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Micah Christenson leads the U.S. Olympic volleyball team in the 2016 Summer Olympiad in Rio, starting this week.

KSK alum Christenson set to lead U.S. Olympic volleyball team

Aug. 1, 2016

Contributed by Pakalani Bello

There was little doubt that Micah Christenson would be a success when he left the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama campus. He was one of the most decorated student-athletes in the state, carried a 3.5 GPA and was on his way to the University of Southern California on a volleyball scholarship.

But just five years later, the 2011 KSK alumnus has surpassed his already lofty expectations. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s best setters in men’s volleyball, primed to lead the United States at the Olympic games in Brazil.

“It means the world to me being able to represent my country in the Olympics,” said Christenson, whose mother Charlene Christenson, is a middle school math teacher at KSK. “It’s the biggest stage in sports, and has been a lifelong goal of mine to be able to call myself an Olympian.”

Christenson has been a longtime member of the United States youth and junior national teams. In 2009, he became the youngest setter to play for the United States in a world championship, when he played on the youth national team at the age of 16. In 2013, he was added to the U.S. National Team and was named Best Server and Best Setter at the 2013 NORCECA Continental Championships. Since then, he has been named the world’s best setter at three more international competitions, including the 2015 FIVB World Cup, where he led the United States to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

“This is such an amazing opportunity to not only represent my country, but also my family, loved ones, state and my Hawaiian heritage,” added Christenson. “I will give everything I have in my power to represent all that I stand for to the best of my ability. I MUA!”

From the time he was at KS, the Honolulu native was always one of the best at all that he did. Christenson won three state player of the year awards in volleyball (1) and basketball (2), leading his teams to six state championship games, winning the 2011 volleyball title and the 2009 and 2011 basketball titles. He was also named to the 2011 Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Hall of Honor and a “Volleyball Magazine” All-American. On the collegiate level, he would end up a three-time All-American, winning the Lloy Ball Award for the nation’s top setter twice, before graduating from USC in 2015 with a degree in human biology.

Along with Christenson, three other recent KSK graduates qualified for the US Olympic trials, but did not make the final Olympic teams. 2016 graduate Teshya Alo narrowly missed making the Olympic team in wrestling, as she lost in the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic Trials in April. Swimmers Ryan Stack, class of 2014, now at the University of Wisconsin, and Kanoa Kaleoaloha, class of 2015, now at Florida State University, also qualified for the Olympic Trials in June.

Christenson is believed to be the first KS graduate to compete for the United States in the Olympic games since 1968. That year, KSK elementary teacher and 1963 KSK graduate Barbara Perry played for the U.S. women’s volleyball team and 1955 KSK graduate Pedro Velasco played for the U.S. men’s volleyball team. Velasco was also a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic volleyball team. Kelsey Nakanelua, a 1984 graduate, also competed in track in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics for American Samoa. Prior to that, KSK had a few alums who medaled in swimming for the U.S. National team. Duke Kahanamoku participated in four Olympics (1912, 20, 24 and 32), winning three gold and two silver medals. Warren Paoa Kealoha won gold in the 100m backstroke in both the 1920 and 24 Olympics, while Pua Kealoha won a gold and a silver medal in the 1920 Olympics.

The Rio Olympics holds its opening ceremonies on Friday, August 5, with the games taking place from August 6-21. Christenson and the United States men’s volleyball team opens play on August 7, facing Canada.

Christenson has been the starting setter for the U.S. National team since 2013, and will be making his first appearance in the Olympics this year.

While at KS Kapālama, Christenson also starred in basketball, where he was a two-time state player of the year and a two-time state champion.

This photo, along with the two others of Christenson playing for the U.S. National team, were taken by 2002 KS Kapālama graduate Jordan Murph who is on assignment to shoot the Olympic games for Sports Illustrated.


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