Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

BIIF track and field season gets a running start on Saturday

     It’s never easy to dethrone a champion and this track & field season won’t be any different as the Big Island Interscholastic Federation defending girls and boys champions look for a repeat.

The Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s girls and Waiakea boys look to defend their team titles when the BIIF gets a running start with dual season openers at Kamehameha and Konawaena on Saturday.

“We return a young, but experienced girls team,” Veteran Ka Makani Coach Pat Lau said.

“Our strength will be with our distance girls in events of 400 meters and above.”

Lau has the luxury of having the entire 2011 girl’s state champion cross country team on the track.

Zoe Sims, last year’s 1500 meter state champion along with Kristiana Van Pernis who placed in both the 1500 and 800 meter events at states, will headline the talented Ka Makani distance squad.

“Besides our distance girls we have two strong finishers in pole vault, Sydney Budde and Taylor Esaki,” Lau said.

Experience is the name of the game with HPA having two hurdlers in Emily Evans and Katie Case which give firepower and depth to Ka Makani track squad.

“In the rest of the events we have a lot of new girls and they should do well,” Lau said.

Lau also has a host of talent to choose from with another large turnout on the track.

“This year we have another big  team with 47 girls and 32 boys, most are still learning,” Lau said.  “Pole vault alone will have 11 athletes with only 4 having experience.”

Lau points to his coaches which are working hard at finding the right events for each of his athletes.

“Our coaches will spend time with each and every one of them to find how they can best contribute to the team,” Lau said.

The HPA boys return state shot put and discus champion Shane Brostek and Lau feels that he will have another great year.

“Our senior leader is Kayden Haleakala in the pole vault and sprints,” Lau said.  “We expect a few surprises in the hurdles and jumps with our young boys.”

Defending boy’s team champions, Waiakea, return most of their squad from last season which have coaches Mary Jane and Lance Tominaga looking for a repeat.

“We’re expecting our returnees to contribute in their events,” MJ Tominaga said.

The Tominaga’s have high expectations for Mauna Palama-Danielson, throws, Jackson Halford, Ian McQuate and Keoni Rice in the mid to long distance races, Michael Morikawa and Kevin Nicolas in the hurdles and jumps and Colton Austria in sprints.

“We have about 40 athletes on the boy’s side and we expect some of our new additions to be key contributors to this year’s team,” Coach Tominaga said.  “We feel the team will be competitive as we have the depth to field athlete in every event except for pole vault.”

Waiakea has a small girl’s team with 15 and the Tominaga’s agree that they lack the depth of the boy’s squad.

Key individuals for the Warrior girls will come from Kelsie Kobayashi in distance, Haley Rasse, mid distance and Teisha Nacis in sprints.

Around the rest of the league:

KEAAU will field a large squad of 77 athletes, but according to Coach Vicky Chai-Guerpo most are young and have raw talent.

“We have a close knit group of kids who are focused on doing their best,” Chai-Guerpo said.  “Our goal is to be a ‘brotherhood’ caring about each other and if we accomplish this, then a win may follow.”

The Cougars will rely on the experience of a sprint core made up of Jesse Huihui, Damien Packer, and Alexander Engdahl. Teammates Cliff Ericksson, jumps and hurdles; Nelson Enos, pole vault; Talon Ota, jumps and 400; Joey Aquino, high jump; Randi Estrada, sprints; and Deann Nishimura-Thornton at distance events.

HILO with veteran coach Bill McMahon has a good turnout of mostly young girls and he is trying to see how they will develop.

“Our girls will bring back Carmen Garson-Shumway at distance, along with Shina Chung at Pole Vault,” McMahon said.

The Viking boys will see Zack Atagi in the discus and shot.

“Our boys had a good turnout but almost all are new guys so we don’t know what we have yet,” McMahon said.  “We are going to try to be competitive.”

HONOKAA – One of the league’s best distance coaches, Josh Abner, brings with him one of the strongest 1500 and 3K runners on the track in Chase Moniz along with brothers Robert and Tony Conners handling the mid distance. 

