Letter from the Pa`ani President

Department: Athletics

By Noel Pacarro ’98, 2008 – 2009 Pa`ani President

Aloha to the alumni, membership and families of Punahou School.

First and foremost, a big mahalo to Nedra Dwyer ’90 Manson, our Pa`ani president who is stepping down after three years of hard work, dedication and enthusiasm. Nedra diligently carried on Pa`ani’s great traditions during her tenure, and went above and beyond in her efforts to further the organization, broaden membership and make Pa`ani a great experience for all.

I have big shoes to fill, not only because of Nedra’s example, but because of the many strong, bright, talented, athletic and empowered women who blazed a remarkable trail before us.

I can still picture myself as a 13-year-old freshman, showing up apprehensively for my first day of practice as the only girl on the boys water polo team. Many people, including my own family, were surprised I had the courage to try out, much less compete head-on with the boys.

I received a helpful tip during those first weeks that I should try practicing with the University of Hawai`i’s masters team to boost my strength and skill. I was already the smallest one in the water at the Punahou pool, so the thought of playing against adults was a bit intimidating. But I really wanted to learn. I went and was completely humbled. The players were women, all of them tough, quick, experienced, and much older than me. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t a pioneer at all, but the youngest member of an athletics movement that had been brewing for decades beneath the surface.

In my sophomore year, the ILH decided to hold a trial year for girls water polo. Many in the athletics community said there wouldn’t be enough interest. They couldn’t have been more wrong: On the first day, 98 girls showed up for tryouts at Punahou.

The ILH allowed four teams to compete that initial season so all the girls could play. The following year the ILH made the sport official, and within a decade, held a state tournament for girls water polo with teams from the OIA, ILH, Maui, and the Big Island, coming together to compete. The interest was there, not only from girls at Punahou, but across the state. I felt honored to be a part of the birth and blossoming of this sport.

Looking ahead, my mission as the new President of Pa`ani is: First, gather the stories of our past pioneering female athletes to bring alive their challenges, triumphs and continued work so that Punahou athletes – girls and boys – can feel pride in the rich history of athletics at our school.

Second, I hope to engage Punahou coaches and girls in defining ways to effectively support female athletes so that they can become empowered in their lives beyond Punahou. Third, I want to work on ways to bridge membership across the Pacific to all the ladies who ever played sports at Punahou – to learn of their successes, and how their lessons learned as female athletes have shaped their lives.

Mahalo to the ladies who have vowed their commitment to these initiatives. We welcome the support of alumni, families and athletes, as we build upon our work to enhance the experience of girls’ athletics at Punahou.

Mahalo nui loa,

Noel Pacarro ’98


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