BIIF track and field: Fast times, rarefied air at Waiakea High

  • JARED FUJISAKI photo Hilo's Mela Vaka reached 127 feet in the shot put Saturday at Waiakea, ranking her No. 2 in Hawaii this season.
  • JARED FUJISAKI photo Hilo's Kovee Rivera leaped 43 feet, 6.25 inches in the triple jump, the top distance in the state this season.
  • JARED FUJISAKI photo Kamehameha's incomparable duo: Saydee Aganus, left, and Chenoa Frederick.

Those unfamiliar with track and field might surmise that distance running and pole vaulting are incompatible, that they sit on the opposite ends of the athletic spectrum.

To that, Waiakea junior Eric Cabais-Fernandez has two words: you’re right.

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“They don’t mix at all,” Fernandez said Saturday while taking a breather after a hard day’s work. “Two different muscles.”

However, thanks to one common link, his work ethic, that hasn’t stopped Cabais-Fernandez from excelling at both endeavors.

Cabais-Fernandez won his first BIIF cross-country title in October, then he spent the winter getting ready for the track and field season. On Saturday, the second-year pole vaulter cleared 14 feet, 6 inches, a personal record, and good enough for No. 2 in Hawaii so far this season.

By way of comparison, the winning effort at the 2017 BIIF championships was 12-6, and no other athlete at Saturday’s meet, the third of the league season, reached higher than 11-0.

To some of his teammates, Cabais-Fernandez is a bit of a freak of nature.

“I can say for Eric, he’s super committed and he’s a big motivator,” said junior Jasmine Lewis, who won the girls pole vault at 9-6.

Cabais-Fernandez started competing in the event on a whim after a Warriors coach recruited Magnus Namohala-Roloos.

“Magnus said if you do it, I’ll do it,” Cabais-Fernandez said. “I said OK. He never ended up doing it, but I stuck around.”

While he came up short in a bid at 14-8, Lewis missed on attempt to set a stadium record at 9-7.

The Warriors posted four finishers in the top six and Lewis’ victory was one of three on the day for the Waiakea girls, who scored a meet-high 128 points, 12 more than Hilo. JoryAnne Cabalse claimed the long jump (14-11) and the girls 1,600-meter team aced the rest of the field in 4:22.98, which is just outside of a top-five time in the state.

“There is a big difference from last year,” Lewis said of the Warriors. “More commitment.”

‘Riders rising

Justyce Kahunahana-Simms appeared to lose steam as he ran the first leg for Kealakehe in 1,600 relay, the final event of the day, but it came with a good excuse.

Kahunahana-Simms had a long and productive morning/afternoon, winning three individual events (both hurdles and the long jump), and he was the catalyst for the Waveriders’ highlight of the day, a victory in the 400 relay. Their time of 43.92 just missed a school record, but it trumped the 44.28 that Konawaena – which competed on Oahu on Saturday – ran two weeks ago at Kamehameha.

“I hope the boys realize this is us, we can actually win BIIFs,” Kahunahana-Simms said. “There is so much more we can do.”

Kealakehe planned to debut the team of Kahunahana-Simms, Isaiah Kemp – who won the 200 – Bryton Lewi (second in the 100) and Calvin McHone-Todd last week at Hawaii Prep, but the meet was cancelled by inclement weather.

“We were ready last week, and we had to wait a whole week, and it was worth the wait, ” coach Duke Hartfield said.

Kahunahana-Simms is 6 for 6 in the hurdles this season after winning the 300 at BIIFs last season.

“In the 110, I had a transportation problem, so I missed it,” Kahunahana-Simms.

One opportunity he didn’t let get away was a chance to compete in Australia last July, an experience he called an eye-opener.

“It was super good for me,” he said. “I’m a BIIF champion, and my mentality was that I’m already good. But as soon as I got there, I’m just another runner.

“I realized that I really need to train for this if I want to take it seriously.”

At Waiakea, he PR’d in the 300 (41.82) and in long jump (20-2) and he took third in the triple jump, providing one of the pillars for a Kealakehe team that is deeper than many of its predecessors.

Boosted by 30 freshman, Kealakehe brought 64 competitors, boys and girls, to the meet.

“We’ve been big, but this is by far the biggest crew that stuck around this long,” Hartfield said.

On the boys side, Kainoa Raymond won the 400 and distance runner Alec Ankrum posted a pair of second-place finishes for a well-rounded boys unit capable of covering all the events.

Konawaen was second in the state last season and entered 2018 as the presumptive BIIF favorite, but Hilo coach Bill McMahon called the Waveriders “sneaky good.”

Hartfield hasn’t filled in all the blanks yet, but he thinks the pieces are there to be set in place.

“We have the potential to score in every event,” he said.

Hilo highlights

Hilo senior Kovee Rivera set a new state 2018 standard in the triple jump, leaping a PR of 43-6.25.

“He’s working really hard and he’s positive,” McMahon said, “I would not be surprised to see him improve it at all.”

The same goes for his girls throwers, a BIIF juggernaut.

In the discus, Mele Vaka and Leona Toledo recorded PR throws of 127-00 and 125-1, respectively, distances that rank second and third in the state. The two flip flopped in finishing 1-2 in the shot put.

“The reason that they are throwing well is because they are not nervous and they are relaxed,” McMahon said.

Kamehameha’s’s Taylor Sullivan, who didn’t compete Saturday, is a top contender as well, but otherwise the Vikings throwers figure to dominate the podium at BIIFs.

They hold five of the top 25 state distances in the shot put and four of the top 16 in the discus.

“All of the big, strong kids, who might not otherwise see themselves doing sports, they’re attracted to this and and the love it,” McMahon said. “It’s super for positive self-esteem.”

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He also had a nominee for most improved/most inspirational athlete of the week: sophomore Ella Kush bested her previous mark by almost 4 feet in finishing third in the triple jump (32-04.75).

“Others see that she is working hard and it’s paying off, so they’ll know they need to start doing that, too,” McMahon said.

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