BIIF Harriers Ready for HHSAA on Kauai
In Chinese Astrology 2009 is the Year of the Earth Ox, but don’t tell that to Josh Abner as the cross-country coach from Honokaa would tell you this is the Year of the Dragons.
Abner and his Dragon teams are headed to Kauai and on Saturday will run against the state’s best harriers in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Cross-Country Championships.
The Dragon boys are the three time defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation team champions and are led by individual champion Chris Mosch.
“I believe this group of boys has a shot to do something really special for our school, our community and the entire Big Island,” Abner said. “The highest level of competition brings out the best and I’m still not totally sure that my guys know what they are capable of.”
Honokaa is loaded with talent as four of their boys placed in the top seven of the BIIF championships held at Kamehameha on Oct. 24.
Joshua Robinson, Chayce Moniz and Geo Chavez-Pardinin complemented Mosch top finish by going fifth through seventh respectively as the Dragons ran away with the team title by 56 points over runner-up Waiakea.
“We could have four boys in the top 20 if we have a good day,” Abner said of the HHSAA championship. “This race is all about being mentally prepared and leaving it all out there and in many rights a test of pure guts.”
The Kamehameha-Oahu boy’s team champions of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu are the heavy favorites to win the team title and are led by Jordan Thibodeau.
The front runner for the individual crown at the HHSAA is Leilehua’s Margarito Martinez from the Oahu Interscholastic Association. Iolani’s Borys Pleskacz will run with the lead pack, along with Island School and Kauai Interscholastic Federation Champion, Pierce Murphy.
Also expected to compete with the front runners is Keaau’s Daniel Brooks who finished second to Mosch at the BIIF championships.
The state race is a bitter sweet moment for Brooks as the senior lost his older brother on the same day as the island championships.
“I’ll be flying to Maui on Thursday for a memorial service for my older brother who was 38 years old when he died,” Brooks said. “I decided to go ahead and run on Kauai and I will try to do my best and hopefully place somewhere in the top 10. I plan on going out hard and will dedicate this race in my brother’s memory.”
While the Dragon boys were running all over their field of competitors it was the HPA girls that left their Ka Makani mark at Kamehameha.
HPA is led by junior Kela Vargas who finished 38 seconds behind Greenwell to claim second place.
Vargas is a smart competitor who knows how to pace herself brought in a pair of freshmen teammates Zoe Sims and Emily Evans that claimed third and fourth respectively.
“Kela (Vargas) is a true soul runner,” HPA coach, Michael Franklin said. “I try to use scientific methods to help her develop, but ultimately she runs fast because she loves the feel of the wind in her face.”
Franklin believes that Vargas could finish in the top 10 on Kauai, but more importantly that she will continue to lead the other Ka Makani runners to a strong team finish.
“I do expect Zoe (Sims) and Emily (Evans) in the top 20,” Franklin said. “They have very positive energy; they began the season as competent athletes and are now smart competitors.”
The Kauai course is considered fast with no challenging hills, which may be a disadvantage to the hill harriers at HPA, but Franklin remains optimistic about his girl’s chances.
“We expect a flat course on Kauai, so all of our runners have a PR (personal record) as an individual goal. As a team we hope to break into the top 5,” Franklin said.
The Dragon girls are the BIIF team runner-up to Hawaii Prep, and feature three time individual champion Tialana Greenwell.
Greenwell finished second in the state last year and is considered a slight underdog to Seabury senior Hailey Grossman the individual champion from the Maui Interscholastic League.
“Tia (Greenwell) has gotten stronger every week and has a chance to take her first state title,” Abner said. “Winning the BIIF is an honor that she is very proud of, but now she has her hopes set much higher.”
Abner believes that the Honokaa girls could finish somewhere within the top five teams in the state on a perfect day. “If everything goes well and we have a little luck on our side,” he said of his team’s chances to break into the top 5.
Punahou is the favorite to win the HHSAA girls team title and is led by freshman Ellie Brady. The Buff ‘n Blue will be challenged by a strong Mililani team that showcases Gabriella Jenkins, Kimberly Pugliese and 2007 state champion Kristin Ali Keith.
“It all starts with believing, and I truly believe in each one of these kids way beyond their individual running abilities. We are building young, prosperous adults here, not just runners,” Abner said.
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