“I also have high expectations for our 4×400 meter relay team and sprints with the addition of Dylan Oanadasan, Brooks McVey, and Koa Phenice returning,” Abner said.

Abner also noted that Josh Tobias will join the team, after a fantastic soccer season.

For the Dragon girls Abner has high hopes for Hildhang Adona and Kelly Greenwell in the distance races along with Nahe Lau and Yvonne Daniels in the sprint events.

KAU – has a new coach, but a familiar face on campus, Kapua Lapera returns to her alma mater after graduating and running cross country for the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The Trojans return one of the islands fastest sprinter and jumper in junior Christina Padrigo. 

Marley Stand-Nicolaisen, triple jump and hurdles along with teammate Alika Kaopua, the BIIF triple jump champion will also be a highlight for Kau.

KAMEHAMEHA – Under head coach Kimo Weaver always produces outstanding hurdlers who have gone on to win state titles.  Weaver is a master coach in the hurdles as that is his area of expertise.

The Warriors will carry between 20 and 30 boys and another 20 to 30 girls, according to Weaver.

Outstanding returnees include Kaenen Aukai Akau in the long jump and sprints along with Chelsea Poe in sprints and relays and Alyssa Lehua McGuire in the hurdles, pole vault and relays.

“Our strengths are in the jumps, but we are a young and inexperienced team,” Weaver said. “Our main goal is to simple get better every week and having fun doing it.”

KONAWAENA –  Wildcat coaches Kuulei Saole and Kuulika Taveras return some super star power in Ua Ruedy, the defending state champion in the 300 hurdles and Lita Taomoefalau who placed third in the BIIF throws.

The big question was whether or not basketball great Lia Galderia will compete as she was questionable going into the preseason while she was still working on preparing for college, according to a school source.

Galderia, a muli talented athlete will appear in action on the BIIF track scene, as her presence will add a boost to the Wildcat program according to sources within the BIIF.

The BIIF regular track and field season gets a leaping start this Saturday as West side schools head to Kona with East side running on the Kamehameha Keaau track.

Both venues start with field events at 9 am and running events commencing at 10 am.


March 30, 2012 Posted by | High School Track & Field | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grassroot support growing to save UHH cross country program

Some members of the UHH women’s cross country team

“It is a sad day when UH Hilo cuts the only sport that has a connection to traditional Hawaiian culture (makahiki),” Kamehameha chemistry teacher Joel Truesdell said.

Truesdell is referring to the latest announcement from the Vulcan athletic department to cut both the men’s and women’s cross country programs in order to meet the projected 10 percent budget deficit.

“It shows a lack of sensitivity or awareness to the cultural basis of sport in our Hawaiian community,” Truesdell said.  “All we are left with are imported games.”

Along with being a teacher at the Kamehameha-Keaau campus Truesdell is also the head women’s cross country coach for the Warriors and an advocate for distance running.

The UHH cross country program is a non revenue generating sport and, like most business decisions, found itself at the bottom of the priority list and at the top of the chopping block of UHH Athletic Director Dexter Irvine.

“Our kids are devastated,” UHH cross country coach Jaime Guerpo said.  “I broke the news to them a few days ago and since that time we’ve been looking at ways to try to come up with the $100,000 needed each year to keep us going.”

Guerpo has been coaching the cross country program at UHH since 1999 and has taken a budget cut ever year.

“I feel it’s my duty to keep the program going,” Guerpo said.  “I understand that the administration had to make the cuts to keep the athletic program going and we’ve always made do with what we got and have produced a very successful program.”

Guerpo is even willing to coach the team without compensation if it would help salvage the program.

“I’d give up my pay in a heartbeat if that is what it would take to keep this program going,” he said.  “We’re looking at all sorts of ways to help keep cross country alive at UHH.”

Over the years Guerpo had heavily recruited local athletes from around the state to run on his men’s and women’s teams.

