Labor Day weekend is rapidly approaching and with it comes, for most of us, three days of family fun which includes camping and picnics.
If you’re headed out to do some grocery shopping at any of the islands Safeway Stores be sure to look to the roof tops as you’ll see some of the Big Island’s finest soliciting donations for Special Olympics.
The “Cop On Top” event will be taking place and one of those cops will be Captain James O’Connor. “All the participating Hawaii County Police officers in Hilo and Kona have a great time and one important aspect is that we get to interact with the community in a fun and positive way,” he said.
O’Connor is one heck of an athlete himself, growing up in Lake Worth, Florida, O’Connor was indoctrinated into baseball at an early age by his father.
“My dad was a fireman and he started playing catch and doing batting practice with me since I was in kindergarten,” O’Connor said.
“With my dad it was all about baseball. He was an assistant coach on most, if not all, the teams I played on.”
O’Connor went on to play baseball and, because of his size, basketball in high school that eventually led to him receiving a basketball scholarship to play for Eckerd College in St. Petersberg, Florida.
After one year at Eckerd, O’Connor decided to move to Hilo and become a walk on for Bob Wilson and the Vulcans.
“I came to Hilo in 1987 after playing a year at Eckerd College. I was surfing since the age of 14 and thought it would be great to go to college in Hawaii and surf too. I saw a picture of Hapuna Beach on the UH-Hilo brochure and it looked good to me. I found out later that Hapuna is over 60 miles away,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor had planned to attend either UH Manoa or a California school after graduating from Hilo with an economics degree. “My goal was to become an Economics Professor, but while attending Hilo I met and later married my wife (1993). She pretty much refused to leave the Big Island. So I joined the police department and never looked back,” he said.
Today O’Connor continues to stay in great physical shape by doing a variety of activities which include running, weight lifting, basketball, stand up paddle boarding, cycling, canoe paddling and surfing.
O’Connor will leave his home every morning at 4:45 to stretch with Sodie Kabalis. After that, on mostly Mondays and Thursdays, he will go for a two and a half mile run with retired assistant Police Chief Elroy Osorio, Jr. Other days he will go for a run with Kabalis or surf, depending on how the waves are.
“I meet up with Sodie four or five times a week to get in a good stretch and if Honoli’i or Bay Front is breaking, I’ll surf before I head off to work. On the weekends, I’ll do a five mile run with Sodie, if he is available.”
Besides surfing with Kabalis, O’Connor will meet up at sunrise with other surfers, Sonny Hong, Adam Kay, Lester Bondallian and Jerry Bell. “Other current and retired policemen like Mitch Kanehailua, Charlie Chai, and Ben Bolos are regulars. And, of course, we’re sometimes joined by the Mayor himself, Billy Kenoi.”
Over his 16 year career with the County Police Department, O’Connor has worked in Waimea, Hilo, Honokaa, Kona and Ka’u. He has worked his way up the ranks from a patrol officer and sergeant, a detective in Internal Affairs, a lieutenant in Hilo patrol and the department’s Record and ID section, was the tactical commander of the Special Response Team, captain of the Ka’u District and currently is head of the Criminal Intelligence and Internal Affairs units.
A few years ago O’Connor was selected to represent the department at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia for a rigorous three month academic and physical training.
O’Connor also returned to school to complete a degree in Administration of Justice at UHH and serves as a leading role model for the department and the community at large.
Even with his busy life O’Connor finds the time for his wife and children. “Jim is a very supportive dad to both of our kids and keeps them on track with their paddling, volleyball, school activities as well as yard work at home,” said wife, Desiree Cruz O’Connor.
“He is a big, strong, smart guy who is incredibly patient, fun and loving with his children and me,” she said.
O’Connor’s father died when he was just ten years old, but remains as his biggest hero and inspiration. “Part of my husband’s drive to be fit and strong comes from his great loss,” Desiree said.
So, this weekend, if you’re in the neighborhood of a Safeway, be sure to look to the roof and say thank you to the men and women in blue that serve and protect our county. And if you have a few dollars to spare remember to give to a great cause, Hawaii’s Special Olympics.
“The Cop on Top event is in its sixth year and we all look forward to participating. Over the years I really cherish the time I get to spend with the athletes, their families and various community groups that assist in collecting the donations on the ground level. And of course to spend some time out of the water with fellow surfer Lebert Pascua and his son Jason, who just so happens to be featured on the Special Olympics poster this year,” O’Connor said.
It what was to be a rebuild year, Hilo’s Coach Bill McMahon, showcased many new faces for a surprise victory at the Canefire Conditioner held on the campus of Christian Liberty Academy.
Boy’s team favorite, Honokaa, showed its front end power with Chris Mosch, Joshua Robinson, Chayce Moniz and Geo Chabez-Pardini grabbing the top positions in a scoring pair format.
