The Big Island Interscholastic Federation Judo season is about to get under way and Kamehameha’s Kalena Shiroma can’t wait.
Shiroma recently returned from a nine day trip to Tokyo where she practiced with judo players from Shukutoku University while staying in the dorms on campus.
“I went with four people from the Hilo Hongwanji,” Shiroma said. “While in Japan we practiced daily and even got to visit the Kodakan Judo Institute in Tokyo. I believe that the trip helped me to develop my judo technique.”
Shiroma, a senior, is the two time defending BIIF judo champion winning the title her sophomore year at the 129 weight class and last year at 139. It was during the 2009 season that Shiroma made it to the finals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championship and finished in the runner-up position, the highest finish of any BIIF competitor last season.
“I will compete again this year at 139,” she said. “My goal this year is to once again make it to the finals and hopefully win it.”
Shiroma, a three sport athlete, started the fall season with cross-country, then moved to soccer during the winter and finds herself at the top of the spring judo season.
“I like soccer and judo equally,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer since I was five and enjoy the team aspect of it, and I’ve been doing judo since I was 10 and like that it is an individual sport.”
Shiroma, at 5’ 7” tall, is currently a brown belt in judo and has used her height to her advantage.
“I’m pretty tall for a girl and I like using my long legs during competition,” Shiroma said. “Judo is very exciting and when you win you feel really good.”
The Kamehameha girls team returns to the mat as the BIIF two time defending champions and head Coach Calvin Enoki is all smiles as the Warriors are loaded with experienced judoka.
“We have a very strong girl’s team as three of our girls return as BIIF champions in Megan and Jenna (Aina), along with Kalena (Shiroma),” Enoki said.
“Our girls should be the team to beat as we have the numbers to fill all but the two heaviest weight divisions and the quality that we do have is very good,” he said.
Kamehameha girls return BIIF individual defending champions Megan Aina at 103, Jenna Aina at 122 and Shiroma at 139. Added to the experienced firepower are Kanoe Padaken and a host of up and coming freshmen.
The Aina sisters have made a name for themselves in judo as Jenna is a three time BIIF champion and Megan returns as the defending champion.
Megan Aina is also the HHSAA state wrestling champion at 98 pounds and she finished third at the Judo championships last season.
Sister Jenna finished second at the Junior Judo National Championships held in Chicago in 2008 and also finished second at the High School Junior National Championships held at Bingham Young University College Auditorium on Oahu that same year.
“I’m really excited about starting the (high school) judo season,” Jenna Aina said. “We were worried that the public schools might cancel the season due to budget cuts and since we are the only private school competing on the island it is a relief that we’ll have a season.”
Aina has captured all three BIIF titles and placed at the HHSAA state championships all three years at the 122 weight division and will fill that same division in her senior season.
“I’ve been doing it (judo) since the fourth grade and I just enjoy the experience of meeting new people and being physically fit,” she said. “My goal going into my final season is to make the finals at states and to medal.”
Aina is a first degree black belt and belongs to Hilo’s Shudokan Judo Club where she continues to practice regularly following her prep practices at Kamehameha.
Coach Enoki sees his solid core of experienced judoka as the strength behind a powerful Warrior squad, but also believes that Kamehameha is working on a judo dynasty by creating a building block into high school.
“We just started a judo middle school program and are now starting to see the results in some very talented incoming freshmen,” Enoki said.
The Warrior boys will see BIIF runner up Sky Kekona-Souza return at 121 and will be complimented by seniors Eric Young at 161 and Isaac DeRego at 198.
Enoki believes that defending BIIF boys champions, Hilo, is again the team to beat. “I think our boys will be at least third in the team race,” Enoki said. “Any finish higher than that would be a real surprise.”
Hilo veteran coach, Jack De Lima, will see a talented boy’s team take to the mat on Saturday. Tyler Vaughn,12; Sean Arakaki,11; Jens Beets, 11; Jordon Enos, 11; Isaiah Kanakanui, 11; and Sheldon Graham, 10; will head line a strong Viking squad.
“We have some talented new players that will give us a lot of help,” De Lima said. “This should be a very exciting season for us.”
Waiakea returns BIIF boys individual champions Harlan Wilbur, 108; and Tyler Yonemori, 145; along with girl champions Kaylyn Otsubo, 115; and Lisa Nakagawa, 129.
“I think the Kamehameha girls and the Konawaena boys may be the teams to beat this season,” Waiakea coach Greg Yonemori said. “But don’t count out the Hilo boys as they always find a way to field a good team.”
The BIIF judo season gets under way this Saturday with a Novice/Open meet starting at 10:30 at Hilo High.