Currently Christian Liberty’s Justin Pang, Keoni and Nick Ucker, Keaau’s Nick Hagemann and Liliana DeSmither, Kau’s Kapua Lapera, Waiakea’s James Imai, and Hilo’s Stefano Barbis are members of the team.

Several of the current and former UHH cross country runners were winners of the Big Island Road Runners scholarship.

“We were all in shock when Coach Jaime broke the news to us a few days ago,” Imai said.  “We’re still hoping we can find a way to keep the programs alive.”

The BIRR, along with the Big Island International Marathon, Honolulu Marathon, and Big Island Running Company have all been contacted to lend their support towards helping to keep running alive at UHH.

These UHH runners have also been highly visible in the community, often found at the finish lines of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation cross country and track and field finish lines as they help give back to the sport in which they love dearly.

Guerpo and his runners have also been strong support/volunteers at Hawai’i Island Special Olympics and numerous County Parks and Recreation track and field meets as they serve as strong role models for our community.

“We also help out with the Big Island Marathon each year by setting up hundreds of cones and barricades along the 26.2 mile course at 3:00 a.m. and then collecting and returning them when the event is over,” Guerpo said.

“The UHH cross country team are not self-promoters, but are contributors in ways that are not always recognized in public forums,” Faith Nance, the cross country representative on the Vulcan Athletic Club said.

“Many of the talented high school runners who choose to remain at home have the opportunity to continue to participate in a sport that can become a lifelong avocation and a strong foundation for a healthy lifestyle,” Nance said.

Dozens of emails poured into the Big Dog’s mail box in support of looking at ways of keeping the cross country program alive at UH Hilo.

 “At least UH Manoa gets it,” Truesdell said.  “They have a full complement of the sports that are traditionally based such as cross country, track and field, swimming and sailing.”  

The UHH athletic department made their decision to cut cross country without getting community input which has many local residents upset because they feel they are stake holders in higher education.

“It seems to me that UH Hilo should reach out to the community before making this decision,” Truesdell said.  “The people here will take care of their own if given the opportunity or challenge.”

Guerpo continues to look over a variety of scenarios to see if something can be salvaged.

Vulcan runners support many local community races

“If we have to give something up then I’d like to see the women’s team saved as this would at least come into Title 9 compliance of gender equity, “Guerpo said.

 If the UHH decision makers were to come to BIIF cross country meet they would see the connections.  Keeping a sport like this will maintain and strengthen ties to the community that are priceless.

“A University’s cross country program provides a valuable benefit not only to the team members, but also to the entire university and surrounding community by inspiring everyone to get more active,” Jason Braswell, owner of the Big Island Running Company said.

“Collegiate cross country is particularly inspirational to middle school and high school students who get to see where their running can lead them,” Braswell said.

With the continued growth of the Big Island International Marathon and BIIF cross county programs the continuation of a university running team would be responding to the interest of a growing segment of our community.

We all hope that Athletic Director Dexter Irvin will reconsider his decision to cut an important sports program and instead become part of the solution in promoting something that has deep seeded roots in our culturally based community.

If anyone in the community would like to help save the UHH cross country program please contact the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com or call 969-7400.

Related link:  https://waynejoseph.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/uhh-athletics-suspends-cross-country-cheerleading-press-release/

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ucker has best collegiate finish during Pac West home meet

Pac West Men's 4 mile race, photo by Brad Balleseros

Keoni Ucker

Home course advantage played a huge role this past Saturday as Keoni Ucker took his distance running to a new level in the Pacific West Conference.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo hosted a 4 mile men’s and 3.7 mile women’s cross country meet on the grounds of the Naniloa Golf Course in Hilo.

Ucker, a graduate of Christian Liberty Academy, surprised the home town crowd by going out with the lead pack during the first mile of the race.

“I was pumped for this race and actually took the lead briefly during the first mile.  I was in a group of three or four runners during the early stages,” he said.

Going into the race Ucker’s best finish in collegiate competition had been a seventh place finish earlier this season, but with family and friends cheering his every step the former CLA star took his running to a higher level.

