Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Arlo Latenser Living His Dream at Keaau High

Keaau Cheer Squad

KEAAU – Think of the word ‘cheerleading’ and a dozen or more adjectives may come to mind.  This season, at Keaau High School, cheerleading has taken on an added term which is endearingly called ‘special.’

Making the Keaau Cheer Squad in the 2010-2011 Big Island Interscholastic Federation athletic season is a special person with an unique ability to bring out the best in everyone.

Arlo Latenser, a sophomore, is fulfilling his childhood dream of being a cheerleader for the Cougars.

Latenser, who has Down Syndrome, may be the first in the State to participate in Cheerleading on the varsity level of a Division I high school.

“Arlo first participated in a Cougar Cheer Clinic in April 2010 that we held for anyone interested in cheerleading,” Keaau Cheerleading Coach Tonya Baybayan said.

Latenser later tried out for the team in May and needed to follow the same process for selection as all the other participants and was given the same opportunities as everyone else trying out for the squad, according to Baybayan.

“I do not cut anyone but, rather gave each individual an opportunity to develop skills over summer practices,” she said.

The Keaau tryout process involves going through fundamental cheerleading skills, gymnastics and dance and each participant is given an oral interview in front of a panel of 5 to 6 judges.

Arlo working a football game with the cheer squad

“Arlo brought some of the judges to tears when he responded to the question of why he wanted to be a cheerleader,” Baybayan said.  “He honestly said that it was his dream to be a cheerleader.”

But the road for Latenser in fulfilling his dream has not been an easy one as his disability provides him with challenges of not being able to yell out and project all of the cheers clearly.

“Arlo makes up for his inability to perform in some areas with his smile and positive personality,” Baybayan said.

Initially the transition for the dozen girls on the team was not smooth when Latenser was first selected for the team.

“Some of the girls did not understand Arlo’s disability,” Baybayan said.  “We have always treated him the same as everyone without giving him any special treatment and the other team members now treat him like any other team member.”

Baybayan has been coaching the cheer squad at Keaau for the past five years and prior to that she was a Pop Warner coach with the Keaau Chiefs and Puna Titans.

The relationship forged between Baybayan and Latenser while both were at Keaau Middle School where Baybayan works as an educational assistant.

     “Arlo is well like at school and greets everyone with a smile or his famous shaka,” Baybayan said.  “I’ve noticed at various games that the referees always greet him and he always makes that effort to greet them too.”

One of the highlights of school for Latenser is being on the cheerleading squad where he practices regularly and even takes dance classes in order to help him keep up with the his teammates.

“I work with Arlo on the weekends,” Cougar senior Lindsay Sumner said.  “I met him during Polynesian Dance class and he is a very talented dancer with good coordination skills.”

Sumner, a former Keaau cheerleader, works with Latenser, one on one, over the weekends and has seen an enormous change in his skill  level.

“He has the enthusiasm for cheering and he brings it with him every day,”  Sumner said.  “He is happy about everything and he has overcome great challenges with his desire to improve.”

Latenser participated in the team bonding early in the season where everyone is expected to share things about themselves.

“When I first met Arlo I knew he would need extra help,” teammate Amber Hamada said.  “He was in my hula class last year and I knew he liked to dance.”

Hamada made an extra effort to take Latenser under her wing as she wanted to help him learn the cheers.

Assistant Cheer Coach Jamie Soli, who teaches gymnastics, echoed some of the same sentiments as the others on the team.

“He’s a pretty good student and he really enjoys doing it,” Soli said.  “This is my first time working with a special needs person and I was pleasantly surprised with his progress.  Arlo can now do cartwheels, and backward rolls are his favorite.”

“I love cheerleading,” Latenser said.  “My favorite cheer is DEFENSE and my hardest is OFFENSE.”

When asked what he thought about being the only boy on a 12 girl cheer squad Latenser said, “It’s okay by me to work with all girls.  They are like cousins to me and they always treat me nicely.”

 Arlo Latenser is a key, contributing member of his school and takes pride in bringing out the best in himself and his fellow classmates.

Everyone interviewed agreed that he brings with him to practice a high level of school pride, character and an enormous amount of Cougar spirit, all qualities of a great cheerleader.

And to the proud Latenser, he’s just living his dream.


February 8, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Warriors Sweep BIIF Wrestling Team Titles

Megan Aina wins third BIIF crown

KEALAKEKUA – It was all Warriors during the Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling championships on Saturday.

The Kamehameha girls and Waiakea boys took team titles in a Warrior sweep and left little doubt as to who has the best spread of wrestlers on the island.

