WAIMEA – She doesn’t always run with overwhelming pace, but on this day Honokaa’s Sophia Cash felt an extra kick. She went out fast, pushed hard and didn’t let up, never giving anyone else a chance.
After crossing the finish line Friday, Cash was no less busy than during her run.
Competitors hugged her, strangers congratulated her, many wanted to take their picture with her and random kids gave her candy.
It felt like a coronation, and it was.
“I was not expecting this,” Cash said after recording a personal best for Hawaii Prep’s campus. “I don’t know what got into me.”
That one’s simple.
You’re Sophia Cash, the first four-time champion in BIIF cross-country history.
“I never really know what I’m going to do until it comes to the race, it’s always so different,” Cash said after finishing the the 5K in 21 minutes, 52.33 seconds. “I’m not used to being that far (ahead), but when it comes to BIIFs, I just do it. I don’t know why, but I just do it.”
And nobody’s done it better on the Big Island in a competition that dates back to 1972.
As a freshman she was an upstart, leaving watchers at the finish line wondering who had just crossed first. As a sophomore, she seemed to hang back all season, and fought off fears of a slump before striking at BIIFs. Cash excelled more as a front-runner as an upperclassmen, using her long stride to strike down any pressure and nerves that crept up.
“I guess it shows no matter what the circumstances are, you can achieve your goals if your really, really work at it,” she said.
Kealakehe sophomore Alec Ankrum accomplished a notable feat as well, capping a perfect season with his first championship, crossing in a Waimea PR of 18:22.95.
In the team races, a revamped Waiakea’s boys squad earned its fourth consecutive title, while Hilo’s girls repeated with five non-seniors in their top seven. Kamehameha bagged two Division II titles.
Ankrum had made it a goal to win all six regular season meets, but when it really mattered, he said, “I just entered like any other race. I didn’t want to get too focused on the scheme of things. Just doing my best and looking at the (big) picture when it’s all done.”
Ankrum still has a chance to join the list of three-time BIIF champions: Honokaa alum Tia Greenwell (2007-09), Hawaii Prep’s Keri Ogden (2003, 04, 06) and Maile Wall (1974-76), as well as Ka Makani’s Chris Carswell, who tied for first in 1982.
The thought of towering above that group made this race different that any other for usually easy-going Cash.
“I came in so nervous, so much was on the line,” she said. “Everyone in my school, they knew today was the day, and they were telling me good luck.”
Here’s a new runner’s secret: Cash said she and her teammates passed around a peppermint tea bag and sniffed it to calm their nerves.
“Adrenaline carried me more this time,” she said, crediting parents Frank and Lisa for their support. “Usually I experience difficulty running, and this time it was different. I just felt so relaxed. It’s amazing.
“When I crossed the finish line I just wanted to cry. I saw my teammates running toward me. My team is so close, we’re like a second family.”
Kealakehe junior Leann Hamilton won both regular-season races at HPA, but she finished more than 42 seconds back in second, and Makua Lani’s Tia Lurbiecki was third. The Lions junior finished second in 2017 and third as a freshman.
Among those to come and congratulate Cash was Kealakehe coach Patrick Bradley. He hoped to bring home a double championship, but Cash dashed that dream early.
“I told Leann to try to keep contact, but she couldn’t keep it,” Bradley told Cash. “You pushed that second mile, and that’s usually where we rest to push to that last mile, but you were 100 yards ahead and it didn’t matter.”
Honokaa coach Jeri Moniz stood nearby and was practically speechless.
“She’s just awesome,” Moniz said. “She works so hard, what can you say.”
Led by senior Eric Cabais-Fernandez, the defending champion in third, Waiakea placed four runners in the top 10 and cruised past second-place Kealakehe for another team title.
“What makes it special is we lost four (from last year),” co-coach Mary Jane Tominaga said. “They were all impressive and they understood that it was going to be a stretch and this is what they wanted, to make it four in a row, especially for Eric.”
Elijah Carigon was fourth, Deylan Okinaka and Kederang Ueda were ninth and 10th, respectively, and Magnus Namohala-Roloos was no less important as the fifth and final team-scorer in 16th. Dylan Harada-Joaquin and Ayrton Takane also were in the top 30.
“Magnus was the (key),” Tominaga said. “He was the one who really pushed through to really seal it.”
Hilo girls Bill McMahon coach wasn’t going to single out any of his runners.
“They all did what they they train to do everyday,” he said.
Cloud Rodin, Teijah Rosas and Phoebie Wyatt occupied spots 7-9, Venus Rodin was 12th and Alexia Palafox 17th. Sam Marrack gave Hilo a sixth finisher in the top 20, relegating Kealakehe to second.
McMahon didn’t mind singling out his girls group as a whole.
“They love each other,” he said. “That’s what’s different about this whole girls team.”
Vikings sophomore John Marrack finished second, just like he did in every race he entered this season, never able to catch Ankrum.
“John ran the best race he possibly could,” McMahon said. “Alec is a fantastic runner, he’s a class act. You know what, John was a class act, too.”
Watching those two battle it out should be fun to watch the next two seasons – not to mention at the HHSAA championships Oct. 27 on Oahu – and Ankrum came into his own as a sophomore after often starting too fast and fading during races as a freshman.
“Everything went according to plan,”Ankrum said. “I wanted to surge and get a little lead and build, and on the hill I wanted to strengthen that lead, so no one could challenge me down stretch.”
After the race, he saw a Konawaena runner fall to the ground in anguish, so he brought his friend water, helped him to the ground and helped him walk for a while.
Ankrum noted he was about 30 seconds off the course record.
‘That’s something I’ll be aiming for,” he said. “I have two more years. It’s been awesome. I’m just happy to be here.”
It was Cash’s day for sure, but Ankrum had a heck of a time.