Ramirez outkicks Vargas to remain undefeated in BIIF
Waimea – The battle for girls fastest cross country runner in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation took another turn this past Saturday as Hilo’s Nadia Ramirez and Hawaii Repertory’s Kela Vargas fought it out to the finish.
In what was a near photo finish Ramirez used her overpowering kick to narrowly eclipse Vargas at the finish line.
With less than 100 yards to go both Ramirez and Vargas were shoulder to shoulder with faces in obvious grimacing pain as both harriers fought valiantly to win the contest.
“For the first time in my racing career I thought, I don’t want to come in second,” Ramirez said after the race. “I realized today that I have far more potential than I thought I had.”
Ramirez (20:48.67) and Vargas (20:49.02) hit the tape with less than a half second dividing them with Ramirez remaining undefeated in BIIF competition.
“Oh my God, this was the most intense thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Ramirez said of her narrow victory.
Ramirez, who normally goes out fast and distances herself from the rest of the BIIF field, was challenged the entire way by Vargas as both girls exchanged the lead twice during the race.
“I just pushed really hard and I tried to close the gap. I felt comfortable on our home course and it was my intention to try to win this race,” Vargas said.
The HPA girls were just coming off a major win in Honolulu the week before as they won the Kaiser Invitational race on what is to be the state championship course.
“Our team has bonded well together and we’re working hard and pushing each other to do well,” Vargas said.
Third place went to another Ka Makani as Zoe Sims edged out Waiakea’s Kelsie Kobayashi at the finish line.
“Kelsie and I played leap frog for most of the race,” Sims said. “I’m happy with how I ran today and I had a lot of fun. We’ve been training hard and growing as a team. We knew we would have great competition today and we were prepared to do our best.”
The HPA girls used home field advantage to win their first BIIF team title of the season bumping off previously unbeaten Hilo.
“We’ve been bringing along two freshmen in our top seven runners and we’re starting to gel as a team,” HPA coach Michael Franklin said. “Kaiser was all positive for us and it was good to see us compete against good teams from Oahu.”
For the boys it was all Honokaa’s Chris Mosch who led from start to finish and was never seriously challenged during the 3 mile race.
Mosch, the defending BIIF champion, had been hampered by a stress fracture he received at the end of the track season in May and appears to be totally recovered.
“I wanted to take it easy in the early going and not go out too hard,” Mosch said. “I ran my first mile in 5 minutes and 30 seconds and I knew I couldn’t keep that pace on this hilly course. My goal coming in was to break 18 minutes.”
Mosch met his goal by breaking the tape in 17 minutes and 48 seconds with the rest of the field more than 30 seconds behind.
The real surprise came from runner-up Jackson Halford (18:08) from Waiakea. Halford was rarely seen in the top 10 during the season, but at HPA had a break through race.
“HPA is my favorite course because of the big hills and the altitude,” Halford said. “I live in Volcano at the 4000 foot elevation and it helped me do well here today.”
Halford also credits his intense training schedule for his late season blooming.
“We’ve been putting in the mileage and have started doing hill work last week. Today’s finish gives me a big boost in confidence especially since the BIIF championships will be held on this course.”
In third place was Christian Liberty Academy’s Jordan Grotenhuis (18:18) who followed closely behind Halford.
“I made it my goal to get in the top three today since I won’t be at Kamehameha next week,” Grotenhuis said.
“I started this race in 10th place as I just wanted to see how the race would pan out. I didn’t want to go out too fast at the start and didn’t want to push myself in the early stages of the race,” he said.
After the first half mile and before going into the steepest portion of the race Grotenhuis moved himself into fourth place.
“At one point I tried to catch Jackson (Halford) but I couldn’t so I just tried to keep my pace and not let anyone pass me,” Grotenhuis said.
The strategy worked for the Canefire harrier as Grotenhuis, a sophomore, finished in third just five seconds behind Halford.