Small school, big feats for Rush
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Unlike many other high school kids this time of year, Dylan Rush has not been stricken by that dreaded, contagious condition commonly known as "senior-itis."
While some students are strongly tempted to hit the beach or cruise the mall after school — or even during school — Rush feels the need to finish his final semester with a flourish.
"I know what I want, and I know that good things come from working hard," said Rush, a senior four-sport athlete at tiny Ka'u on the Big Island. "I could be doing other things, but I wouldn't get anything for it. I like to accomplish things, and I've never regretted trying to accomplish things."
Rush's accomplishments so far are plentiful, maybe more than any high school athlete to come out of Ka'u in the past 30 years:
Of course, Rush is not done yet.
He is on Ka'u's track and field team — throwing the discus and shot put, and running the 200-meter dash and 300 high hurdles as a 6-foot-3 1/2, 249-pound sprinter.
"Track keeps me in condition and keeps me from gaining a lot of weight," said Rush, who added he has run the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds. "I want to qualify for (the state championship meet), but I'm also busting my butt to get ready for football. I'd rather not redshirt (as a freshman), and I think there's a 50-50 chance I could play right away."
And as if all that weren't enough, Rush also competes in judo and is hoping to contend for a medal in that sport, as well.
About the only thing Rush is taking it easy on this semester is his commute to and from school. The past three years, he awoke at 5:30 every school morning and made the 50-mile trek to Konawaena, where he was able to play football and also take advanced placement courses, which are not offered at Ka'u.
But after last football season, Rush transferred to Ka'u's campus in Pahala, about 18 miles from his house in Na'alehu.
"I took a lot of (ribbing) from the guys here when I left," said Rush, who has lived in Na'alehu since he was 5. "In the past, there were other athletes who left Ka'u to go to other schools, but when I came back, I think that was the first time it's ever happened."
When Rush won his third state wrestling title last month wearing the Ka'u singlet, it was the first time in 28 years the Trojans were represented on the top podium. Louis, who won the 119-pound title in 1978, was on hand at Blaisdell Arena to congratulate Rush.
"It felt really good to represent Ka'u — that was one of the reasons I came back home," Rush said. "It was really cool when I got back to the school; everybody knew what happened and they were really supportive. Ka'u is my home."
That home is in about as remote a community as can be found in Hawai'i. Na'alehu, with a population of about 1,800, is mostly known as the southernmost town in the United States. Rush's senior class has only 60 students, and it is one of the biggest classes the school has had recently.
"As far as facilities, there really are none," said Larry Arnold, a former Ka'u football coach and standout quarterback at the University of Hawai'i. "There's a small weight room, where you can get in a good workout, but that's about it. It's tough on the school and tough on the kids because they don't have a lot of opportunities you would have at a bigger school.
"You've really got to persevere and motivate yourself to get the job done, and anytime somebody from there does well, they've overcome a lot. So you've got to take your hat off to Dylan; he's done it with hard work."
Rush, for his part, said he enjoys Na'alehu's rural setting and called Konawaena — located in the historic and idyllic coffee town of Kealakekua — "fast-paced" by comparison.
"Over here, everybody knows everybody," Rush said. "The only part of UCLA I'm not going to like is living in the big city."
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.