Seli Aholelei has eight strikeouts in 11 innings as a Viking this season. // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics
By Alex Barnes
In sports, the start of a new season often means the arrival of several new faces to a team. For the 2019 Western Softball season, two of the team’s new players come via transfer from down south in Lynnwood.
Seli Aholelei is a junior pitcher who transferred to Western after playing two seasons for the Edmonds Community College Tritons. Aholelei grew up in Honolulu, Hawai’i, attending Henry J. Kaiser High School, and feels blessed to have grown up where she did.
“Life in Hawaii is pretty much like paradise. You’ve got warm weather, friendly people, good local food and beautiful beaches,” Aholelei said. “Growing up there was even more of a blessing because you know that you’re still surrounded by the things that your parents grew up with.”
Aholelei picked up softball when she was nine years old and said that at the time, she didn’t know if softball was going to be something that she would continue with long-term.
“I didn’t immediately know if [softball] was something I’d still be doing [later], but it was for sure something … that I really wanted to give a go,” Aholelei said.
Aholelei said that the reason she was drawn to playing pitcher was because of the challenge that playing such an influential position provides. She says that her goal every game is to make life easier for her teammates by controlling the game from the mound.
“What I love about being a pitcher is that … it’s my responsibility to make sure my defense works less,” Aholelei said. “I grew up not wanting to have others work hard for me, so it’s just an instinct to want to make sure no girls get on bases.”
Aholelei decided to transfer to Western after being amazed following a tour of campus.
“Everything about this school is amazing, from the education, to the staff, or all the other activities that you’re able to do around [Bellingham],” she said.
Aholelei also credits the kinesiology curriculum at Western for her desire to transfer. As a kinesiology major, she is studying to become a sports psychologist post-graduation.
“My dream job is definitely to work with the NBA, NFL or maybe Olympic athletes, because it would be amazing to see women in the field conquer their dreams and goals,” Aholelei said.
In the next 10 years, Aholelei says that her major goal is to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology so she can find a job that enables her to provide for herself and family back in Hawaii.
For now, she’s just enjoying her time at Western.
“I don’t regret the decision of coming to Western to play ball for this school. I’m definitely living a dream here,” Aholelei said.
Tamia Hirano is a junior who plays middle infield, and like Aholelei, also transferred to Western after playing two years for the Tritons. Hirano grew up in Oahu, Hawai’i, and said that moving to Washington took some getting used to.
“I never thought leaving home would be such an adjustment for me, but it was a great chance for me to grow independently and get an experience that other people don’t have the opportunity to get,” Hirano said.
Hirano has a history of baseball and softball players in her family, which is why when she started playing T-ball at 4-years-old there was never any doubt that she would continue playing.
“It’s a sport that every individual in my family has played and is very passionate about. It was definitely something that I wanted to continue with and keep alive in the family,” Hirano said.
Early in her playing days, Hirano said that she played every position, but was drawn to middle infield because of the movement, range and action of the position. “[Playing] middle infield allows me to stay ready and it keeps me on my toes,” she said.
Hirano said that senior Shearyna Labasan and head coach Sheryl Gilmore were major factors that led her decision to transfer to Western. Hirano played high school softball with Labasan, and said that both of their mothers played softball together as well. Hirano also said that it only seemed right to finish her college career playing for coach Gilmore.
Hirano is currently majoring in kinesiology and said that she was drawn to it because it will allow her to continue to work in an athletic field after she finishes playing.
“I know that softball is definitely not something that I’ll be doing forever, so allowing myself to work with the body and its movements can potentially allow me to work with athletes and help them understand their own body, its movements, and athletic injuries,” Hirano said.
She plans on using her kinesiology degree to find a practice back in Hawai’i that focuses on personal therapies and trainings. Over the next 10 years, Hirano wants to work and travel before she buys a house and starts a family.
“Before starting a family I would like to take time to discover different parts of the world that I’ve never been to,” she said.
Hirano said that she has enjoyed her time at Western so far thanks to the atmosphere the team has created.
“Western softball is a great group of people to be around. It’s such a great atmosphere with positive vibes and it’s full of girls who are wanting to get better each day and that is something that I love being a part of,” Hirano said.