Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Moku O Hawaii Crews claim state titles

Keauhou Novice women do well - photo by Baron Sekiya

Keauhou Novice women do well - photo by Baron Sekiya

Big Island paddling crews were battling for state titles this past Saturday as the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association brought the show to Hilo Bay for the first time since 2002.

    Moku O Hawaii clubs did not disappoint the large home crowd as early on in the 39 race schedule the Puna Boys 16 captured the state championship paddling in lane 10 of the 14 lane competition.

   The six member crew made up of Hapa Aki, Keola Sumera-Lee, Kalae Ke III, Aimoku Johansen and brothers Luke and Lono Leasure-Lucas pulled in the first state title of the day for Puna Canoe Club crews.

    “It feels amazing to have won the state title,” Johansen said.  “You could feel everyone in the canoe pulling together and we all gave just a little extra today.”

Puna boys 14 placed 3rd at state
Puna boys 14 placed 3rd at state

Sumera-Lee was sitting in seat two behind the stroker, Aki, and believed that it was the power seats that helped lead the crew to victory.  “We have to keep up with the stroker and we were switching sides every 15 stokes.  The power boys really came through,” Sumera-Lee said.

   “We worked pretty hard during the season and four of us have been together for four years.  It is a perfect blend for us,” Ke III said.

    The four members of the state champion Puna 16 crew that Ke III was talking about – Aki, Sumera-Lee, Ke III and Lono Leasure-Lucas – were members of the boys 13 crew that won the state championship last year.

   The Puna women, Novice A, also came up big in winning their first state title.  Stroker, Michele Gunderson, set the pace and allowed the power women behind her to make the canoe fly.

Puna women, "backbone of team"
Puna women, “backbone of team”

“The last few races we just kept doing the same thing and we peaked at the right time, just like our coaches said would happen,” Gunderson said.

   “We really jelled as a crew and we talked before the race and got each other pumped up.  From the beginning our coaches told us we could win states.  We felt that we really had a chance and it came through,” she said.

   Gunderson was supported by power paddlers Kanani Yockman, Shannon Johnson, Aimee Kama, Rose Calumag, and steersman Cherie Kauahi.

   “It’s not how you start a season, but how you finish the season that matters,” Gunderson said.

    Defending Moku O Hawaii team champions, Kai Opua, grabbed state titles in the girls 16 and boys’ 15 division.

    Matelita Taumoefolau was ecstatic about her girls’ team title.  “I’ve been paddling every summer for the past four years,” she said.

   “Today we won with a totally different crew.  This was the first time we put this crew together, but we all knew we could bring the power,” Taumoefolau said.

   The Kai Opua girls won in the center of the field, lane 8, and Taumoefolau believes that the brisk wind changed the currents to help the outside lanes.

   Sitting in seat number five, Mia Mardikian, felt confident going into the race.  “We knew we were strong and could bring it on.  Our coaches really know us and they believed in us.  Today was about natural chemistry,” she said.

   Taumoefolau and Mardikian were aided by Zara Nicholson, Kamella Dowells, Kiinahe Amone and Ashley Gross.

   The winning Kai Opua boys 15 crew consisted of Marshall Castillon, Kainoa and Micah Tanoai, Conner Costales, Kaiwi Canda Alvarez and steersman Chase Vonnorheim.

   Tui Tonga pulled in a big win during the men’s Novice A, 1-mile race, when their crew of Jerome Slade, Joe Meheula, Earl Cox III, Daniel Chun, Daniel Demello and Andreas Gaeta took home the gold medal.

    “We got more heart than anyone else here,” said steersman, Gaeta, after the race.  “It comes down to heart and who wants it the most.  Today we raced against the best and we are the best.”

    Tui Tonga’s crew raced in lane 6 and Gaeta believes that the middle lanes were running perfectly.

   “We got lucky as we pulled it together at the half mile portion of the race.  The inside lanes were sticky at the turn, but we kicked it in really hard with a quarter mile to go,” Gaeta said.

   Keauhou also scored big wins in both the mixed and men’s Novice B (first year paddlers) Divisions.

   For the mixed winning crew the combination of Aaron Brown, Annet Rodriguez, Bobby Friedman, Paul Masci, Wrayra Fairchild and Kolina Chao finished the season on a high note.

     “The best part of paddling is being part of a team,” steersman, Rodriguez said.  “It’s stressful being the steersman because I don’t want to let anyone down.  I didn’t expect to win today, but we did it for one of our team members who is stricken with cancer, Delta Thompson.”

   “The entire team is behind him and his fight with cancer and we are all motivated to do well for him,” she said.

    Keauhou’s Novice B men also pulled out a state medal using Bart Blosser, Dan Chilton, Jeff Silva, Josh Holt, Justing Warren and Hana Cook.

   Silva, who steered the canoe, believed in the old adage of hard work.  “The harder your work the more it pays off in the end,” he said.

“I feel very comfortable in the water and used my knowledge of surfing to help steer the canoe in the changing currents.  Our crew was confident going into the race and they trusted me,” Silva said.

   “Today all our training and hard work paid off.  We were undefeated during the entire season if you don’t count the first race when we were disqualified,” Silva said with a grin.

   Keaukaha was not to be denied a state medal as they used their Girls 18 under crew to claim top honors.

    Three of their girls were part of the Pahoa High girls winning crew that made big news earlier in the year when they won a Big Island Interscholastic Federation title.

   Dagger girls Loke Picanco, Shayna Lynn Bertilacci and Beautiful Wilson combined with Kamehameha School paddlers Kiani Matsumoto, Kao Sutton and Shelby Picanco to capture a HCRA state title with Keaukaha Canoe Club.

   “There are so many good teams out here that we didn’t know how we were going to do coming into today. We were in lane 11 during the race and it felt smooth,” stroker Loke Picanco said.

    “We finished second to Kai Opua during the Moku championships and during the two weeks since we have been working very hard.  All the hard work paid off,” she said.


August 2, 2009 Posted by | Canoe Racing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment