“Something special and magical happened today,” Coach Michael Franklin said when learning that his Hawaii Preparatory Academy girls cross country team won the state title.
Ka Makani harriers gave everything they had during the 49th Annual Hawaii High School Athletic Association cross country championships held Saturday at the Kapalua Village Golf Course on Maui.
“Everything worked out according to how we trained over the years, as we ran as a team and packed our runners together,” Franklin said.
HPA the Big Island Interscholastic Federation team champion went step to step with HHSAA six time defending champion Punahou in what proved to be a run for state bragging rights.
Ka Makani harriers were runner up to Punahou last year, but turned the tables on the Buff and Blue with their pack style running.
HPA had all five girls in the top 9, which saw their lead pack of Kristiana Van Pernis, Mariah Haight, Zoe Sims, Emily Evans and Kelly Ulrich finish fifth through ninth respectively.
This was Hawaii Preps first girls cross country state title since 1994 when the team was coached by Phil Conley.
“Phil Conley and Stan Shutes have played an important role in the success of this program,” Franklin said. “Those two coaches established the foundation for what we have today as they instilled the tradition and philosophy behind our success. I just happened to step into a program that fits my style of coaching.”
Franklin also contributed a huge portion of his team’s ascent to being the best in the state to having the right combination of young runners.
“We have the right group of personalities with great team leadership and really positive attitudes,” Franklin said. “What happened today was very special and magical and I’m very proud of what we did.”
HPA’s number five runner, Kelly Ulrich, didn’t run on the varsity team last year and was key to the team’s success in winning the team championship by finishing 9th overall this year.
“Our coaches read a poem called ‘Power of the Pack’ and I kept listen to the words in that poem as I wanted to be able to see our top four girls during the race,” Ulrich said. “I didn’t expect to do as well as I did, but it felt really good to run fast and stay with our pack.”
Kristiana Van Pernis had a 14th place finish last year during state competition and was the first BIIF girl to cross the finish line this season in fifth place overall.
“I felt like I turned my brain off during the race and just focused on running,” Van Pernis said. “I enjoyed running with my teammates and that’s where all my thoughts went.”
Trying to stay with the HPA pack was Waiakea’s Kelsie Kobayashi who placed 11th overall (the top 20 individual boys and girls received state medals.
“This was a phenomenal season,” Kobayashi said. “I had my best finish ever in the four years I’ve run states. I just tried to get out fast and not get boxed in at the beginning of the race. I used the HPA pack as I was trying to make my way up to them.”
Kobayashi, a senior, was pleased with the outcome.
“I left everything on the course,” she said. “I kept thinking about what my coach (Rosado) told me early in the season, that cross country doesn’t require a lot of equipment, just a lot of heart.”
Seabury Hall’s Dakota Grossman a sophomore won the individual state title for a second year finishing in a time of 19 minutes 27 seconds
In the boys race it was Waiakea’s Jackson Halford being the first Big Island runner to cross the finish line with St Joseph’s Andrew Langtry close behind. Halford finished eighth overall in a field of 160 runners, managed to redeem himself after a second place finish during the BIIF championships the week before.
“This race more than made up for my finish at the BIIF championships,” Halford said.
“I beat my personal goal coming into states,” Halford said. “I was just hoping to come in 10th this year after my 25th place finish last year.”
Halford started out slow during the opening mile of the three mile race and his strategy paid big dividends.
“I knew everyone was going to go out really fast and then die,” Halford said. “At the first mile marker I was in 40th place and people started falling back.”
Halford a senior believes this was the best race of his four year racing career.
For Langtry who finished tenth overall this was his first opportunity to participate in the state cross country championships.
“It was great and I went out perfectly,” Langtry said. “I was staying close to Jackson and we helped push each other. Also having my dad come out to watch the race was something that helped me run well.”
Waiakea boys were the top scoring BIIF team, placing ninth to BIIF champion’s Honokaa tenth place finish.
“I told my guys if they didn’t do well today they’d be walking back to Kahului,” a joking Warrior Coach Rosado said. “They were a lot more serious and focused today than they were at the BIIF Championships a week ago.”
Leilehua won the boys team title with 55 beating out Maui 63 and Iolani with 74 points.
