Kamehameha sophomore Kanani Araki had a refreshing yet simple way to reach a high mark in her newest sport.
“I just kind of think about all the good things in my life and they kind of propel me to shoot good,” Araki said Saturday. “If I have anything negative, I just think about my family and friends, all the positives.”
And thanks to those good vibes, air riflery is starting to usher in all kinds of favorable feelings.
Araki’s score of 273 at Waiakea’s gym in the third BIIF meet was a season-high on the girls side, making her the shooter to watch, and – maybe, just maybe – the Warriors the team to beat.
“She is a driven individual,” coach Kamehameha coach Tracy Aruga said. “She is dedicated at practice, that’s what sets her apart.”
Araki also participates in swimming and track, and like many in air riflery, she didn’t take up the sport until she reached high school.
“My dad is a big hunter, and he kind of started me with shooting,” she said. “Once I get into a sport, I focus all my energy into it.”
Araki boasts a league-best 267.3 average, and she’s one of seven strong returning shooters for Kamehameha – Lehua Waianuhea has been consistent, averaging 261.3, and she’s followed by McKenna Hewitt (255) and Nahulu Carvalho (253.7).
“I think we’re more balanced (this season), and it kind of makes us more motivated and gives us more of reason to shoot,” Araki said.
Aruga’s goal is to have all seven qualify for states, and together they have a chance to deliver the program’s first BIIF team title. The girls team has posted the highest score all three times out, though Waiakea narrowed the gap to just two points Saturday behind Kiani Aburamen’s 271.
“We’re taking all the matches and looking at it as small victories,” Aruga said. “We like to see our school come out on top and label it as a small victory.”
Kamehameha’s boys finally broke through to win the BIIF title last season, but Waiakea’s girls have yet to miss the mark.
“I believe everyone our team knows that,” Aruga said.
They can’t help but notice.
“I believe they read about it in the paper,” Aruga said.
One season after making headlines, the Kamehameha’s boys return five shooters – defending champion Devez Aniol, Nicholas Souza, La’iku Paleka, Dylan Rosehill and Johnathan Ching – and freshmen are being mixed into the rotation as well.
Aruga said 47 percent of his shooters are newcomers.
While the rival Warriors share a stranglehold on success in the sport, Hilo High’s Shayden Kang’s 265.7 average is just a shade below that of Aniol and Waiakea’s Skylar Soultz.
“It’s between (those three),” Aruga said.
He’s midway through his fourth season on the job, and he once again has Kamehameha on equal footing with Waiakea, one of the state’s best programs.
“It was a goal of mine to establish a championship program,” Aruga said. “Four years ago I attended a (National Rifle Association) coach course taught by Mr. Paul Davis, and he provided guidance and recommendations on developing a successful program. We’re beginning to see fruition from applying foundational elements.”
Editor’s note: Saturday’s results are available at www.hawaiitribune-herald.com and will appear in Friday’s edition.