Mosch ran a blistering 5 minute 5 second opening lap with Keaau’s Shannon White keeping up.
“I went out too fast, I guess with all the hype of being in first place,” White said of his opening mile.
White slowed down in his second mile clocking a 5:35 and he, along with teammate Daniel Brooks, found the third mile excruciating. “I think the BIIF (Big Island Interscholastic Federation) individual title is up for grabs with four or five of us that can win it all. I’m hoping to give it a shot,” White said.
To be able to “win it all” White and other prep harriers will have to get past Honokaa’s Chris Mosch and Joshua Robinson. “Chris and I have been training together since the end of track season in May,” Robinson said.
“We do long runs and speed workouts together and we’re going to help each other to try and win the BIIF individual title,” Robinson said.
CLA showcased two of their finest distance runners in Jeremy Grotenhuis and Richard Moylan in grabbing the seventh place position for team pairs.
Both Grotenhuis and Moylan are well known for their soccer skills and during the cross-country season will be a bright spot for the Canefire.
Grotenhuis tore his ACL during soccer camp in his sophomore year and has since recovered totally as demonstrated by his race on Saturday. “I’m very satisfied with my results today and I’m hoping I can be in the league’s top 20 during the season,” Grotenhuis said.
Teammate Richard Moylan echoed Grotenhuis’ sentiments. “We wanted to be in the top ten pairings today. It would have been easier without the rain and the mud, but we’re still happy,” he said.
In the Canefire preseason meet runners from the same schools were paired up with each other running a one mile loop around the CLA campus. “We had the pairs run in a relay format, which means that one runner runs while the other runner waits for the passing of the baton,” Coach Grotenhuis said.
Each of the pairs completed a total of six miles with each runner doing three miles. CLA then took the top four scoring pairs from each school to calculate who won the team title.
The regular BIIF cross-country season opens on Saturday with East Schools at Waiakea and West Schools visiting Kealakehe. Start times for both venues is 10 a.m. with the boys running first, followed by the girls.
|Team Results — Girls|
|Individual Results — Girls|
|Kaitlyn Chock; Kelsie Kobayashi||WKA||1||38:24:82|
|Athena Oldfather; Kim Kishimoto||Honoka’a||2||39:36:69|
|Zoe Sims; Emily Evans||HPA||3||40:04:16|
|Shalila DeBourmont; Karina Lawreence||Hilo||4||40:16:71|
|Kela Vargas; Samantha Neal||HPA||5||40:20:40|
|Monica Carlos; Katie Aguilar||Honoka’a||6||40:32:68|
|Hana Scully; Melanie Ulrich||HPA||7||40:42:85|
|Bronte Kaneakua; Corin Kim||KAM||8||40:51:78|
|Tia Greenwell; Kelly-Ann Greenwell||Honoka’a||9||41:33:94|
|Erin Yoshida; Lauren Hill||WKA||10||42:06:72|
|Deann Nishimura-Thornton; Mary Jessica Wuscher||Keaau||11||42:24:96|
|Tiffany Pacheco; Erin Carvalho||KAM||12||42:41:57|
|Raycee Cooke; Kaylee Rapoza||Hilo||13||42:44:97|
|Jeanine Hoy; Nathalie Whitfield||Parker||14||42:49:65|
|Alyssa Hoshida; Traci Palermo||Hilo||15||43:09:85|
|Taylor Cambra; Sierra Hagg; Ajia Minor||CLA||16||43:29:53|
|Phoebe Hono; Marie Donahue||HPA||17||43:47:17|
|Melissa White; Malama Tamasese-Solomon||HPA||18||44:26:23|
|Kalena Shiroma; Makaiwa Tong||KAM||19||44:27:40|
|Katie Torigoe; Mali’o Kodis||WKA||20||44:33:44|
|Team Results — Boys|
|31 Finish||62 Finish|
|Individual Results — Boys|
|1||Chris Mosch; Joshua Robinson||Honoka’a||31:14:99|
|2||Chayce Moniz; Geo Chabez-Pardini||Honoka’a||31:37:03|
|3||Shannon White; Daniel Brooks||Keaau||31:41:32|
|4||Tyde Kanishiro; Johann Kuiper||Hilo||32:25:84|
|5||Makoa Johnson; Tyler Tsubota||HPA||32:39:53|
|6||Russell Hapgood; Logan Martin||HPA||33:02:62|
|7||Jeremy Grotenhuis; Richard Moylan||CLA||33:18:77|
|8||Billy Ray; Rick Michels||Hilo||33:20:24|
|9||Jackson Halford; Frank Chi||WKA||33:23:95|
|10||Ed Torrison Sai Weiss||Hilo||34:03:29|
|11||Jordan Grotenhuis; Mark Wynn||CLA||34:09:65|
|12||Kevin Olsen; James Clubbs||Keaau||34:24:34|
|13||Jacob Andrade; Matthew Katibah||StJ||34:42:84|
|14||Jesse Tarnas; Travis Morris||Parker||34:44:04|
|15||Shawn Andrada; Samuel Umayas||Keaau||35:19:21|
|16||Rogan Ogawa; Kaulana Ho||Kam||35:45:19|
|17||John Fratinardo; Maka’ala Gahan||Kam||35:58:31|
|18||Joshua Tobais; Dylan Shiraki||Honoka’a||36:01:53|
|19||Ka’imi Scott, Noah Bath||WKA||36:04:36|
|20||Nick Chock; Tyler Vankirk||HPA||36:09:12|
Prep harriers from around the island are making strides in preparation for the upcoming Big Island Interscholastic Federation cross-country season which got under way this past Saturday with a preseason meet at Christian Liberty Academy.