Other top BIIF finishers placing within the top 100 on Maui were:
Boys: 27) Parker’s Paul Gregg 30) Kamehameha’s Shawn Correa Doll, 45) Honokaa’s Robert Conners, 54) Waiakea’s Ian McQuate 62) Honokaa’s Tony Conners 76) Waiakea’s Robbey Meguro 77) Hilo’s Stephen Hunter 80) Kealakehe’s Luka Walter 84) Kamehameha’s Makaala Cruz 92) Parker’s Jesse Tarnas 94) Honokaa’s Chayce Moniz 96) HPA’s Justin Macy 97) HPA’s Michael Rogerson
Girls: 15) Kealakehe’s Kari Van Mols 26) Hilo’s Carmen Garson-Shumway 30) Hilo’s Satya Ray 35) Kealakehe’s Sydney Kirkhill 38) Makua Lani Joy Choe 45) Makua Lani’s Grace Choe 47) Keaau’s Deann Nishimura-Thornton 53) HPA’s Veronica Ladwig 56) Kamehameha’s Erin Carvalho 61) Konawaena’s Shayli Nakamoto 63) Hilo’s Shalila De Bourmont 66) Kealakehe’s Mika Bettencourt 67) Kamehameha’s Corin Kim 69) HPA’s Cat Bradley 80) Hilo’s Jordyn Breithbarth 81) Hilo’s Kaylee Rapoza 82) Keili Dorn Makua Lani 84) Honokaa’s Hildhang Adams 85) Honokaa’s Elizabeth Aguirre 92) Honokaa’s Kelly Greenwell 93) Kamehameha’s Mikela Cabel 95) Makua Lani’s Tiffany Nakamura 100) Keaau’s Natalie Hagemann
It has been more than a decade since a Big Island school has won a state cross country championship, but come Thursday that may all change.
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association cross country championships will be held on Oct. 28 at the Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park and a very strong Hawaii Preparatory Academy girl’s team has a legitimate chance at winning it all.
Last week the lady Ka Makani won their third consecutive Big Island Interscholastic Federation team title in impressive fashion beating out runner-up Honokaa by more than 70 points.
HPA’s Kela Vargas won the individual title with teammates Zoe Sims, Emily Evans and Kristiana Van Pernis finishing second through fourth respectively while teammates Mariah Haight, Sam Neal and Hanna Scully took the seventh through ninth spots.
“Our success this season was from our focus on team goals instead of individual performances,” HPA Coach Michael Franklin said. “We will keep that same focus at States.”
HPA is no stranger to runner success as their teams over the past four decades have won numerous state cross country championships.
In 1994 HPA swept the boys and girls state championships under former coaches Karl Honma for the boys and Phil Conley for the girls.
No BIIF team, other than Hawaii Prep, has won a state championship and Honma’s 1995 boys’ team was the last time a Big Island school had taken center stage.
“If we are successful at States, then it is our runners’ love of a challenge that is the key,” Franklin said.
The Punahou girls come into the state championships as the five time defending champion and is considered to be the favorite to win their sixth title, but with HPA’s ability to bunch their runners in the lead pack they are recognized as serious contenders.
Punahou returns sophomore Elli Brady who won the state individual championship as a freshman, but it is another freshman, Dakota Grossman of Seabury, Maui, that is the favorite to win the state crown.
“I hope we can make the top five again this year,” said a humble Franklin. “Punahou is the obvious favorite, but magical things can occur on race day. As usual, we will run together and we will embrace the challenge.”
Vying for the boy’s state team title is defending champion Kamehameha-Oahu and the 2007 and ’08 champions Leilehua along with a talented Iolani squad.
Four time boys BIIF team champion, Honokaa, is expected to improve on their fifth place finish from last year.
“Kamehameha, Iolani and Leilehua will score well, but with all the individuals busting up the top runners who knows how the cards will fall,” Dragon Coach Josh Abner said.
During the BIIF championships Honokaa claimed the top individual spots with Chris Mosch successfully defending his title and teammates Joshua Robinson and Chayce Moniz following close behind.
If their top three runners can break into the top 20 at the state championships, while keeping their fourth and fifth runners close behind, then anything is possible.
“I often talk about how anything can happen on any given day and with that mentality any day can be the Dragons day,” Abner said.
Leilehua’s Margarito Martinez is the defending state champion and will get a stiff challenge from Pierce Murphy of Island School from Kauai for the individual crown.
Mosch, an experienced senior, is expected to be somewhere in the top five and if the rest of the Dragon team stays close to Mosch there could be an upset.
“My highest finish was 14th overall last year,” Mosch said. “My goal going into this race is to finish within the top five and my plan is to stay with Iolani’s Troy Esaki, Leilehua’s Dylan Martinez and Mid Pac’s Ryan Hobson during the race.”
Earlier this year Mosch ran on Oahu at the HHSAA site during the Kaiser Invitational and learned a lot from the experience.
“What I learned from the Kaiser Meet is that a lot of people go out too hard and burn out, so I’m going to try to run under control during the first mile and not get too crazy,” he said.
Honokaa’s best team finish, fourth, came when Mosch was a freshman and the upper classman now thinks of improving on that placement.
“I think we can make it into the top three on a good day,” Mosch said.
“This is more than trying to win championships,” Abner said. “When Dragons are ready to leave the program I hope they’ve learned that hard work and big goals bring the biggest prizes in life.”
The HHSAA championships was moved from a Friday to Thursday because of a County Furlough Day, according to HPA Athletic Director and BIIF cross country coordinator.
“My understanding is that CORP is a county facility on Oahu and HHSAA made the final decision,” Perry said.