KAILUA-KONA — It was a sunny day on the west side of the Big Island on Saturday — something the east side schools noticed immediately as they traveled over to take part in the first all-school BIIF paddling regatta of the season.
The water might have been a little choppy in Kailua Bay, but the east side crews didn’t seem to mind. They were just happy to finally compete after their first two meets of the season were canceled due to the inclement weather around Hilo Bay.
“We found it almost funny that every week they kept canceling, but it was completely understandable. The conditions were crazy” said Keaau head coach Anna Kaaua. “It was nice to finally see some sunshine, swim in clean water and let the kids actually experience racing.”
For the Cougars, the experience was needed. The team has a lot of new paddlers that have never competed before, according to Kaaua.
“You can’t just get that same racing experience at practice. There is nothing like it,” she added. “We were excited to compete and the kids were too.”
Keaau managed to pick up a victory during race day as well, with a crew edging out Kamehameha by one second in the varsity girls race with a time of 4 minutes and 57 seconds. The Cougars also managed a pair of second place finishes in varsity boys and varsity mixed race.
“We were able to learn where we are at and what what we need to work on,” Kaaua said. “The kids’ attitudes were great and that was really important.”
West side schools had a slight advantage on their east side counterparts during Saturday’s race because they were able to hold two previous meets, though points were not accumulated since the east side schools were not able to race.
Westside schools won four of the six races, taking first place in JV girls (Ehunui, 2:07), JV boys (Konawaena, 1:50), JV mix (Konawaena, 2:00) and varsity mix (Kealakehe, 4:27). Waiakea picked up the victory in the varsity boys race with a time of 4:15.
“It is a bummer that the east side schools did not have the ability to race in Hilo,” said Parker head coach Derek Park. “They were given the opportunity to come over here last week, but only Waiakea was able to make it. It was nice to see everyone today.”
Parker started off the season well, but the school was without five varsity paddlers during Saturday’s regatta. The Bulls’ best performance came in the varsity mixed race, with the crew finishing in a time of 4:35.
“Considering we were shorthanded, I thought we did really well,” Park said. “We were plugging and playing with different crew combinations all week.”
For Park, the best part about Saturday’s meet was finally being able to see how his team stacked up against all the schools in the BIIF.
“For the kids, it is really nice for them to see how their hard work has paid off,” Park said. “It is more difficult to do that when you only race west or east.”
The next BIIF regatta will come after the Christmas break. All schools will meet at Hilo Bay on Jan. 6. The schools will be back at Kailua Bay on Jan. 13 before the BIIF Championships on Jan. 20. There is a 10 a.m. start time for all three regattas.