A running start: ‘Big Dog’ scholarship winners active in pursuit of knowledge

  • TOM LINDER/West Hawaii Today file photo Kamehameha’s Carlos Masuko, above, Kealakehe’s Alec Ankrum, Waiakea’s Cassiday Denault and Keaau’s Gary Aquino are recipients of the Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph scholarships, and the recent graduates each collect $1,500 stipends for college.

Waiakea’s Cassiday Denault, Keaau’s Gary Aquino, Kamehameha’s Carlos Masuko, and Kealakehe’s Alec Ankrum are the recipients of the Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph scholarships, and the recent graduates all enjoyed running and are high achievers in the classroom.

They each received the $1,500 scholarship in honor of Joseph, a Waiakea teacher and coach who started the scholarships in 2006 and died in 2013 from an aggressive form of brain cancer.

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To be selected, the student-athlete demonstrated not only a willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to excel in his or her running activities but also strived toward excellence in all aspects of school and community endeavors.

Denault, who had a 4.0 GPA, has a laundry list of athletic and academic achievements, credited running for teaching her self-discipline and time management skills as she balanced school, sports, community service, extracurricular activities and her own health during the coronavirus pandemic.

She intends to major in environmental science, return to Hawaii and bring sustainability to the forefront and participate in the hands-on restoration of nature.

A few of her many highlights include second place in the high jump at the BIIF championship in 2018, her National Honor Society membership, and Denault was a three-year runner for cross-country, and track and field.

She worked as an intern for UH-Hilo’s forest restoration experiment and as a pharmacy technician at KTA. Her internship was with the Liko na Pilina Project, where she gained valuable knowledge about forest restoration research.

Both of her parents are first-generation college graduates, and she intends to set an example for her younger sister.

“I have dedicated much of my time and efforts to exceeding in academics, contributing to my local community, developing my leadership skills and extracurriculars like running, so I could make my dream of attending college a reality,” she said. “This scholarship would bring me closer to getting to study in an amazing program and the chance to grow and define my adult self.”

Denault, who’s been a competitive runner for nine years, said running made her physically strong, mentally tough and a dependable teammate.

“My confidence and ability translated not only to running but eventually to organizing school-wide events and becoming president of my 4H Federation,” she said. “I’m most grateful that running enabled me to feel comfortable living my life as myself.”

Aquino plans to become a nurse, inspired by the shortage of nurses during the pandemic. He hopes to help the elderly, serve on local boards and communities and organize fund-raising efforts for health-related causes.

One of his biggest honors was becoming a National Honor Society member at Keaau, where 180 students were invited to apply. Aquino was one of 11 selected.

He volunteered his time to community service events such as Make a Difference Day, Operation Christmas Child, Book Fair, Pet Drive, Donating Goods of the Homeless Shelters, Masking Making and Appreciation for Teachers, all without a driver’s license at the time.

Aquino worked part-time at Hilo Farmers Market, waking up at 4 a.m. and starting an hour later, earning money for future expenses like his college tuition. He would be the first in his family to attend college.

It was a tough introduction to cross-country for Aquino, who fainted in his first race and was rushed to the emergency room when he suffered a heat stroke.

“This setback didn’t stop me from running,” he said. “It motivated me to push harder and persevere. Running will always impact my life because of my courage and bravery to aim higher. Running will always be part of my life and will forever influence me to become a better person, hopefully, inspire others.”

Masuko also wants to go into healthcare and give back to the community. He plans to major in biology/premed and hopes to go to the John A. Burns School at UH-Manoa, become a general practitioner and provide care for underserved regions on the Big Island.

He was a high achiever in the classroom, making the Headmaster’s List (4.0 GPA or higher) with a cumulative 4.178 GPA.

Masuko kept himself busy as a four-year member in cross-country, track and field, wrestling and the National Honor Society.

His parents are college graduates, and Masuko will be a role model for his two younger brothers and sister. He gained experience in the medical field from UH-Hilo’s summer program.

“Running has shown me the importance of consistency when striving for goals,” he said. “It has also introduced me to lifelong companions. Because of my team’s consistency and dedication, we were able to become BIIF champions for the first time in our school’s history.”

Ankrum plans to major in computer science, possibly heading into computer engineering or cyber security. He was an AP Scholar with Distinction and in the STEM academy.

Ankrum started club running in the third grade and won the BIIF cross-country title as a sophomore in 2018.

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“Not only did I enjoy running itself, but it also brought clarity into my life by increasing my social life, helping me meet new people and showing me to how properly channel my energy into something worthwhile,” he said. “Running shaped me into the person I am today, and I never plan to stop running for the rest of my life.”

Also, John Marrack, a Hilo graduate, received the most inspirational award of $500 from the Sunrise Athletic Association.

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