What did I do today to better my skills?
It’s a question Sarah Toeaina routinely asks. As a reminder, she has the query stuck to a mirror she sees every morning. And there are other motivational messages dotting the home.
“Around my house, in my room, on my bathroom mirror, I have sticky notes or pieces of paper of all the goals I want to achieve through the week, month and year,” Toeaina said. “I just like to see progress and always get better.”
Toeaina became the first athlete to earn 12 varsity letters at Kentwood High School. As a senior, Toeaina was integral in the Conquerors’ run to state in volleyball and basketball and she also medaled in two events at the 4A state track and field meet.
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Capping an outstanding prep career, Toeaina is The Seattle Times Female High School Athlete of the Year.
Coaches rave about her and athletic director Jo Anne Daughtry considers Toeaina the best multi-sport female athlete she’s seen in her 31 years at the school. The compliments encompass far more than her athleticism.
“She is one of the most humble, dedicated, team-first athletes I have ever met,” Doughtry said.
Even on her 18th birthday earlier this week, Toeaina made sure she got in a morning workout designed to help her succeed in basketball – her first love – at the University of Hawaii, where her parents were both athletes. She is eager to see the progress she can make while finally focusing on just one sport and admits her ultimate goal is to play professional basketball.
Her potential in basketball and volleyball stood out her freshman year, when she started in both sports. She helped the Conquerors reach the state-championship game in volleyball as a sophomore, and the five-set loss to Olympia stuck with her.
“That definitely made me push harder every year after that for every sport,” Toeaina said.
She turned out for track at the urging of older sister Alyx, now a thrower at Washington. It was at the district meet her freshman year where Sarah demonstrated her character.
She already had qualified for state in four events and was running in the last race of the 300 hurdles for seeding purposes only. She remembers an extra burst of adrenaline when she got the early lead over a girl favored to win the state title. But her approach to the third hurdle was off. She hit it and feel awkwardly, badly spraining an ankle.
In her mind, Toeaina heard her father yell, “Get up and finish the race!” She did just that, refusing help and hopping her way to the finish, gingerly stepping over the remaining hurdles as fans clapped and cheered.
“Her attitude and courage left a mark on everyone who saw that race. I know I will never forget it,” coach Stephen Roche said, adding she is “everything you hope your daughter would grow up to be.”