Athletes ring in the New Year

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Athletes ring in the New Year

Dez Rodriguez, Assistant Sports Editor

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Aliyah Pana Senior Guard. Hilo, Hawaii.

At the start of the 2016 season, the CWU women’s basketball team was in search of a new manager, someone able to keep track of stats and willing to travel for road games. To their luck, traveling 2,705 miles away from Hilo, Hawaii were CWU senior guard Aliyah Pana and junior guard Alexis Pana.

“Originally I came to CWU just for school,” Aliyah said. “My sister actually signed a scholarship here to play basketball so I thought I’d support her and focus on school.”

The Pana sisters began their athletic career learning to dance hula, a Polynesian dance developed in the Hawaiian Islands. Pairing it with cheerleading and basketball at such a young age, they found themselves with little time for each activity. When their father became a youth basketball coach, they made the decision to drop hula and cheer to focus on playing basketball for their father’s team.

While Alexis Pana was highly recruited on the court, Aliyah sought after the manager position to keep a connection with both basketball and her sister. The pairing continued through the CWU’s recent coaching change when new women’s head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley took over for Jeff Harada in 2017. As the season concluded, Aliyah remembered how much she missed playing on the court.

“Last spring, I realized that it was my last year of eligibility,” Aliyah said. “I didn’t want to waste it so I talked to Randi and she gave me a chance.”

Now in 2019, the team is off to a 10-3 record, their best start since the 2015 season when they started 10-4, but cooled off down the stretch. Now sharing the court with her sister once again, Aliyah believes the early season magic will continue.

“As a team, we get along with each other very well, a lot of the time you can see that on the court,” Aliyah said. “We share the ball and like to get everyone involved. We just love playing together.”

The team is riding a four game win streak following the new year. Aliyah Pana hopes her new year’s resolution will help her career on and off the court.

“I’m the kind of person that wants everything scheduled out all the time,” Aliyah said. “I just want to be more open about going with the flow and living in the moment.”

Reuben Ludick Senior Center. Durban, South Africa

Born and raised in Durban, South Africa, CWU senior center Reuben Ludick always knew he wanted to play rugby growing up. The rugby culture is taught at a young age in South Africa and is carried on through the early stages of schooling. Ludick was first introduced to the sport he loves at just five years old.

“It’s kind of like here (USA), when you grow up you want to be a football or basketball star,” Ludick said. “That’s the culture in South Africa. From day one when I touched a rugby ball, that was what was in my mind.”

Ludick is only one of four seniors returning to the CWU men’s rugby team this season. Going through three previous seasons with CWU, Ludick loves the family environment every time he gets together with the team. Completing tasks collectively as opposed to doing them individually is what he enjoys most about the sport of rugby.

“I think it’s awesome when you can come together as a team and be successful and work together to get the best results,” Ludick said. “I definitely enjoy the brotherhood and being victorious as a team. It’s always as a team.”

The men’s rugby team took a break in December before facing off against Saint Mary’s and UC Davis, coming away with both a win and a loss. Ludick admits that the team looked slow returning to the field, but the problems that showed are easily fixable. The senior center trusts that the young quad can make the corrections and have another successful season moving forward.

“We’re all working hard to get our set pieces down and looking to make an improvement because without the set pieces, you cannot play any rugby,” Ludick said. “I think we’re getting there.”

Normally not used to setting new year’s resolutions, Ludick decided to make one this year realizing his college career is coming to a close. With only two more quarters to go, he wants to focus on his performance not only on the field, but off of it as well.

“My goal for the last bit of this school year is to have fun and just enjoy every single moment,” Ludick said. “I want to keep track of my academics and be sure its top notch as well as on the rugby field.”

Gunner Vallatini Freshman Sprints. Lihue, Hawaii. Kauai High School.

CWU track and field sprinter Gunner Vallatini always knew he had the talent to run. Growing up in Lihue Hawaii, his ability was on display at Kauai High School in Hawaii while he played baseball, soccer and cross country. It wasn’t until his senior year of high school when he decided to try his talent on the track.

“I’ve been playing baseball since I was six or seven years old,” Vallatini said. “But something about track always caught my eye.”

Like many high schools, baseball and track took place during the same season, so making the switch from baseball to track was too difficult for Vallatini to make. But in Hawaii, the limited participants allowed for him to take part in both sports at the same time. The unique ruling allowed him to compete against more of his friends in each sport, what he recalls being his best memory of his high school career.

“Sports in Hawaii, it’s very different than the competitive sports here,” Vallatini said. “There’s very limited competition, so coming here was really an eye opening experience for me.”

Vallatini decided that walking on at CWU would be his best chance at making a collegiate roster. He went through workouts with the team and was able to see what the training process was like at the next level. An aspect of his athletic experience that he said pushed himself to be better after he was exposed to more competition.

“The main thing for me was proving to my coaches that I’m willing to put in the work and effort to be able to compete at my highest level,” Vallatini said. “I just wanted to prove to myself and my coaches that I could dedicate myself to this sport and show my commitment.”

The CWU track and field team is preparing for their upcoming meet at the WSU indoor collegiate on Jan. 18-19. Vallatini says his new year’s resolution stays consistent with how he lives life everyday.

“Just bring out my best self each and every day,” Vallatini said. “Keep on bettering myself and spreading the love around to people. Just enjoying my time here at CWU and living in the moment.”


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