Eventual winner, Thomas Puzey from Bingham Young University, separated himself from the pack after the first mile and Ucker was left in a battle for second with BYUH’s Justin Royer.

“Royer and I surged back and forth for most of the race as we tried to stay in contact with the lead runner,” Ucker said.

During the final 200 yards with the finish line in sight Royer took a slim lead over Ucker as both men dug deep for the runner up spot.

Royer crossed the finish line in 20:59 with Ucker just three seconds behind.

“I’m really happy with this race and I loved the course.  This is by far the best race I’ve ever had in college,” Ucker said of his third place finish.

Nick Hagemann

Vulcan teammate, Nick Hagemann, finished in 11th place and was the second of six UHH men in the field of 28.

“I went out kinda fast and clocked a 5:09 for my first mile,” Hagemann said.

  Hagemann, a 2008 graduate of Keaau High, matched his previous best Pac West finish and was pleased with his performance.

   “We’ve been having some really hard practices and we still haven’t tapered yet.  I liked this new course better than the old one and I thought we had some pretty fast times.  I think I’ve finally made the adjustment between juggling school, work and running,” Hagemann said.

Thomas Puzey

BYUH’s Thomas Puzey won the race in 20:49 and led his powerful Seasider team to victory over Hawaii Pacific University, UHH and Chaminade.

“This was my second Pac West win and I found the middle miles difficult to maintain my focus,” Puzey said.

Puzey had lots of praise for teammate Matthew Glulden who finished in 12th place saying that Glulden was coming off an eight day rest from injury.

“Thomas usually beats me in races and he always pushes me in practice.  If he’d (Glulden) been in shape today who knows what would of happened,” Puzey said.

The women’s race followed the men and by that time the rain clouds had disappeared and the sun was out with the humidity climbing which made it more challenging for the ladies.

Frida Aspneas

HPU’s Frida Aspnaes wasn’t hampered by the weather conditions and took the lead from start to finish as she methodically distanced herself from the rest of the field winning in a time of 22:14.

“It was difficult to keep up my speed and more difficult to run by myself,” Aspnaes said.

Aspnaes is in her first semester at HPU and moved to Hawaii from Sweden.

“I never ran in high school or college before as I participated in a sport called orienteering in Sweden.  Orienteering is very big in Scandinavia and it accounts for my physical conditioning,” she said.

Vulcan harrier, Kaylene Peric, looked to be in fine form to finish her best race of the season when she ran in a pack with BYUH’s Lacey Krout and Katherine Buxton as the trio fought for second place.

Peric encountered problems during the second half of the race and looked to be in serious trouble before dropping out of the race with about a mile and a half to go.

UHH’s Kirsta Andrew, who has led the team during the entire year, had the Vulcan’s best finish in 7th overall.

Kapua Lapera

Finishing in 17th was Vulcan Kapua Lapera who is a former hurdler for Kau, graduating in 2007.

“I never ran cross country in high school as bowling was during the same season.  I was offered a college scholarship to run track and do hurdles on the mainland, but turned it down,” she said.

Last season Lapera was invited to work out with the Vulcan women and this year she decided to give cross country a try.

“I wanted to come out and have fun with running and I’m still trying to convert from a sprinter to a distance runner,” Lapera said.

Lapera had been out during the week due to illness, but wanted to run on Saturday to help as a scoring team.

In cross country place scores are given to the first five members of the team to cross the finish line.  As it turned out the lady Vulcan’s only had four finishers and did not qualify for team scoring.

Related links:  https://waynejoseph.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/pacific-west-confrence-results/


October 10, 2010 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UHH cross country to host Pac West Meet at Naniloa Golf Course

start of Pac West men’s race

Play on the Naniloa Golf Course will be suspended for 90 minutes on Saturday while the University of Hawaii at Hilo cross country teams run loops around the fairways.

UHH plays host to a Pacific West Conference Invitational Meet with harriers from Bingham Young-Hawaii, Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific University weave their way around the golf courses manicured grounds.

