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Irish and Bookland awarded Osamu “Oscar” Chihara Memorial Scholarships

By Staff | May 28, 2020

This year’s honorees are Lunas linebacker Nainoa Irish (right) and wide receiver William Kai Bookland.

LAHAINA – Long about 20 years ago, a Lahainaluna High School scholar-athlete by the name of Kawika Casco walked on to the University of Utah football team. After some time toiling for the Runnin’ Utes program, Casco was called to the front of the team following a fall practice.

Then-head coach Urban Meyer -currently a surefire candidate to be elected into the College Football Hall of Fame following his stellar career leading several Division I programs to the top of the national rankings – proceeded to award Casco a full scholarship to the Division I university.

Coach Meyer cited the Lahainaluna graduate’s intensity, work ethic and teamwork as the core to the decision. Those internal qualities define not only football student-athletes at Lahainaluna, but also to athletics across the board at the oldest public school west of the Rockies.

That human spirit in sports participation is the standard of quality of the Arthur Osamu “Oscar” Chihara Memorial Scholarship Award. Selected by the coaches, two graduating football student-athletes are awarded $1,500 cash scholarships in honor of their spirited dedication to Luna football.

Chihara was an undersized (5’7″ and 165 pounds) team captain, guard, outside linebacker and special teams gunner for the University High School Warriors in the early 1960s. He lined up against opposing players that were a foot taller and outweighed him by 100 pounds and rarely left the field. But his passion for the game and his poise under fire made him a precision blocker and a deadly tackler, as well as a leader by example for the Warriors.

Tragically, Oscar Chihara died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at the age of 44, leaving behind his wife and three young daughters – ages 3, 6 and 9 at the time. But his friend and business associate, Mike Heagerty, vowed then and there to care for Oscar’s family.

Throughout the years following Chihara’s passing, Heagerty, his wife, Jane, and the H.W. Gorst Company have supported the girls, including financing their college careers.

To further propagate his memory, the Heagertys and the Chihara family of Lahaina, as well as the H.W. Gorst Company, established the Arthur Osamu “Oscar” Chihara Memorial Scholarship Award, Passion and Poise.

The honorees for the award for the 2019 season are Lunas linebacker Nainoa Irish and wide receiver William Kai Bookland.

Both Irish and Bookland were four-year standout players on the Lahainaluna teams that won four consecutive state championships.

Moreover, they were recognized by their coaches for their dedication to uphold the standards of self-sacrifice and supreme work ethic.

Co-head coach Dean Rickard cited both Bookland and Irish’s passion for the game starting in their intermediate years with the Lunas Big Boy program.

“He (Irish) was indoctrinated in the traditions and expectations of what it meant to be a player for Lahainaluna. Nainoa made up for his lack of size with dedication to strength training and conditioning, and a ‘never say quit’ attitude. He was one of the most physically tough and relentless players on the gridiron. His undeniable work ethic and his positive mind-set will assuredly enable him to be successful at whatever goals he sets for himself.”

Coach Dean continued to describe Bookland as, “The heart and soul of our team – a quiet leader not with his voice but with his actions on and off the field. He was our clutch receiver and a throwback player whose passion and versatility became evident early on. He’s always demonstrated an unquestionable work ethic, unselfish attitude, leadership, humility, discipline and dedication. Kai embodied the role of student-athlete, and this will serve him well in his journey throughout life.”

Along with the scholarship checks, Bookland and Irish received custom-made plaques from Maui Marking Device.

Irish, the son of Diana and Martell Irish, is headed to Shasta College in California to study business, and Bookland, the son of Stacy and Bill Bookland, will attend the University of Northern Colorado to study sports management.

Best wishes and aloha to you all! Imua Lahainaluna!