Running in sync: No surprise that Rodin twins are taking identical next steps

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Similar interests drove identical twin sisters Cloud and Venus Rodin all their lives.

They’ve been runners, competing in cross-country and track and for Sunrise Athletics. They’ve also been interested in the military and pursuit of academic excellence.

The recent Hilo High graduates and school valedictorians were senior scholarship recipients from Sunrise Athletics.

Venus earned a Silver ($1,000) award, Cloud a Bronze ($1,000), Waiakea’s Ella Johnson a Gold ($1,000), and Waiakea’s Deylan Okinaka received the Sunrise Award ($250) for the most years of dedication and long-term commitment to the club. Hilo’s Elisha Watkins got the award ($250) for resilience displayed in overcoming obstacles in life.

The Rodin twins showed their independence when they moved from the mainland to live with their grandmother, Helga Kraus, as freshmen and joined Hilo’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.

“My mother was in the Marines for five years, and we also joined for the benefits,” Cloud said.

They won ROTC scholarships to Oregon State, where they will study to become officers in the Army and serve five years. The sisters are grateful to their grandmother and Ryan Taniguchi, who ran the ROTC program at Hilo.

“She pushed us to do our best,” Venus said. “She would tell us, ‘If you’re going to do it. Might as well do the best you can.’

“Ryan Taniguchi helped us. He took us under his wing and showed us the steps.”

Both were wrestling co-managers for Taniguchi, the Vikings wrestling coach. They made their time count in Hilo. They were in the National Honor Society, in school clubs and involved in the community.

As identical twins, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. One giveaway is Cloud’s beauty spot on her chin. She also has longer hair.

“People still have a hard time even with that,” Cloud said. “We definitely share clothes. She buys clothes and I wear what she gets.

“We both enjoy running, going to the beach and we’re preparing for the Army and working out a lot.”

They’ll likely join a running club and both can’t wait to explore Corvallis.

There’s nothing like being a twin for the Rodin siblings.

“You always have a friend and two sets of clothes,” Venus said. “She’s always pushed me and helped me be the best runner I could be. If she did something, I would do it as well to not get left behind.”

Deylan Okinaka, the son of Ivan and Desiree Okinaka, will attend Central Washington, where he’ll major in aeronautical science with hopes of becoming a commercial pilot.

Like the Rodins, he was one of Waiakea’s valedictorians and participated in baseball, cross-country and track. He helped lead the Warriors to four straight BIIF titles in cross-country and in track contributed to consecutive league titles.

Okinaka has been a member of Sunrise Athletics since 2010. He’s looking to walk on to Central Washington’s track team.

“My coaches (Lance and Mary Jane Tominaga) helped me and motivated me,” he said. “They made sure I did things correctly.”

Elisha Watkins, the son of Luke and Kimi Watkins, will attend Eastern Washington, where he’ll major in mechanical engineering.

He competed in cross-country and track for the Vikings. He’s looking to join a running club in college.

“Running has taught me many thing,” he said. “It has strengthened my mind and body and introduced me to a really great community with friendly people and great friends.”

Watkins leaves Sept. 4 and won’t be going to Eastern Washington alone. His girlfriend, Alexia Palafox, a fellow Hilo graduate, will study business with hopes of becoming an event planner.

She ran cross-country and track as a Viking.

Ella Johnson, daughter of Tracy Johnson and Donna Ohora, participated in cross-country, track and soccer.

She was one of Waiakea’s valedictorians and founded her school’s Debate club.

Johnson gained invaluable skills through running.

“In addition to instilling a good work ethic and belief in oneself, running was an excellent teacher of resilience, camaraderie, and leadership skills,” she said. “To this day, it still tests my resolve and inspires me to be a better teammate and leader. Running has shaped my life.”

Sunrise, COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of sporting life, including Sunrise Athletics. The club canceled its trip to compete at the Foot Locker West Regional cross-country meet in December.

“Running is often thought of as an individual sport but runners often run for the camaraderie as much as the competition,” MJ Tominaga said. “Our high school club runners were running individually until guidelines allowed small group meetings for exercise.”

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Hawaii schools are scheduled to start on Aug. 17, but the HHSAA hasn’t made a call on the start of fall sports, which includes cross-country. Track and field is held in the spring.

“We’ve read that running is one of the lower-risk sports with regard to the spread of COVID-19, and there are ways to minimize risk like temperature checks, small group training sizes and spatial distancing between athletes,” Tominaga said. “Despite actions to minimize risk, there are still challenges that would have to be addressed for the health and safety of the athletes. As it is we’re just on hold until we hear what HHSAA decides. It’s a painful situation for the seniors just as it was for last year’s seniors losing their spring season sport, but we understand that tough decisions need to be made for safety and economic reasons.”