“It is a sad day when UH Hilo cuts the only sport that has a connection to traditional Hawaiian culture (makahiki),” Kamehameha chemistry teacher Joel Truesdell said.
Truesdell is referring to the latest announcement from the Vulcan athletic department to cut both the men’s and women’s cross country programs in order to meet the projected 10 percent budget deficit.
“It shows a lack of sensitivity or awareness to the cultural basis of sport in our Hawaiian community,” Truesdell said. “All we are left with are imported games.”
Along with being a teacher at the Kamehameha-Keaau campus Truesdell is also the head women’s cross country coach for the Warriors and an advocate for distance running.
The UHH cross country program is a non revenue generating sport and, like most business decisions, found itself at the bottom of the priority list and at the top of the chopping block of UHH Athletic Director Dexter Irvine.
“Our kids are devastated,” UHH cross country coach Jaime Guerpo said. “I broke the news to them a few days ago and since that time we’ve been looking at ways to try to come up with the $100,000 needed each year to keep us going.”
Guerpo has been coaching the cross country program at UHH since 1999 and has taken a budget cut ever year.
“I feel it’s my duty to keep the program going,” Guerpo said. “I understand that the administration had to make the cuts to keep the athletic program going and we’ve always made do with what we got and have produced a very successful program.”
Guerpo is even willing to coach the team without compensation if it would help salvage the program.
“I’d give up my pay in a heartbeat if that is what it would take to keep this program going,” he said. “We’re looking at all sorts of ways to help keep cross country alive at UHH.”
Over the years Guerpo had heavily recruited local athletes from around the state to run on his men’s and women’s teams.
Currently Christian Liberty’s Justin Pang, Keoni and Nick Ucker, Keaau’s Nick Hagemann and Liliana DeSmither, Kau’s Kapua Lapera, Waiakea’s James Imai, and Hilo’s Stefano Barbis are members of the team.
Several of the current and former UHH cross country runners were winners of the Big Island Road Runners scholarship.
“We were all in shock when Coach Jaime broke the news to us a few days ago,” Imai said. “We’re still hoping we can find a way to keep the programs alive.”
The BIRR, along with the Big Island International Marathon, Honolulu Marathon, and Big Island Running Company have all been contacted to lend their support towards helping to keep running alive at UHH.
These UHH runners have also been highly visible in the community, often found at the finish lines of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation cross country and track and field finish lines as they help give back to the sport in which they love dearly.
Guerpo and his runners have also been strong support/volunteers at Hawai’i Island Special Olympics and numerous County Parks and Recreation track and field meets as they serve as strong role models for our community.
“We also help out with the Big Island Marathon each year by setting up hundreds of cones and barricades along the 26.2 mile course at 3:00 a.m. and then collecting and returning them when the event is over,” Guerpo said.
“The UHH cross country team are not self-promoters, but are contributors in ways that are not always recognized in public forums,” Faith Nance, the cross country representative on the Vulcan Athletic Club said.
“Many of the talented high school runners who choose to remain at home have the opportunity to continue to participate in a sport that can become a lifelong avocation and a strong foundation for a healthy lifestyle,” Nance said.
Dozens of emails poured into the Big Dog’s mail box in support of looking at ways of keeping the cross country program alive at UH Hilo.
“At least UH Manoa gets it,” Truesdell said. “They have a full complement of the sports that are traditionally based such as cross country, track and field, swimming and sailing.”
The UHH athletic department made their decision to cut cross country without getting community input which has many local residents upset because they feel they are stake holders in higher education.
“It seems to me that UH Hilo should reach out to the community before making this decision,” Truesdell said. “The people here will take care of their own if given the opportunity or challenge.”
Guerpo continues to look over a variety of scenarios to see if something can be salvaged.
“If we have to give something up then I’d like to see the women’s team saved as this would at least come into Title 9 compliance of gender equity, “Guerpo said.
If the UHH decision makers were to come to BIIF cross country meet they would see the connections. Keeping a sport like this will maintain and strengthen ties to the community that are priceless.
“A University’s cross country program provides a valuable benefit not only to the team members, but also to the entire university and surrounding community by inspiring everyone to get more active,” Jason Braswell, owner of the Big Island Running Company said.
“Collegiate cross country is particularly inspirational to middle school and high school students who get to see where their running can lead them,” Braswell said.
With the continued growth of the Big Island International Marathon and BIIF cross county programs the continuation of a university running team would be responding to the interest of a growing segment of our community.
We all hope that Athletic Director Dexter Irvin will reconsider his decision to cut an important sports program and instead become part of the solution in promoting something that has deep seeded roots in our culturally based community.
If anyone in the community would like to help save the UHH cross country program please contact the Big Dog at email@example.com or call 969-7400.
Keoni and Nick Ucker, along with Justin Pang formerly of Christian Liberty Academy; James Imai from Waiakea, Nick and Nina Hagemann of Keaau, Stefano Barbis and Milia Williams from Hilo, are just a few of the many talented local runners that Guerpo had recruited in recent years.
The athletic department is more concerned with high profile sports that can generate revenue as sports such as cross country, golf and tennis may be on its way out.
Coach Guerpo hasn’t given up and will be presenting a variety of options to the UHH athletic department. If you’d like to help you can write letters to the UHH athletic department and address it to Mr. Dexter Irvine.
I hope the program can somehow be salvaged.
Billy “The Ghost” Barnett prepares for start of 7-mile challenge
Pictured on far right wearing red shorts, Barnett is undefeated in 2011 races
|1||Billy Barnett||<<< Overall >>>||40:39||5:48|
|8||Nick Muragin||++ Master ++||47:38||6:48|
|12||Robyn DeBenedet||<<< Overall >>>||F||52:56||7:34|
|17||Lory Hunter||++ Master ++||F||55:56||7:59|
|18||Rob Van Geen||Master||57:21||8:12|
Big Dog Productions hosted the Lover’s 5K today, Feb 6, 2011 and set a sign in registration record of 302 with 287 crossing the finish line.
The event raised 488 pounds of food for the Food Pantry in Hawaiian Paradise Park and cash for the Hawaii Island Food Bank.
Following are the results for today’s run/walk.
Kudos to the sponsors and all the volunteers that made the event an enormous success.
More photos and information will be posted on this site later.
Read 1st column – then second column to get the order of finish.
Keoni Ucker finished fourth in the Hawaii Pacific University Cross Country Invitational out of Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s east shore.
Ucker, a former Christian Liberty Academy state track champion, finished the 8k course in 26:59. It was his best performance in PacWest competition this season as he improved from his seventh place finish at Hilo’s Naniloa Golf Course run.
Brigham Young University-Hawaii won the team race followed by Hawaii Pacific University, California Baptist University, UHH and Chaminade University
Completing the UHH squad were Zach Johnson (17th, 28:57), former Keaau High standout Nick Hagemann (23rd, 29:51), former CLA standout Justin Pang (25th, 30:14), Paul Mauser (34th, 32:12) and former Waiakea High standout James Imai (37th, 32:41).
BYUH’s Thomas Puzey won the race with a time of 26:48.
The PacWest Championships will take place on Nov 6 at the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu. Jaime Guerpo is the Vulcan head coach.