Female Athlete of the Year: Keanu displays all-around excellence

South Kitsap senior Maile Keanu played three sports, but her biggest impact came during the basketball team
South Kitsap senior Maile Keanu played three sports, but her biggest impact came during the basketball team's playoff run.
— image credit: File Photo

Past recipients

2011: Kelsey Callaghan

2010: Riley Dopps

2009: Stephanie Osterdahl

2008: Kaileigh Westermann

2007: Madison Rousell

2006: Madison Rousell

2005: Brittany Miller

2004: Stephanie Davison

She combined athletic prowess with academic excellence.

For those reasons, Maile Keanu was selected as the Port Orchard Independent's Female Athlete of the Year.

"There isn't anyone in this building that doesn't think the world of her," South Kitsap girls basketball coach Mike Hulet said.

Keanu was a three-sport athlete with the Wolves, which increasingly is becoming unusual at high schools. She simply could not imagine focusing on one sport, though. That stems from experience. As an eighth-grader, Keanu did play fastpitch and felt that was a mistake.

"I liked all of the sports because I've done them my whole life," Keanu said. "It was weird when I didn't have sports. It would be out of the norm."

She struggles to single out a highlight from her time at South, but Hulet needs little time to ponder that question. He cites the Wolves' regular-season finale Feb. 8 in a 67-63 win at Mount Tahoma that secured second place for South in the Class 4A Narrows League. Keanu scored 29 points and grabbed 21 rebounds during that contest.

"I recall the Mount Tahoma game where she just put us on our shoulders," Hulet said. "She literally willed us to that victory."

Many of her teammates and opponents played Amateur Athletic Union basketball during the offseason while Keanu focused on different sports. Hulet said he admired how hard Keanu worked to cultivate her skills, which were showcased toward the end of the season.

"It's really rewarding to see that," he said.

Keanu agreed.

"I definitely got better," she said. "I've worked on myself as an athlete."

Others noticed. Former Olympic College coach Tammy Helwig approached Keanu to let her know that Shoreline Community College's coaches liked her skill set. Keanu, who had not met Helwig before that interaction, said she appreciated that tip as she will compete for the Dolphins next season.She said that will mean crafting out a new routine. Keanu, who was one of the volleyball team's leaders in kills, and also played in the outfield as South's fastpitch team advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2003, will focus on just one sport. Keanu said that will be a change — her weekday routine of finishing work, eating dinner and going to bed was ingrained during the school year — might be foreign at first.

But she said she is ready to embrace the change. Keanu said she particularly enjoyed her senior year of basketball.

"We had a good team and good coaches," she said. "It was fun and it really allowed me to blossom as a player."

In addition to playing basketball, Keanu is excited to prepare for her future career. Because of that and her fondness of math, former South girls basketball coach Mark Lutzenhiser, who was Keanu’s physics teacher last year, recommended that she become an actuary. That career deals with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty.

Keanu, who maintained a 3.7 grade-point average, said she likes math and the idea of becoming an actuary because numbers are "stable," unlike the many variables presented in language.

Hulet observed Keanu's affinity for numbers during conversations. He said she always would ask the 5-foot-11 Keanu always would ask how tall opposing post players were. That led to some prodding when Keanu produced multiple 20-point games toward the end of the season.

"She finally had a bunch of midgets on her, so she went off," said Hulet, laughing.

Hulet, who already is entrenched in spring practices with potential players on next year's team, said the program will miss Keanu's leadership.

"She's always smiling and having fun," he said. "She's a terrific teammate and team player."

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