“As soon as I found out that there was a new golf course manager and that the Naniloa was a sponsor I gave it a shot and asked if we could host a meet on their course,” UHH Coach Jaime Guerpo said.

Guerpo jumped at the chance of using the golf course as a new venue for his UHH team and designed a spectator friendly course that has runners passing by the clubhouse and driving range.

“This is a great place to hold a cross country meet,” Guerpo said.  “We will be able to see more of the race with the runners going pass us for a mile in one direction and then passing through again, going in the opposite direction.”

Guerpo is also happy that none of the course runs on asphalt or crosses roads.

“We’re able to save money because we don’t need to rent a cop for traffic as the entire event is run on the golf course.  It is also safer in that there is no traffic and it is truly a cross country course,” he said.

Keoni Ucker

Showcasing the men’s field will be a solid BYUH team that has dominated the Pac West during the season.

“BYUH has three top men that are always leading the pack,” Guerpo said.

Thomas Puzey, Mathew Gulden and Justin Roger lead the Seasiders which won the Chaminade Invitational by 58 points over second place Alaska Fairbanks.

The Vulcan’s Keoni Ucker has been the top gun during the season breaking into the top 10 in each of his Pac West meets which included a seventh place finish at Chaminade the previous week.

Ucker, a former state track & field champion from Christian Liberty Academy, came into his own this season and has developed into a formidable competitor.

“I like the new course and it seems like it will be flat with fast times,” Ucker said.  “The race starts at the driving range and we do a couple of loops around the perimeter of the golf course, each time passing by the driving range which will give spectators a good opportunity to Csee us run.”

Ucker’s best finish this season has been fifth place overall when he ran in the Big Wave Invitational hosted by UH Manoa and when you remove an unattached runner from that race he finish fourth among Pac West competitors.

“I’m hoping to stay within the top five this week as this is our home course and we will have an advantage.  I feel more energized overall and I’m looking forward to doing well,” Ucker said.

James Imai

The Vulcan seven man squad is loaded with Big Island talent which includes Justin Pang, CLA; Nick Hagemann, Keaau; and James Imai, Waiakea.

Imai, a 2009 graduate, is in his first year of collegiate competition and is excited about running on the new course.

“It is very challenging with great competition,” Imai said of running for the Vulcan’s.  “We’ve had practice runs on the golf course twice and it should be a lot of fun this Saturday.  Running for UH Hilo is the best choice I’ve ever made.”

For the women it has been all Frida Aspnaes from HPU dominating the Pac West field.  UHH’s Krista Andrew remains the top runner for the Vulcan’s, but has had difficulty being consistent.

BYUH women dominate the team scoring as they have been able to get a solid core of five runners into the finish before any other squad.

Vulcan Women

Out of the five women racing for the Vulcan’s two are from the Big Island in Liliana Desmither, Hilo; and Kapua Lapera, Kau.

“Team wise we are not as strong as in years past, but this group of kids work just as hard as any team that I have coached.  I believe that we will fare well on Saturday,” Coach Guerpo said.

“We’d like to see people come out and support collegiate distance running.  I’d advise people who wanted to watch to go to the club house or driving range because those areas will give the best views,” Guerpo said.

The men will start at 8 am with a 4 mile race and the women will follow with a 6K (3.7 miles) according to Guerpo. 

“Collegiate men at this level usually race at 5 miles or 8 km and junior college runners will do 4 miles, but I decided to host this distance. The women in our conference will either race at the 5 or 6 km distance,” Guerpo said. 

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vulcan Harriers to Open Season at BYU

Leading the Vulcan runners is Kirsta Andrew

A dozen Vulcan cross-country runners will test their legs this Saturday when the Pacific West Conference kicks off their season with a meet at Brigham Young University in Laie on Oahu.

Seven home grown Big Island harriers anchor a solid five women and seven men Vulcan squad into the 2010 fall cross-country season.

