TEAM PLAYER WITH LEADERSHIP SKILLS — Lady ‘Hounds incoming junior AuLani Benitez keeps her eyes on making an accurate pass during a game against the Lady Jackrabbits of Quincy in the 2019-20 season.

GRANDVIEW — The academic bond between leadership and athletics is a powerful trait which motivates Greyhound junior AuLani Benitez to excel as a teammate both on the court and in the classroom by working together to get things done – and to use those learned talents as a recently selected member of the Leadership through Education Activities and Personal (LEAP) Development Committee.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced Thursday, Aug. 6, Benitez was one of eight incoming juniors, who will serve a two-year term, along with eight seniors, who completed their first term during the 2019-20 school year.

“I kind of think sports is a privilege, so you need to have your grades up if you want to be able to participate in athletics. I’ve always had my grades pretty high to play sports,” the 4.0 grade point average ‘Hound student conveyed.

The three-sport varsity athlete, who runs cross country and track and plays basketball, believes participating in sports and outside activities beyond the classroom makes her a better student. “Sports have similar traits that follow you in the classroom and vice-versa.”

Her favorite sport is hoops which she began learning how to play in third grade. The 5’5” wing player who wears jersey No. 41 for the Lady ‘Hounds remembered her interest was formed from watching high school scrimmages while taking water breaks in the gym during wrestling practice.

Benitez’s passion to succeed in both academics and sports drives her future aspirations for currently possessing an interest to pursue a sports medicine career. She is confident in her competitive talents and disciplined mentality to be able to clearly recognize those collegiate goals.

Applicants completed an online application which also included letters of recommendation, an essay on why athletics and activities are important, and video recorded a personal statement about their school and why they should be selected.

“I’m definitely excited for school to start and I prefer going into school rather than online learning,” Benitez clearly communicated. She recalled the challenges about her springtime remote learning experience. “I have a younger sibling, so I had to babysit them. And I just felt like I wasn’t really in contact with my classmates and that was a big thing.”

Learning remotely was more difficult, Benitez noted. Science was the hardest subject for her to grasp outside the classroom. She related the virtual exercise to successfully knocking down three-point field goals from behind the hardwood arch.

During her two-years of being in the high school’s leadership class and on the basketball team, Benitez said Rocco Parrish, Class of 2020 Valedictorian and three-sport athlete informed her about the committee and encouraged the achieving student to apply.

Committee members will represent the six WIAA classifications and nine districts while serving as the voice of over 225,000 athletics and activities student participants in Washington state. They’ll meet five times throughout the school year to take part in leadership exercises, peer discussions, group projects and provide input to the association on various initiatives.

“Connecting with other athletes and students from around the state, I kind of want to see what they do at their school, like, athletic wise and academic wise,” Benitez stated while she explained how those credible differences could be evaluated and adapted to possibly benefit Grandview.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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