The Hawaii Preparatory Academy girls and the Honokaa boys come into the season as the defending BIIF teams, each with their own hopes for the future.
“We only have one returning senior, Melanie Ulrich, but a solid group of young runners,” Ka Makani girls coach, Michael Franklin said.
That solid core of young runners returning for HPA is all juniors and includes Samantha Neal, Kela Vargas, Phoebe Hono and Hana Scully.
“If we’re competitive again this year it will be a true team effort, like last year. Based on last season, Honokaa and Hilo will be very tough to beat, but every year this league seems to get closer and closer, so we’re not taking any positions for granted,” Franklin said.
For the HPA boys it will be a rebuilding season as the Ka Makani lost many of their top runners to graduation.
The biggest bright spot for the Ka Makani will be the return of Tyler Tsubota who is talented enough to make a run for the BIIF individual title. “I do hope Tyler returns to the team,” HPA boys coach, Lupe Diaz said.
“We also hope to have Makoa Johnson, Russell Hapgood, Sean Prentiss and Logan Martin back, but you never know with these kids. One of our goals will be to fill many new shoes and have the boys step it up and shoot for the times our seniors had last year,” Diaz said.
Hilo comes into the season as last year’s runner-up for both the girls and boys teams, but Coach Bill McMahon has his work cut out for himself as most of his top individual runners were lost to graduation.
“It’s a rebuilding year for us as much as it is for the rest of the league. We would like to qualify for State, top three team wise, in both the boys and girls,” McMahon said.
One of the best teams this season has to be the Honokaa Dragons as the defending boy’s champions they return most of their top runners.
Led by Christopher Mosch the Dragons are loaded with talent and depth, but Coach Joshua Abner remains mum on their chances for success.
“I hope its okay that I’m keeping my (teams) secret for now?” Abner said in an email.
But there is no hiding the talent behind the Dragon squads as their boys will complement Mosch with Geo Chavez-Pardini and Chayce Moniz.
The Honokaa girls have two times defending BIIF champion, Tia Greenwell, retuning for her junior season.
Greenwell is one of the top cross-country runners in the state and is an overwhelming favorite to win her third consecutive BIIF title.
Dragon teammates Athena Oldfather and Katherine Aguilar will add to the team’s firepower and gives them the edge to win the league team title.
The Kamehameha girls, under veteran coach Joel Truesdell, has some firepower of their own with Bronte Kaneakua leading the way for the Warriors.
“Bronte is looking very strong and behind her is a pack of three, consisting of Corin Kim, Erin Carvalho and Kalena Shiroma,” Truesdell said.
Truesdell remains uncertain about his team coming into the season. “We won’t know how competitive we are until we see the other teams,” he said.
The BIIF cross-country championships will be held at Kamehameha on October 24 and will give the Warrior squad a slight advantage on their home turf.
The public school Warrior girls also have some firepower that might compete with the rest of the league as they return most of their fourth place squad from last year.
Leading the way is senior, Kaitlyn Chock, along with youngsters Kelsie Kobayashi, Erin Yoshida and Lauren Hill.
If Waiakea can find more depth beyond their number four runner they may also be a contender for a team title.
Returning to the coaching scene after a brief hiatus is Keaau’s Donna Wong Yuen who takes the helm for both the Cougar squads.
Wong Yuen has two top notch runners returning in sophomore Deaan Nishimura-Thornton and football star Daniel Brooks. Both athletes made an impact on their team’s success last year and should fare well again this season.
HIGH SCHOOL MILE RECORD – Alan Webb of Virginia set the fastest mile record for a high school student when he clocked 3 minutes 53.43 seconds on May 27, 2001.
With the 1500 meter race taking over in track and field events throughout the world the above records may stand for quite some time. To run a 4 minute mile a 1500 runner would need to be able run a 3:42.43.