Keaau and Kona win first BIIF Titles in Track & Field
KEAAU – The Wildcats and Cougars were running wild on Saturday as their track and field teams swept the girls and boys titles at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation championships.
For the Konawaena girls and the Keaau boys this was their first league championships in school history and a big reason to celebrate.
Keaau Coach Vicky Chai-Guerpo was at a loss for words in what was an emotional journey over several years.
“This was a team effort,” the tearful Cougar coach said. “I’m so proud of them and they did it for themselves, their parents and for their school.”
The Cougars relied on the experience of a sprint core made up of Jesse Huihui, Damien Packer, and Alexander Engdahl with teammate Cliff Ericksson handling the jumps and hurdles.
Packer and Eriksson got the Cougars started going one, two respectively in the 110 hurdles to give the Cougars 18 team points and from that point forward Keaau never relinquished the team lead.
“It feels very exciting and I’m just glad to have had the opportunity,” Packer said of his 110 victory. “I think I can do better at states if I remain determined and focused.”
Sprinting also translated into victory in the 4×100 with Keaau showcasing their multitalented corps, not only winning the BIIF relay title by posting the best time in the state with a 43.10 time.
Egdahl, Packer, along with Raskassa Johnson and Jessie Huihui were instrumental in the picture perfect sprint relay for the Cougars.
Balance in Keaau’s firepower could be found everywhere with Cougars Engdahl and Eriksson going 1 and 3 respectively in the 300 hurdles for 16 points.
“It feels awesome to win,” Engdahl said. “This year I think I can do good at states and I will try my best.”
“This was our first BIIF title, in any sport, in school history,” Keaau Athletic Director Iris McGuire said. “We entered the BIIF during the 1998-’99 season, so this title means a lot to our school.”
Chai-Guerpo has been the track and field coach at Keaau since 2000.
“Everyone in this school will know that it is possible,” Chai-Guerpo said. “I’ve been coaching for a while and this has been a long time in coming.”
While the Cougar boys were racking up an enormous lead in the team standing, eventually winning by more than 40 points over a talented Kealakehe squad, the Wildcats girls were in a seesaw battle for their team title.
Kona using their two big guns in Ua Ruedy and Lia Galdeira were heavily relied upon to score the big points, but it was the few unexpected points that helped put them over the top in a close battle.
Wildcat Coach Kuulei Karratti-Saole had predicted the team’s victory the day before saying, “We should win by 10 to 15 points.”
The Kona coach knew her team well and relied upon Galdeira to score 50 points and Ruedy to add another 34 to keep a talented Hawaii Preparatory Academy team at bay during most of the day.
At one point, with just three events to go, HPA trailed the Wildcats by 14 points with the 3K, 200 dash and 4×400 relay left.
Four pivotal points were scored by Kona’s little known freshman, Shayli Nakamoto in the 3000 run with her fourth place finish.
“I just wanted to keep my team in first place,” Nakamoto said. “I feel really important.”
Nakamoto’s contribution managed to keep the Wildcat lead and it was a surprise victory in the 200 that sealed the team win for Kona.
The 200 dash saw Galdeira get disqualified in a false start the day before and it became a surprise victory for teammate Ruedy that sealed the deal.
“I never thought I could win the 200,” Ruedy said. “It is a big win for me and our team.”
“I think this is the first time Kona has won a BIIF team track title,” Karratti-Saole said.
Karratti-Saole is in her fourth year at the helm of the Wildcat track program. She is also a former state champion in track winning the gold medal in the 100 back in 2003.
Kona edged out HPA for the girls team title by 11 points.
The upset of the day may have come in the girls 1500 run with Hilo’s Carmen Garson-Shumway taking on defending state champion, HPA’s Zoe Sims.
HPA, known for their talented distance runners, took a pack of four runners immediately to the lead.
“I didn’t want to get boxed in so I moved out with 300 to go,” Garson-Shumway said.
It became an all out sprint to the finish with Sims and teammate Kristiana Van Pernis staying on the heels of Garson-Shumway.
All three girls crossed the finish line under the meet record, with Garson-Shumway winning in 4:53.36, Sims 4:54.63, and Van Pernis 4:55.23.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Garson-Shumway said. “We are all friends and this is not about winning, it’s about the experience.”
Garson-Shumway was quick to give credit to her teammate, freshman Mehana Sabado-Halpern for helping to push her during practice.
“Mehana helps to push me and she is a real nice running partner,” Garson-Shumway said.
Sims later returned to the oval to redeem the situation in the 800 winning in a meet record time of 2:18.46 to edge out Garson-Shumway, 2:20.02.
The girl’s pole vault title went to HPA senior Sydney Budde at 8-6 with Kealakehe sophomore Kristi Lovell finish second.
The senior, who has vaulted all four years, was excited about her first BIIF title.
“That’s insane that I made it this far,” Budde said. “I’ve been second in my previous three years.”
Keaau will play host to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association track and field championships on Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12.