By Jeremy McDonald
MT. ANGEL, Ore.– Kennedy’s Hailey Arritola have been apart some special moments when the Trojans have reached the top of the 2A mountain, bringing home the OSAA State First-Place trophy.
State Championship wins in Basketball (twice), Softball (in 2019) and Volleyball this past Fall as a Junior, and that’s just the four she’s been a part of. Expectations for those in the Kennedy athletic squads have always been high, and justify so. In the past eight years, ten championships have been involved with the Trojans with Kennedy bringing home six of them.
As honorable as it is being apart of those four, she was a part of Arritola said, there were some nerves as well when she entered the High School level the Fall of 2017.
“The bar for Kennedys athletic programs has been set extremely high. Kennedy has enjoyed a high level of athletic success over the last decade,” Arritola starts. “Playing for Kennedys athletic programs is a great honor because of the legacy built through each season. The athletes and coaches have dedicated long hours of hard work and talent towards achieving the goal of state championships, but more importantly learning life lessons along the way.
“I was nervous because I was coming into such a successful athletic program that held high expectations for all their athletes.”
The transition into the High School, with those high-octane expectations in the small 2A town was made easier thanks to older sister Hannah Arritola and cousin Molly Jaeger.
“Both (were) seniors and part of a very welcoming and successful class that many in my grade looked up to. They had won a basketball state championship two years prior and were hungry for another one,” the younger Arritola said. “Helping pave the way for future Kennedy successes and teaching us how to win state championships while remaining humble.”
Kennedy would win the State Championship over Monroe that year in Girls Basketball, 53-40. Ironically, both the Trojans and Dragons played each other again in the 2A State Title game this past March with Kennedy taking that game 48-26 two years after their previous State Title game.
Family has been crucial for Arritola through the years, it’s her biggest support system. They make it a priority to come to every one of Arritola’s games, working with her outside of practice and just pushing her to be the best that she can be. Keeping her on level ground and never settling.
Over the course of the past three years since coming into High School, Arritola’s success has been coming in during the off-season. Improving in every faucet of her skills to ensure she’s as ready as she can be when the season rolls around.
“I have been putting in extra time in the off season for the past three years in hopes of improving my physical and mental toughness to be the best teammate and player I can be,” Arritola said. “It has very much taught me discipline and hard work. I think that each coach at Kennedy has made the off-season very important for their teams, it is a time where us Kennedy athletes learn what true dedication to a sport looks like.
“The offseason is what determines a lot, like how prepared we are and how well we execute our first few games of the season.”
Outside the mental and physical aspect of the game, leadership has improved Arritola mentioned. Stemming from things she has picked up from those before her, evolving it into her own persona through playing and through injury, putting her in a spot where she can help be a leader starting this final year at Kennedy.
“I feel like my leadership has improved tremendously over these past few years. I have definitely looked up to people in the classes above me for leadership skills to follow. I feel like due to some injuries taking me out of parts of my high school seasons, I have had to learn the game from different views which has humbled me and showed me what a true teammate looks like, acts like and what a leader leads like,” Arritola said. “I feel as though the number one thing I’ve learned that a leader needs to be able to do is put their teammates first, and always push them to be their best.”
They say that Senior Year is suppose to be the final year of firsts. First day of school. Last Homecoming. Last First Game. Coronavirus has been the Achilles heel to it all. It’s a Greek reference, but the point is all the same. Nothing has been normal to this point.
Arritola has always been a driven and competitive person. Always asking if she could practice with her sister’s tournament basketball team though Hannah was three years older. The younger Arritola wanted to be just like them and wanted to push herself to the max.
And as the twilight of her prep career is here with her Senior Year, it’s hitting her hard that this last ride is here and it’s extremely hard nonetheless that it’s anything but normal as she hopes her final game wasn’t that win over Monroe in Pendleton on March 7.
“It has hit me and it has hit me extremely hard with not being able to have a normal senior year and usual sports seasons. I have been saying this these past few years but I feel like high school has been flying by and I’m not quite ready to hang up the Kennedy jerseys yet,” Arritola said. “For me, this whole situation has kind of made me change my perspective on everything. It has taught me to live in the moment and not take anything for granted.
“I want another go around with my teammates who have been through it all with me!”
Volleyball will be first up when things do start back up in late-February. February 22 is the first practice date for the Fall sports with the exception of football that started two weeks prior. The first contest for the six-week season is scheduled for March 1.
For Arritola, who’s been through the highest of highs winning championships and the lowest of lows that humble and serve as a good learning experience, being apart of the first Trojan volleyball State Championship team was a memorable moment for her to this point in a Kennedy uniform.
“I have to say that the 4 state championships I have been a part of all seemed to be the best in their own special way. But for me the moment that replays in my head time after time is when the volleyball hit the floor for the last time in the state championship game, the crowed went crazy and my teammates and I dropped to the ground in tears because we had just made history,” Arritola explains.
“We brought home Kennedy’s first ever Volleyball State Championship! It was the most surreal moment, one that we had worked for three years and it was finally ours. Not many athletes get to say they won four state championships in just three years of their high school career, I feel very blessed to be part of teams that are as successful as they have been. I’ve gotten the opportunity to play with some of the best teammates and greatest athletes to go through Kennedy.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald