year's Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships. Whatever it is that gives athletes from those two particular states their drive, it certainly works.
"Athletes from those two states bring all the intangibles," stated men's head soccer coach Einar Thorarinsson. "They have a desire and drive to succeed that makes them work just that much harder to succeed. Kids from those states also seem more open to new styles of coaching and want to continue to learn their particular game throughout college."
Thorarinsson should know a thing or two about successful kids from Hawaii and Alaska. He has had a string of players from both places including Brian Ching, a former All-West Coast Conference player who now plays professionally in Major League Soccer for the San Jose Earthquakes. Ching has also been named to the pool of players who will compete to be members of the U.S. National Team for World Cup 2006 in Germany.
While Ching is certainly not the last athlete that will make on impact on Gonzaga from Alaska or Hawaii, he was also not the first. The pipeline to those two states dates back to the late 1960's and early 1970's when baseball helped bring in talented kids from the Islands including former Major Leaguer Lenn Sakata.
Sakata made his way to the Gonzaga campus after a short stint at Treasure Valley Community College from his hometown of Honolulu. He made an immediate impact on the Bulldogs program earning second team All-American honors in 1974 while leading the Bulldogs to a No. 30 national ranking and second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Sakata was drafted in the first round of the 1974 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers and played 11 seasons in the big leagues for Milwaukee, Baltimore, Oakland and the New York Yankees. He is most remembered for being the last Orioles player to play shortstop prior to Cal Ripken starting his record breaking consecutive-game streak.
Current Gonzaga Athletes From Alaska and Hawaii
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