BIIF Cross Country Championship Preview – Titles up for Grabs
Mystery, intrigue and unbridled excitement continues to build as the Big Island Interscholastic Federation cross country championships will crown its individual and team champions this Saturday at Kamehameha.
During the five week season the BIIF has seen five different girls cross the finish line in first place and chances are there might be a sixth, if the pattern holds.
“It is amazing what things can happen on race day,” HPA girls coach Michael Franklin said. “Surprising things can happen as there are a number of strong young women on the island who have not yet won a race.”
Franklin’s Ka Makani girls come into the championships as the heavy team favorite to win their 34th title in the last 38 years, but the savvy coach is not taking anything for granted.
“We’re not looking beyond today as we are training hard and that is our current challenge,” Franklin said.
HPA talent, from the first through seventh runner, is so strong that they have had three runners win individual meets during the season and could have a fourth emerge to claim the league individual crown.
Kristiana Van Pernis started things off for HPA winning the Sept 3rd meet on her home course, followed by Emily Evans taking the second Ka Makani meet on Sept 30, followed more recently by Mariah Haight claiming the individual crown at Kamehameha two weeks ago.
Looming in the background for HPA is Zoe Sims, who was injured early in the season, but has come back to claim two third place finishes and a second place.
Coach Franklin will tell you that Ka Makani harriers are more concerned with team rather than their own success.
“We focus on the strength of a community,” Franklin said. “We do not train for individual success and the results simply reflect that philosophy.”
With four HPA runners having the ability to win the individual title there are two other girls with the proven talent to mix things up with Ka Makani harriers.
Waiakea’s Kelsie Kobayashi won one meet this season, on her home course, and has frequently run within the HPA pack along with Hilo’s Carmen Garson-Shumway.
Garson-Shumway was the first BIIF runner to cross the finish line during the Kamehameha Invitational and considers the championship course to be her favorite.
“I like running at Kamehameha,” Garson-Shumway said. “There is something about that course, the rolling hills, and the grassy surface that makes it my favorite.”
Halford has won three of the regular seasons five meets, being first to cross the finish line at second HPA meet, Waiakea and Kamehameha two weeks ago.
St. Joseph’s Andrew Langtry won the first HPA meet and then became runner up to Halford in the second HPA meet and again second at the Kamehameha Invitational.
With the championships at Kamehameha another stiff challenger to Halford’s quest of becoming a league champion will be home course favorite Kamehameha’s Shawn Correa Doll.
Correa Doll was the first BIIF runner to cross the finish line at the Kamehameha Invitational and was runner up to Halford at the Waiakea meet.
Late in the season Makua Lani’s Brandt Mabuni started to run with the leaders and during the last regular season meet at Kamehameha showed that he should be considered a contender.
Mabuni took the race to Halford and Correa Doll, leading for the first two miles before giving way and finishing in third place.
“The Kamehameha race gave me the confidence to know that I have a good chance of winning at the BIIF championships,” Mabuni said.
Parker’s Paul Gregg and Honokaa’s Tony Conners each had third place finishes during the season and are expected to try to keep up with the leaders in the early going.
“It’s been nerve racking waiting for the championships because I know everyone wants to stop me from winning,” Halford said. “I expect Shawn (Correa Doll) to be my strongest competitor because this is his home course and he’ll be looking to win. Knowing I’m the front runner is a good excuse for me to work harder in preparation for this race.”
The Honokaa boys are the four time BIIF team champions, but had a slow start during the season as Waiakea claimed all but the final team scoring titles.
But Honokaa’s experience might be peaking at the right time under Coach Josh Abner as the Dragons are poised to claim their fifth consecutive title.
The top two boys and top two girl’s teams will gain the automatic berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championships on Maui along with the top 38 boys and 37 girls to be held on October 29 on Maui.
League championship action gets under way this Saturday with the junior varsity races starting at 2 pm, followed by the boys varsity and girls varsity races in which the top seven in both varsity events will medal and win all BIIF first team honors.
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