HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This weekend the Rainbow Wahine outdoor track season will kick-off, and one of the best mid-distance runners on the team will compete this season with a heavy heart.
After graduating Kaiser High School in 2015, Teuila Gardner took her talents in track and field to Mount Saint Antonio College in California, until fate and family would eventually bring her home.
Family has always been a big part of Gardner’s life and her mother Palepa Gardner was the matriarch of their family.
After spending her first three seasons at Mount San-Antonio College, she made the decision to move home and be closer to her family.
“I think I was just missing it to be honest," Gardner said. "I wanted to be back with family and friends.”
Unfortunately, upon returning home her family would be dealt a blow nobody was ready for.
“My mom passed away last year in October," Gardner said. "It’s been tough on us all and we all grieve in our own ways and with our own time but just being there for each other it really makes the biggest difference.”
Palepa Gardner suffered a brain aneurysm in October of last year.
Despite her heartbreak, Gardner wanted to continue moving forward with her track career while honoring her mother and everything she did for her.
“Track is such a mental sport,” she said. “I definitely feel my mom giving me the strength everyday to get through not only track, but all the adversities in life.”
Hawaii’s track head coach Tim Boyce has seen the lasting impact Palepa has left on her daughter both as an athlete and as a person.
“Gracious is the best way to describe her," Boyce said. "You just feel like you are in the presence of someone special when you’re with Teuila.”
Although her mom isn’t here physically to cheer Teuila on anymore, she still hears her mother’s voice every time she steps on the track.
"The first thing that comes to mind is a ‘chee-hoo,’” Gardner said. “She would just let out the biggest ‘chee-hoo’ and I would know my mom is in the stands.”
Gardner and her teammates are in action this Saturday at the Clarence T.C. Ching Complex at 8:00 am for their second sunrise meet, it will begin the outdoor season for the Rainbow Wahine.