After the Bush Boys Varsity Soccer team won the inaugural Emerald Sound Conference (ESC) Championship in the spring of 2021, Rex Karjian ‘22 and Kaito Hikino '22 were named captains for the 2022 season and they immediately started preparing.
“Literally, from until six months before to the start of the season we were talking about the journey ahead,” Rex said. “We were both so passionate about what we wanted the team to do (and accomplish).”
They set their sights on making history by winning the program's first-ever boys soccer program state title.
“Rex and I had this dream for state once we were named captains and started talking in August, our minds were set on winning state,” Kaito said. “I feel like the team was in a ‘one game at a time’ mindset, and we really tried to instill a mentality of not being over confident. For me and the seniors, we’ve always had that dream of winning state.” PHOTOS: Bush 1A State Boys Soccer Championship Game
With an environment of hard-work, yet making sure positivity and fun were emphasized, the Blazers went through the regular season posting a 12-1 overall record. In the postseason, the team won the ESC title for the second year in a row and made a historic run in the 1A Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament, winning three games to advance to the championship game, where they defeated University Prep, 4-0 to win the state trophy.
“I think the team with the most passion and chemistry is going to succeed,” Rex said.
Both Rex and Kaito, who started playing the game of soccer at a young age, took on different leadership roles with the team this past season, striking a balance of motivation and encouragement. Kaito, who also plays for Pacific Northwest Soccer Club, played center midfield and led by his play on the field.
“Kaito is such a leader by example,” Rex said. “He’s just such a talented player.”
“He has the rare ability to single-handedly change the outcome of a game. You can’t ever let your guard down when playing against him. At times, it seems like he can take on a whole defensive line by himself - he just has a knack for making the big plays” said Athletic Director, Jo Ito.
For Rex, who is use to having more of an on-ball presence with his club team Seattle United, had to step into a defensive role this spring as that is what the team needed from him. In his role as co-captain, he provided more of the vocal leadership to the team, leading them in pep-talks and getting them fired up.
“It was just the passion I had for the program,” Rex said. “I wanted to have fun, and one of the most fun ways is being a vocal leader.”
“Rex’ ability to pump up his teammates, and to hold them accountable when it counts most is exceptional,” Bush Athletic Director Jo Ito said. “ He always leads by example, and would never ask a teammate to do something he wouldn’t do himself. His teammates will remember his inspirational pre-game speeches for years to come; whether they are preparing for an upcoming soccer game, or any other challenge life might throw their way.”
The two, who play club soccer year round, said coming into high school soccer the level of play is vastly different. But throughout the four years they learned to adjust their expectations and focus on what Bush soccer meant to them.
“It’s the people,” Rex said of what makes Bush soccer and athletics so special. “The thing about high school is you’re playing with your best friends. It’s a family that we’ve built. I have to give a lot of props to (Head) Coach Marcelino Dumpit Jr.; the thing about high school soccer is it's really important to build a brotherhood and he’s done a really good job at that. Finding a great balance of pushing us, keeping us disciplined but also having fun. Every single day was fun.”
Added Kaito: “My junior year I really felt like the team was unified, and it felt like I was part of a team.”
Both played at the varsity level since Ninth Grade, when they experienced a heartbreaking title run in 2019 where they lost in. Their Tenth Grade season was lost due to the pandemic, and their junior year, while winning a conference championship, the team did not get to experience a state tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions. Winning the title this spring represented more than a single season championship.
“It means a lot to me,” Kaito said. "It made my senior spring, and we wanted to win this title for the past teams and players.”
Rex and Kaito, who were named the ESC co-MVPs of the league along with Marcelino being named Coach of the Year for the league, will continue to play at the collegiate level. Kaito will head to Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and Rex, Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“This was a huge, historic accomplishment for the Boys Soccer program and our school as a whole” Jo said. “We hadn’t won a state championship in over ten years and it was so great to see the hard work and dedication the players brought day in and day out resulting in winning it all. It united our community which was so rewarding - especially after the past couple of years.”
-by Mary Albl, Communications Manager