Big Island college report: Pandemic puts promising college careers on hold — or ends them

  • Grand Canyon photo Nicole Cristobal, a 2017 Kealakehe grad, was able to finish her indoor track and field season, claiming a gold medal for Grand Canyon University in the long jump at the Western Athletic Conference finals in February.

Nicole Cristobal earned her gold medal moment, Chanelle Molina and Alexis Pana made their finishing statements and Mina Poppas and Kira Parker swam to the max.

They were among the Big Island college athletes who, among other things, had a talent for good timing.


The coronavirus outbreak didn’t cut short their collegiate seasons, but those who participated in spring sports, such as Kentucky State’s Moana Pinner, a 2017 Hilo High grad, weren’t as lucky.

Pinner was raking the ball during her junior season with the NCAA Division II Thorobreds’ softball team, leading the way with a .385 average, three home runs and 14 RBIs before its season ended after just 14 games.

In February, Pinner was honored as the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the week for the first time, leaving coach David Morton yearning for more.

“Moana is really starting to get into the swing of things,” Morton said in a release. “She was a big part of our victories … and we are extremely proud of her. We can’t wait to see what she can accomplish the rest of the season.”

Unfortunately, the next chapter for her and others will have to wait:

• Junior Gehrig Octavio (Waiakea) was batting .370 in his first season at North Greenville (S.C), playing in 22 games as the as the Crusaders fashioned a 19-5-1 record in D-II baseball.

• Junior Nathan Minami (Waiakea) hit .415 in 15 games for Simpson (Calif.) of the NAIA.

• Senior Diana Wong (Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science) was 8-15 in Nos. 4-6 singles for D-I Louisville, going 8-13 in Nos. 2-3 doubles.

• Senior Emily Soares (Hilo) was 12-9 in singles and 7-9 in doubles at D-I Portland (Ore.)

• Junior libero Avery Enriques (Kamehameha) led D-I the Grand Canyon volleyball team with 1.58 digs per set.

• Junior libero Addison Enriques (Kamehameha) led D-I Concordia with 2.56 digs per set.

Cristobal win title

Cristobal (Kealakehe, 2017) claimed gold at the Western Athletic Conference indoor track and field championships in late February, less than two months after she started practicing jumping again with the Grand

Cristobal, a junior , not only placed first in the long jump, she recorded a personal best in the event, jumping to 19 feet, 6 inches.

“I was very shocked,” Cristobal said. “I knew that jump felt really good, but I didn’t know it was going to be that far, and it was really exciting. It still feels so surreal, but I’m excited to just carry it on to outdoor season.”

Cristobal’s surgery over the summer was to repair a torn labrum in her hip, and it kept the former Waverider from full practice until after the new year.

“For the first half of the season, I was doing rehab and I was just doing all of that to get better, so I wasn’t actually practicing until we came back from winter break, which was the first week of January,” Cristobal said. “I went through a lot of rehab and a lot of strengthening before our season actually started, and then when we came back from winter break, I was able to run with the team, so I did that, and at the same time still doing a lot of rehab and a lot of strengthening.

“Then I was able to lift win the weight room with the team as well, so that started to build up.”

Cristobal said she didn’t start doing jump practices with the team until later in January, and they weren’t full practices either.

Piece by piece, Cristobal worked her way to being able to compete in the championship meet.

“I was able to just progress and get my strength back and get my rhythm back for jumping,” Cristobal said.

In last year’s WAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, Cristobal finished in fourth place in both the triple and long jump. In last year’s long jump, she finished at 18 feet, 4 inches.

Cristobal’s recovery also didn’t stop her from competing in the triple jump , finishing once again in fourth, with a mark of 38 feet, 2.75 inches, just short of her triple jump mark last year, 38-4.

“It was my first time doing triple jump the whole season, because my trainers wanted to hold back on that just because it will affect my surgery that I had more,” Cristobal said. “But that was the first time, and I did get fourth place. It went well.”

Grand Canyon’s outdoor season was canceled.

– Elizabeth Pitts, West Hawaii Today

• Molina (Konawaena, 2016), a Washington State senior guard, tallied 10 points, four assists and five rebounds in the Cougars’ 82-55 loss to No. 14 Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament earlier this month, ending the Cougars’ season. Molina finished her career as the only player in school history to collect 1,000 points, 400 rebounds and 400 assists.

Her final totals: 1,365 points


• Pana (Hilo, 2016), a senior guard at D-II Central Washington, finished her career with a near triple-double, going for 19 points, seven assists, nine rebounds, one steal and one block in a 79-77 loss to Alaska-Anchorage in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Pana started all 28 games she appeared in and led the team in scoring averaging 14.4 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and team highs in assists (137) and steals (49).

• Parker (Hawaii Prep, 2018) and Poppas (Waiakea, 2019) helped D-I Vermont finish third in February at the America East Conference championships. Parker was part of a winning 200 free relay team as well as a 400 squad that took third. She was fifth in the 100 backstroke. Poppas earned a bronze as a member of the 800 freestyle team, and she was fifth in the 200 and seventh in the 500.

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