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Sunset Beach Elementary ‘representing big time’ in Tokyo with 3 alumni Olympians

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Little Sunset Beach Elementary School had three reasons to cheer for athletes in the Olympic Games. A trio of its alumni competed in Japan.

“Sunset is really small but we’re representing big time,” said Angelica Gutierrez, the school’s office assistant.

The most recognizable name by bar is champion surfer John John Florence. He and his brothers went to the North Shore school.

“I was told that he would literally come to school from the beach, sandy feet, wet hair. And sometimes I think he would even cut school to jump in and catch waves because we’re right across Ehukai,” Gutierrez said.

The other two Olympians are skateboarder Jordyn Barratt and surfer Mahina Maeda. Jordyn made Team USA while Mahina surfed for Japan’s Olympic team.

Third-grade teacher Rex Dubiel Shanahan taught them both.

“Jordyn Barrett’s a skater. She’s doing really well. I did have her. And I had Mahina. They were both great students,” she said.

All three stop by the campus when they’re in town. Florence helps with an annual fundraiser for Sunset’s music program.

“I know that the kids all look up to him,” Gutierrez said.

A number of other surfing pros are also alumni of Sunset Beach Elementary.

“Mark Healy, Fred Pittachia, and Jamie O’Brien, I’ll invite them back into the classroom to give my students a pep talk about how important reading is and following directions, and listening to your teacher,” Shanahan said.

The new school year starts Thursday for the campus ― when 400 kids come back to the classrooms where John John, Jordyn and Mahina learned their lessons.

Even though all three were eliminated from medal contention, they made their alma mater proud. Their success in sports and now their Olympic involvement elevates them even more in the eyes of Sunset’s students.

“They have older alumni kids that they can look up to,” Gutierrez said. “Maybe we’ll see more Sunset Sharks in the Olympics.”

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