She was called “one of the all-time greats for her age” and six years after setting the national high school shotput record, Natalie Kaaiawahia remains the most dominant track and field athlete in the history of Orange County prep sports.
Four state titles in the shotput, two in the discus and a national record that might last through the end of the century marked Kaaiawahia’s brilliant career at Fullerton High School. She is the only athlete, male or female, to win four state titles in the same event.
More impressively, Kaaiawahia still holds the top 10 throws of all time in the nation, including the record of 53-feet 7 3/4-inches set in 1983.
Her 10th-best throw, 51-8 1/2 set as a sophomore in 1981, would still be a national best by a whopping 4 1/2 inches. Lynette Matthews of Shorecrest High in Seattle holds mark No. 11, a 51-4 effort.
The county’s best mark other than Kaaiawahia’s belongs to Emily Dole of Buena Park, who threw 50- 1/2 in 1975. Joanna Alo of Santa Ana Valley has this season’s top mark in the county at 40-1.
Since she graduated in 1983, the closest anyone has come to Kaaiawahia’s mark is a 49-8 1/2 toss by Cheryl Klein of Bellport High in Brookhaven, N.Y., in 1984.
Kaaiawahia also holds the county record in the discus with a throw of 174-9, also set in 1983. In the discus, she is only 10th on the national all-time list. Leslie Deniz holds the national mark of 183-11 while at Gridley High in Northern California.
Armed with records and trophies to last a lifetime, Kaaiawahia went to Arizona State to continue her track career. She missed making the 1984 Olympic team by six inches and seemed to be primed for a promising collegiate career.
That’s not the way it turned out, though.
In 1985, Kaaiawahia left school. “I just got tired,” she said.
Today, she works at a floor-covering store in San Luis Obispo. She graduated from Hancock College Police Academy and is seeking a law enforcement job. She also is a reserve police officer in nearby Grover City.
She has not competed seriously since the 1984 Olympic trials.
“There’s times when I do want to get back, but the chances are really slim at this point,” Kaaiawahia said.