25. 777 Hawaii-Hilo ( 28:50 2:24:06 8:45)
1 142 Nadia Ramirez 26:02
2 147 Jordan Bledsoe 26:40
3 158 Keri Fujiwara 27:53
4 164 Justina Wood 28:44
5 166 Hillary Ramos 34:47
Naniloa Driving Range – There were no golf balls being hits at the Naniloa Driving Range on Saturday as members of the Pac West cross country were running a three mile course and doing loops on the flat, all grass surface as the University of Hawaii at Hilo held their annual Invitational.
While the ladies from UHH were finishing in fourth place out of four scoring teams there was a pair of Big Island Interscholastic Federation coaches leaving their mark at the Invite.
Karl Honma a long time Hawaii Preparatory Academy coach was on hand leading the Hawaii Pacific University women to a team victory.
“I was at HPA for 17 seasons and this is the 20th anniversary of the Ka Makani boys winning a state championship,” Honma said.
Honma who now works with the HPU girls was quick to point out that he is only a letter away from his former school.
“There is no place like being on the Big Island ‘’,” Honma said.
Polina Babkina from HPU won the 3 miler in 18:12 from Russia via West Alabama.
“This is my second month in the Pac West and I wish there was more competition,” she said. “I hit all of my splits and I had to push myself.”
HPU won the girls team scoring with 24 points followed by Bingham Young University with 44, Chaminade with 80 and UHH 84.
Leading the way for the Vulcan women was Nadia Ramirez in 8th place overall (19:48), Keri Fijiwara 15th place (20:51), Jordan Bledsoe 16th (21:11), Justina Wood 22 (23:49) and Hillary Ramos 23 (26:39).
There were a total of 24 girls running in the race.
Ramirez, a 2011 graduate of Hilo High has led the team posting the fastest times and claims to have “a love hate relationship with running.”
“Coach Jaime doesn’t let me quit and he pushes me,” she said.
With a bare bones budget which doesn’t allow for scholarships Coach Guerpo has raised only enough funds for travel for the Lady Vuls which makes it difficult to compete against other schools in the PacWest.
“Next season we’ll have a limited scholarship budget which means I can go out and recruit some runners,” Guerpo said.
For the men it was Spencer DeAvilla from BYUH winning again this year in a time of 15:48.
It wasn’t as easy for DeAvilla this time around as he was chased by Jorge Cisneros from Chaminade in what was a near photo finish. Both men clocked in at 15:48.
DeAvilla, a senior, took the early lead just 100 meters into the race.
“I probably went out too fast, but the course was flat with no hills and the weather was ideal,” he said. “I love coming to Hilo and I love this course.”
DeAvilla kept a modest lead throughout the race before Cisneros made his move.
“In the closing parts of the race I became a little worried,” DeAvilla said. “It’s a good thing we practiced speed work during the week.”
BYUH won the team scoring with 23 points to the HPU men with 49 and Chaminade had 63.
It made it a clean sweep for former BIIF Coaches as Norman Kaluhiokalani of BYUH is a former Kau coach from 1971 to 1973.
“I’ve been at BYUH since 1973, some 39 years and I’ve been very blessed to have produced many men’s and women’s team champions while being there,” he said. “Coach Jaime really has done a lot to improve this course over the years.”
For Coach Guerpo hosting a race is a good opportunity to showcase Hilo to the rest of the conference.
“I love planning and hosting a PacWest meet,” he said. “It’s a good course and I get lots of positive feedback from the rest of the runners and coaches in the conference.”
Guerpo gave lots of credit to his timing crew and support staff for making it all possible.
“Howard Meguro let us run on the driving range and even practice on it,” Guerpo said.
Due to the low impact on the muscles some teams, such as the girls from HPU, decided to run the 3 miles barefooted.
“You can also run it with spikes, flats or in the case of the HPU women even barefooted,” said Guerpo.
This is Guerpo 14th season and his 4th season hosting the Vulcan Invite from the Naniloa Driving Range.
On tap for the Lady Vulcan’s are travel dates on Oct 27 and Regional’s on Nov 3 in which there will be 30 plus schools in competition according to Guerpo.
Nearly two years after the Athletic Department dealt Coach’s Jaime Guerpo severe budget cuts which caused the University of Hawaii at Hilo to eliminate his men’s cross country program the coach is again challenged to keep the women’s program alive.
All scholarships have been eliminated and fundraising for travel expenses has been commonplace.
Such was the case this past Saturday when Guerpo’s women’s team set out to host a 5k fundraiser on the grounds of the Naniloa Golf Course and opened it to the public in an attempt to raise additional revenue in his barebones women’s harrier program.
“We have roughly $15,000 to cover our seven off island trips and some additional funds for miscellaneous items such as warm-up uniforms,” Guerpo said.
