Sports

Female Athlete of the Year: Determination leads TJ's Kiyohara to the top

Recent Thomas Jefferson graduate Hannah Kiyohara lettered nine times during her four-year career, four each in basketball and softball and one time in cross country. She will play softball at the University of Louisville in the fall for the Cardinals.   - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Recent Thomas Jefferson graduate Hannah Kiyohara lettered nine times during her four-year career, four each in basketball and softball and one time in cross country. She will play softball at the University of Louisville in the fall for the Cardinals.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

It would have been pretty easy for Hannah Kiyohara to be satisfied with her athletic accomplishments when she entered Thomas Jefferson High School four years ago.

As a freshman, Kiyohara was the second-leading scorer on the Raider basketball team and the starting shortstop on a TJ team that qualified for the Class 4A State Fastpitch Tournament for just the second time in school history.

But being satisfied is something that just isn’t in Kiyohara’s vocabulary. She spent her four-year career at Jefferson looking for ways to become an even better athlete.

“I don’t think I really took anything for granted,” Kiyohara said. “I went out there and played hard every practice and game.”

Kiyohara had a goal of getting better every year on the softball field and basketball court and graduated Saturday as a four-year letterwinner in both. She also snared multiple all-league and all-city accolades along the way.

“There is no give-up with her,” former TJ head fastpitch coach Chad Fahnlander said. “’Can’t’ really is not a word in Hannah Kiyohara’s vocabulary.”

She can now add one more title to her already impressive trophy case —The Mirror’s 2009-10 Female Athlete of the Year.

“I knew she had the potential,” said Fahnlander. “Many young players come in with a passion and drive to make varsity, but somewhere along the line they burn out and lose the flame. Hannah’s flame kept getting bigger and bigger and not once in her four years did she take a play off or slide her way through practice. She worked very hard and expected that her teammates do the same.”

Kiyohara’s hard work paid off. The senior has already inked a national letter of intent to play softball starting in the fall at the University of Louisville.

“I’m really excited,” Kiyohara said. “I’m ready to get started on the whole college experience.”

But Kiyohara’s athleticism was also on full display on the basketball court. The 5-foot-9 guard was a three-time, All-City selection, thanks to her all-around play.

“Basketball is definitely my first love,” Kiyohara said. “I’m really going to miss playing and practicing. Basketball practice is a lot more exciting than softball, which is kind of boring.”

During her senior season, Kiyohara led the Raiders in scoring at 14.0 points a game and was a first-team, All-South Puget Sound League North Division selection. She also averaged five rebounds and two assists a game for the 10-10 Raiders, who missed the postseason.

Kiyohara scored in double figures in 17 of TJ’s 20 games this season, including a 25-point outburst in the Raiders’ final game of the season.

But softball is the sport that will pay for Kiyohara’s education at Louisville.

“After my first visit in Louisville, my mind was totally set on becoming a Cardinal,” Kiyohara said. “I absolutely fell in love with the coaches, the facilities and the support system on campus.”

She finished her impressive softball career at Jefferson with another stellar season this spring. The shortstop was the co-Most Valuable Player in the SPSL North Division after hitting .432 and leading the Raiders to their third state tournament in the last four years.

Kiyohara also finished the 2010 season with 34 RBIs, 34 runs, 12 stolen bases, three home runs, four triples and 12 doubles, while playing a solid defensive shortstop.

“Hannah is a gifted athlete who has great hands, which makes her a very talented fielder,” said Louisville head coach Sandy Pearsall. “She continues to become better and better offensively and will bring a great deal of speed to the team. She has a great attitude and clearly loves playing the game.”

That attitude was on full display during Jefferson’s postseason run this year. After finishing the SPSL regular season with three-straight losses, Kiyohara essentially put the Raiders on her shoulders, leading the team back to the state tournament.

During the SPSL and West Central District tournaments, Kiyohara hit an eye-popping .571 with three doubles, two triples and two home runs. She also had six RBIs in the Raiders’ two loser-out wins at districts, which pushed them into state.

Kiyohara will, most likely, start in the outfield during her freshman season at Louisville.

“I have no idea what is going to happen,” Kiyohara said. “I know that I can play pretty much every position except pitcher and catcher. As a freshman, I just want to go in and play. They can put me anywhere.”

But her former coach at TJ doesn’t see that experiment lasting too long.

“With Hannah’s work ethic and desire to be the best, the future is very bright,” Fahnlander said. “She might start off in the outfield, but once they see her magical glove and the way she commands the infield, she will be playing shortstop sooner than later.”

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