Students who had originally come to BYU-Hawaii for sports have found that education, relationships, and new opportunities are keeping them here.
“Ultimately, my goal is just to graduate and move on to graduate school. The fastest way to do that would be to stay here,” said Bryce Nattress, a junior studying exercise science from Idaho.
Nattress said he values finishing school and going onto a career more than playing a sport he loves in college. Nattress has been playing basketball here since 2015, and said although he has enjoyed his time as an athlete, he also sees the benefits of the program stopping, “It’s crazy how much more time I have, but I do miss the competitiveness of playing collegiate basketball.”
Eve Gonzalez, a sophomore from Texas studying accounting, said her reasons for staying were a little different. Gonzalez’s high school coach encouraged her to continue her running career. A few colleges were interested in her, but Gonzalez said she contacted the BYUH running coach and was happy when he offered her a spot on the team. “I literally came here to run cross country. That was the goal. I was just going to see where it took me from there.”
After a successful first year of school and cross country, Gonzalez said she was bummed to see it end, but knew she would rather stay and not run than leave and run for a different school. When asked why she would rather stay, she said, “Solely, the relationships I have built with friends. I’ve never been surrounded by so many members of the church, and that’s why I stayed. Never in my life have I had this.” Gonzalez said she is grateful for running because had she not ran, she would not have ever ended up at BYUH.
When asked about why the sports programs were shut down at BYUH, Charlene Akana, former head athletic trainer and current assistant professor of Exercise Science, said, “Basically, we don’t know the reason. There is a lot of speculation, but maybe it was the finances.” In a BYUH statement about ending the program it says the money spent by Athletics would be used to increase the number of students from around the world the university can serve and especially those from the Pacific and Asia. Akana said the announcement came out in 2014 and Athletics ended during Spring Semester 2017. After hearing the announcement, Akana said, “I was disgruntled at first and then it hit me, that this is the Lord’s institution. Coming here was definitely his doing.”
Akana said she originally came here in 1994 on a one-year trial. After the year, she planned to go back to the University of Hawaii. However, after two months at BYUH, she knew she needed to stay.
Akana spent these past 20 years as the head athletic trainer, but when the sports program closed, she migrated to full-time teaching. She said instead of being upset, she views this as a new opportunity. “I’m not getting younger and it seemed like it was time to take on a new challenge, to move on. The Lord has always provided, no matter what.”
NOTE: This article is featured in the Oct. 2017 print issue.