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Island School continues to send runners to the next level

  • Courtesy of Dr. Eric Wortmann

    Island School cross country runner Matthew Vickers, far left, is seen with his Island School teammates at the 2019 Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association state track and field championships. Vickers is now running with Occidental College in California.

  • Courtesy of Dr. Eric Wortmann

    Island School’s Joshua Graves, left, and Jaden DeSouza, right, beam with coach Dr. Eric Wortmann before the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association state track and field championships in 2019.

PUHI — The Island School cross country team didn’t let the cancellation of their season deter them from advancing runners to the college level.

Jaden DeSouza is the most recent Voyager runner moving on to run at the college level.

DeSouza signed a letter of intent with St. Mary’s College in California, an NCAA Division I program.

Other former members of Island School moving on include Matthew Vickers, who has committed to running at Occidental College in California this season. That move has been put on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vickers will run next year, and Joshua Graves is running at Ripon College in Wisconsin.

Building a tradition

Island School head cross-country coach Dr. Eric Wortmann attributes the trio’s ability to move to the collegiate level to the fundamental approach the cross-country program takes.

Wortmann, who focuses on the physiology of running as well as basic fundamental components, works to create a team dynamic in the individual sport.

“We work on developing total people, not just runners,” Wortmann said. “We try to create a great vibe, have a great time, help others in the team aspect and develop the best people we can.”

The philosophical approach towards building the foundation of the Island School program has worked for Wortmann.

Graves and Vickers, who both began in the Island cross country program in middle school, are recent success stories, Wortmann said.

“Josh has done amazingly well, and did everything that I’ve asked him to,” Wortmann said. “Frankly, I didn’t see (the level of his success) coming.”

Wortmann said he knew Vickers would be a successful runner by the time he was a sophomore in high school. He attributes his success to his competitive nature. “He races to win and doesn’t race to do well,” Wortmann said. “Having that mentality is very beneficial in life, as in running.”

Recruiting during COVID-19

Trying to promote herself and contact cross-country programs was different than DeSouza anticipated.

DeSouza, who estimated she had 12 to 14 schools interested in her, had to reach out to all coaches by Zoom teleconferences as opposed to flying over and meeting with them.

“I think the pandemic had an impact on recruiting because it was a lot harder to stay in touch with people,” DeSouza said. “It didn’t have too much effect on my particular journey because St. Mary’s was my top choice, and it just worked out awesome for me.”

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Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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