Heavily favored Kamehameha lived up to their top billing by winning the girls team title during the Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling championships, at the Colonel Ellison Onizuka Gymnasium on the campus of Konawaena High School, on Saturday.

Warrior girls took command in the early going, making the finals in seven of the eleven weight classes to claim their second consecutive girl’s team, and third title, in the last four years under Coach Marlon Miller.

“We only brought nine girls and one of them, Kanoe Padaken, dislocated her shoulder during her match or else we would have had eight girls in the finals,” Miller said.

Making it into the finals for Kamehameha were Megan Aina (98), Kawehi Lopez (120), Noelle Pohina (125), Rustee-Ann Johansen (130), Alexia Osburn (140), Chantel Pohina (155) and Jasmine Iuta (175).

The Warriors would go on to win four of the seven finals matches with Aina, Lopez, Johansen and Osburn capturing BIIF titles to clinch the team championships.

“I’m pleased with our second consecutive title, but it’s not going to be as sweet as our third” Miller said.  “We started out strong as a team and never lost sight of our goals.”

Miller gave a pre-game talk to his team, telling them that there would only be a Feb. 5, 2011 once in their life, so how do you want to remember it?

Aina, the two time BIIF defending champion and reigning state champion, had little trouble taking her third title as she appears primed to make another run at the state championship.

Facing Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Kela Vargas, the Warrior took an aggressive posture taking Vargas down and staying on top of her during the first period.

During the second period Aina used an arm bar to roll her opponent for the pin.

“I listened to my coaches and just did what they told me to do,” Aina said after the match.  “I grabbed her wrist during the roll and it paid off.”

It was Aina’s third consecutive BIIF title and now she shifts her focus on trying to repeat as state champion.

Home crowd favorite, sophomore Tanalei Louis, won her second BIIF title by pinning Kamehameha’s Noelle Pohina in the first round to go undefeated in island competition.

A confident Tanalei Louis

“I believe in myself and my ability,” a confident Louis said.  “My dad and family give me the confidence that I need and it helped that I played Pop Warner football growing up.”

Louis finished third in the state last year as a freshmen and believes she can win it all next week in Honolulu.

The boy’s team title was up for grabs going into the final few matches with Kona, Hilo and Waiakea all in contention for the team title.

“With just two matches to go just a half point separates Hilo and Waiakea from winning the boy’s team championship,” Kona statistician Wally Nakashima said.

Waiakea pulled out the narrow margin of victory and Warrior coach Stan Haraguchi was very stoic in his first team title.

“It’s been a while since we’ve won a team title,” Haraguchi said.  “We just wanted the kids to do their best and a lot of the credit goes to the coaches and the families that did a good job raising them.”

Haraguchi believed that the Warrior success was due to the team’s ability to peak at the right time.

“They stepped it up at the right time,” he said.  “But the season isn’t over as we still have one more week to go.”

One of the leaders for the Waiakea boys was defending BIIF champion Tyler Yonemori who retain his individual title at 140 by beating Kealakehe’s Allin Franco.

“I just wanted to come out and do my best,” Yonemori said.  “The entire team worked very hard this entire season and we’re proud to have won the team title.”

For the Kamehameha boys it was Justin Hirae wrestling in the 125 weight division against Hilo’s Brendan Branco.

“I got bumped up in weight and now weigh 124 pounds,” Hirae said.  “I’ve been doing a lot of weight training and I wanted to move into a weight division that I felt comfortable at.”

In the process, Hirae won his fourth BIIF individual championship, each coming in different weight divisions.

 “During my freshman year I won at 103, then moved up each year to 108, 114 and this year at 125,” Hirae said.  “What I’ve accomplished in winning my fourth title anyone can do with a lot of hard work.”

Honokaa’s Geo Chavez-Pardini was able to wrestle most of the season due to a partially torn ACL, but went for his fourth BIIF title on Saturday in the 189 weight class.

“I weighed in at 162, but my coach wanted me to wrestle at 189,” Chavez-Pardini said. 

During the finals the Dragon went against Kona’s John Postrano and used his speed to out maneuver his heavier opponent.

“I was super nervous going into the match because he outweighed me,” Chavez-Pardini said. “I used my speed and could take him down easy.  When he tried to escape I caught his arm, spun him around for the take down and used a half nelson for the pin.”

Related link:  https://waynejoseph.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/biif-wrestling-championships-results/

The top four boys in each of the 14 weight divisions and top three girls in their 11 weight classes advance to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championships to be held on Oahu on Feb. 11 and 12.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Wrestling | , , , , , | Leave a comment