Guerpo also has the luxury of offering a couple of scholarships, something that hasn’t happened in the past few years.
“This year we have money for scholarships to maybe get two really good athletes and 4 in-between athletes,” Guerpo said.
Through his efforts in keeping the women’s program together Guerpo has managed to keep a young team intact.
The eldest on the squad is Justina Wood, a senior from Hawaii Preparatory Academy.
Two sophomores in Hilo High School’s Nadia Ramirez and Jordan Bledsoe from Lincoln, Nebraska. Two freshmen in Keri Fujiwara from Waipahu who was 5th in the State during the finals of the 3K and Britni Napihaa from Kamehameha-Big Island who made the State qualifier in the 800 meter run.
“Britni came out for track in her junior year and ended up running in the high 2:40’s” Joel Truesdell her former prep coach said. “I believe she should continue to improve under Coach Jaime. She is extremely coachable and should take a couple of minutes off of her best high school time and continue to improve in the coming years.”
“Right now I am carrying 6 on the team, but I would like to carry 7,” Guerpo said. “We just acquired Jen Lozano, a senior and she just joined to team today.” “Nadia was sick for today’s race and we wanted to keep her away from her teammates as not to spread anything around.”
Saturdays 5K was not only to raise additional funds but to see where his women’s team pans out because it served as a time trial under race conditions for his squad.
Coming out on top for the Vulcan ladies was first year collegiate runner Keri Fujiwara who was wearing bright pink shoes.
“I know our girls can run faster,” a humble Fujiwara said. “I don’t think the color of the shoes had anything to do with it.”
The top prep runner, and leading all women into the finish chute, was Carmen Garson Shumway of Hilo High in a time of 21 minutes 47 seconds.
“It was just a fun race for us girls,” Garson Shumway said. “I ran together with Mehana the entire way.” Viking team mate Mehana Sabado-Halpern was close behind Garson Shumway to make it a 1-2 overall finish for the prep stars.
Leading the way for the men and the overall winner was Volcano’s Billy “the Ghost” Barnett in 17:07. Barnett is undefeated in local competition dating back to 2009 and is considered the fastest local runner on the Big Island.
“It’s just to be out here again as doctors told me I’d be out of commission for six months after I fell off my skate board and crack my skull,” Barnett said.
Barnett had swelling and bleeding in the brain and needed to be treated at Queens Hospital on Oahu.
Now just two months after being released from the Hospital he is on the road to recovery and back to his winning ways.
Barnett had his hands full as he was challenged by the two Chris’ in Mosch and Gregory. Mosch the winner of the EMS 5K and on break from the University of Oregon and Gregory winner of the Mana 10 miler was prepared to take over the lead when Barnett made a wrong turn on the course.
Ironically Gregory transferred to the UHH program with hopes of being a walk on cross country runner the year that the Vulcan’s dropped the men’s program.
But the wrong turn on the course cost Barnett a few seconds and not enough to take the win away from him.
Guerpo had a successful fundraiser event as more that 100 people came out in support of the Vulcan program.
The Lady Vuls did not wear bib numbers so there weren’t official times for them but Keri Fujiwara was first on the team, followed by Jordan Bledsoe, Justina Wood, Jen Lozano and Britni Napihaa which finished 5th on the team according to Guerpo.
“I thought it was a fun run and I just wanted to run with the team,” Bledsoe said. “I think I ran about 25 minutes flat. It looks like we’re going to have a strong team this season and we’ll improve over last season.”
“We didn’t have Nadia (Ramirez) running today and she should be one of our top girls once she is healthy,” Guerpo said.
Ramirez might be the key in the Vulcan’s run for success.
“She is a strong runner and I’m optimistic we will do well this year,” Bledsoe said. “We have time trials throughout the season and we know what we are capable of doing.”
“We had a record number of registered participants this year (114),” Guerpo said. “It seems like each year we keep getting bigger and bigger and we’re very thankful for the public’s support.”
The Lady Vuls open their Pac West season on Sept 1st with a meet hosted by HPU on the grounds of Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.
PACIFIC WEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
From Phoenix Arizona
University of Hawaii at Hilo Finish Position – 8
Team Score (places): 203 Team Score (times): 1:51:09.8 Average Time: 22:13.9
Overall Cum. Cum. Time Place Bib No Name School Place Time Back
1 125 NADIA RAMIREZ FR 31 31 21:02.2 21:02.2 0:00.0
2 126 NIKKA TAKANE FR 38 69 21:29.4 42:31.6 0:27.2
3 124 JORDAN BLEDSOE FR 42 111 22:26.6 1:04:58.2 1:24.4
4 123 STEPHANIE ADAMS FR 43 154 22:36.0 1:27:34.2 1:33.8
5 127 JUSTINA WOOD FR 49 203 23:35.6