Kaua’i pair honored by Nissan

Award highest prep accolade in state

Against long odds, two Kaua’i Red Raiders have ascended to the peak of Hawai’i high school sports recognition.

And now Mark Rodrigues and Rachel Kyono are members of an elite group.

Monday, the pair were named as two of 12 seniors statewide on whom the honor of Nissan Hawai’i High School Hall of Honor selection has been bestowed for 2001. In the 19 years since the Hall’s inception, 17 athletes from the Garden Island have been selected; this was the first year a pair has come from the same high school.

“It’s the highest athletic honor in the state for high school kids,” said Jay Robertson, the lone selection-committee member from Kaua’i. “This is very special for these kids, and even more phenomenal considering the size of Kaua’i.”

Rodrigues’ recognition followed a somewhat traditional path. The Red Raider led his school to Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation championships in both volleyball and baseball. His performance at the HHSAA volleyball tournament earned him all-state honors, rare for a relatively unknown player from Kaua’i.

Rodrigues’ left arm played a significant role in directing the Red Raiders to the state baseball tournament. He was 3-0 in the KIF and threw in Kaua’i’s 7-5 loss to state-champion Kailua at the tourney. He has proven himself to Major League Baseball as one of the hottest prep prospects in the state.

“I didn’t know how I’d feel if I was selected,” Rodrigues said. “But I heard on Sunday afternoon and I was trippin’ out. It’s a great honor.”

Kyono’s track to the Hall was a bit less traditional. She is alone among the honorees as a single-sport standout. Most competed in three, all the rest two. And her sport of choice – golf – is not exactly mainstream.

Winning the state tournament by eight strokes must have had an impact.

“I’m hoping this will help people to recognize golf and start watching more golfers,” Kyono said. “This was really unexpected and a great honor.”

Perhaps Robertson’s presentation of Kyono played a role.

“I asked the committee how many female athletes in the field could you put in competition with the boys and then watch her not only keep pace, but beat them,” Robertson said. “She’s outstanding at what she does and it’s great to get her recognition.”

As part of that recognition, Rodrigues and Kyono – along with their families – will be flown to Honolulu for the June 3 award banquet at the Hawai’i Prince Hotel Waikiki. They will receive a night’s stay at the hotel, a $2,000 scholarship, a commemorative gold ring and a certificate of induction.

Already the owner of a full-ride golf scholarship to Pepperdine University, Kyono will donate her money to Kaua’i High School.

Neither Rodrigues nor Kyono said they sought personal awards when they began compete.

“I just wanted to go out and compete,” Kyono said. “If the awards came, that was great, but I just love the game.”


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