“Our men should be competitive in the PacWest Conference,” veteran Vulcan coach Jaime Guerpo said.  “Our women should be competitive too as both squads are hard working, but the ladies are lacking in race experience.”

Leading the way for the men is team captain Keoni Ucker a former prep star with Christian Liberty Academy in Keaau.

“I’m really excited about our first meet,” Ucker said.  “I’m hoping to be in the top five, but you never know what to expect competition wise.”

Ucker began the preseason by winning the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame 5K on August 22, running away from the rest of his teammates and the rest of the field.

“I think I’m prepared, more so than in past years.  I’ve done a long run each week of one and a half hours and I’m now up to doing two hour runs,” Ucker said.

In his senior year at CLA, 2007, Ucker won the state championship in the 1500 meter race and there was a lot of expectations placed upon him after he signed with the Vulcan’s.

“I tend to put too much pressure on myself and I stress out,” Ucker said. “I am trying to learn to relax more while running my hardest in each and every race.”

Hawaii Pacific University and BYU-Hawaii are the two teams to beat this season in the PacWest, according to Guerpo.

Joining Ucker is Nick Hagemann, Keaau; James Imai, Waiakea; Justin Pang, CLA; Jerry Nourrie, Honokaa; Paul Mauser, Oregon; and Zach Johnson from Wisconsin.

Hagemann is considered the number two runner on the team and like Ucker has stepped up his workouts by incorporating more hills and longer runs.

“I had an off year last year as I suffered through a nagging injury,” Hagemann said.  “I feel better prepared for this season and have set my goals on getting into the top ten at PacWest.”

During his senior year at Keaau, 2008, Hagemann became the Big Island Interscholastic Federation 1500 meter champion and was fourth in the state for that event.

“I like running on the colligate level and have learned to practice good time management so that I can juggle school, studying, work and practice,” he said. 

“The real heavy team favorites in the PacWest is the Academy of Arts from San Francisco who have 12 Kenyans running on their team.  Four of those runners were in the top of the PacWest last season,” Guerpo said.

The girl’s squad is led by two time all-PacWest standout, Kirsta Andrew who is originally from California. Joining Andrew will be Lilianna Desmither from Hilo, Kapua Lapera, Kau; Rachel Clute, Castle, and newcomer Kaylene Peric a UHH tennis player who is trying her hand at cross-country.

Guerpo believes that two times defending conference champion, BYU-Hawaii has the inside track to repeating.  “BYU has experience on their side and HPU has added Maui high school champion, Hailey Grossman, to their roster which will make them even stronger,” Coach Guerpo said.

The Vulcan’s have a two time champion of their own in Andrew who won all-PacWest honors for her athletic ability and her classroom skills.

Andrew was a first team all-PacWest selection as a freshman and on the second team during her sophomore year.  “I had an off year last year and have set my goal at making the first team this year,” Andrew said.

Besides her athletic skills Andrew carries a 3.79 cumulative average in the classroom. 

“My off season training included more intense tempo runs with some friends from my home town in California,” Andrew said.  “I think I’m ready for Saturday’s season opener and with the addition of Kaylene (Peric) we should be very competitive.”

Since joining the Vulcan squad as a walk on two weeks ago Peric has been able to run with Andrew during practice sessions, according to Guerpo.

“Kaylene played tennis for UH Hilo last season and became a surprise walk on for us this season,” Guerpo said.  “She’s going to be right up there with Kirsta as she’s already proven herself at a fun run in Hilo a few weeks ago.”

“Krista (Andrew) is our women’s team captain and is definitely a leader for our team,” Guerpo said.  “We need her experience and leadership to help the other ladies on the team.”

The addition of Rachel Clute, a freshman, is a big question mark for the team as she comes to the Vulcan’s better known for her soccer skills than her running ability.

“Rachel has never run cross country and comes to us with an extensive soccer background,” Guerpo said.  “I think she will develop into a good runner as she gains experience.”

The cards will all unfold this Saturday when UHH takes their two teams to Oahu for the season opener. 

September 10, 2010 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments