By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Not all rewards come in a shining color such as gold, silver or bronze — something Waiakea senior Skye Ombac knows by heart.
She competes in cross country and track, but has never won a Big Island Interscholastic Federation individual medal in either sport.
That doesn’t stop her from running or working hard, a self-motivated drive that carries over into the classroom. She has a 3.76 grade-point average, and wants to be a physical therapist. It’s a job that would tie her to sports for the rest of her life.
Like most goal-oriented people, Ombac put a plan in place and never stopped working until she crossed the finish line. Her reward is a combined athletic-and-academic scholarship package to the University of Jamestown, an NAIA school in North Dakota.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said. “I always wanted to get a scholarship after my junior year. I had really good seasons, compared to my freshman and sophomore years. I filled out a profile on ncsasports.org and the site allows coaches who are interested to email me. I emailed coaches who emailed me. If I couldn’t get an athletic scholarship, I thought I could get an academic one.
“When the Jamestown coaches emailed me back, I thought, ‘I can do it.’ I’m proud of myself. I worked for it and no one else can run for me.”
She will always be part of a package. Her fraternal twin sister Katrina Ombac is also a Waiakea senior and younger by a minute. Katrina landed an academic scholarship to Valley City State University, about 30 miles away from Jamestown.
Instead of running like her sister, Katrina followed the lead of their cousin Akemi King, a 2013 Waiakea graduate, who competed in swimming and water polo. King is on an academic-and-athletic scholarship package at Western State Colorado University, a Division II school.
Over the weekend at the Colorado College Invite, the Mountaineers finished fourth, receiving valuable points from King, who was second in the 400-yard individual medley and third in the 200 freestyle.
In the season opener in October at Adams State, King captured the 200 butterfly in 2 minutes and 17.49 seconds, setting a new school record. A week later at the next meet, King reset the 200 butterfly record in 2:15.87.
Katrina, who has a 3.8 GPA and will major in education, won’t compete in sports at her college. When she takes a bus ride to visit her sister, Skye will always be busy for the Jimmies. The cross country season runs from August to November and track goes from January to May.
Fraternal twins come from two different eggs, unlike the identical twins who share the same egg until it splits into two. So the genetic code is not identical. Like any brother and sister, Skye pointed out.
“We’re different in just about everything,” Skye said. “We have different personalities. Katrina is a little more outgoing. We have a bunch of best friends, but we hang out with each other every day at school. We go out together and are really close.”
The best part is both sisters serve as an emotional cushion for the other. In good times and bad, Skye and Katrina each know that a hug from a loved one is always right there.
Their personalities may be different, but their hearts are one and the same.
“After a cross country meet or a swimming meet, if one does good the other is there to hug each other,” Skye said. “If I have a bad meet and I’m upset, she’s the first one to hug me.”
Katrina responded on the same wavelength.
“If I have a bad swimming meet, she’s right there, telling me, ‘You did your best. You tried your hardest.’ It’s the same thing,” Katrina said. “Both ways, we’re very comforting for each other.”
If the sisters need a reminder to always keep going until you cross the finish line, basically life’s metaphor, they can look at their dad, Edgar Ombac. He’s a salesman for BioAstin, a dietary supplement. Their mom, Debbie Ombac, works for the county’s waste water department.
Last Saturday, Edgar Ombac competed in the Hilo to Volcano 50K Ultra Marathon, a grueling 31.1-mile run that gets harder with each step with an incline and both physical-and-mental fatigue as roadblocks. The 46-year-old finished in 6:46:04.
One of Skye’s proudest moments was qualifying for the 300-meter hurdles at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships last year. She didn’t reach the eight-field final. But she’ll always remember the time spent with her hurdle coach: her dad.
“He was my hurdle coach last season, and to know I made it to states was nice,” she said. “His advice to me was, ‘Leave it all out there.’ I think I was eighth at the BIIF championships in the 300 hurdles.”
Maybe in another decade or two, Skye will forget how she placed at BIIFs. Scores and even medals sometimes get lost in the passage of time.
But fond memories are forever. She’ll always remember the good times with her dad and sister, and most of all making herself proud, with her hard-earned scholarship.
“It’s just a big accomplishment. I’m proud of myself for doing it,” said Skye Ombac, her heart catching her throat, thinking how hard work and reward are related. “As long as you work hard for it, love to do it and are willing to train hard, it will pay off.”