Hawaii Preparatory Academy and Keaau both won by wide margins in perfect canoe paddling conditions on Saturday at Hilo Bay, which featured little wind, flat water and an opportunity for improvement.
Ka Makani pulled a double gold with their boys and mixed crew while the Cougars took the girls race at a BIIF regatta with the BIIF championship around the corner in a week.
HPA’s unbeaten crew of Ford Stallsmith, Kala Thurston, Bennet Varney, Hunter Ellis, Sheldon Aribal, Jake Honl-Deguair turned the half-mile race into a dragstrip and blazed to a time of 3:46.69, a sizable distance ahead of Kamehameha’s 3:56.07.
Then it was Keaau’s turn and its crew of Lori Liu, Tiara Halma, Makalei Watson, Liana Prudholm, Kyla Fabiani, Kiana Vallente clocked in at 4:26.71, a runaway margin ahead of Kealakehe’s 4:34.59.
Ka Makani’s mixed crew of Thurston, Megan Chong, Ellis, Jacquie Stark, Annika Berezney, and Honl-Deguair closed the day with another blowout win in 4:03.34, edging Keaau’s 4:10.09.
It looks more likely than not that no school will sweep all three titles at the BIIF championships, an elusive streak running 17 years long. Kailua Pier will host the next regatta before the BIIF championships.
One reason is depth. With heats, there’s at least one race before the BIIF title event. The solution is a little bit of juggling to find combinations that can get the job done.
“The boys did well, and the mixed did awesome,” HPA coach Mesepa Tanoai said. “We brought some up from the JV to get a little stronger in the final.”
The HPA boys were given workout assignments during the winter break. It also helped that most of them are surfers. That activity maintained their cardio.
Honl-Deguair has the best view as the steersman and helps coach Tanoai in deciding lineups. Honl-Deguair can see all the things that make a canoe glide across the water: the power, timing, and changeovers.
On the changeovers, Tanoai emphasizes to his paddlers to take a powerful full stroke, instead of a half paddle. Throw in the crew’s superb timing, where everyone’s paddle hits the water at the same time, and that makes HPA close to unbeatable.
The key is to get the girls crew up to speed. There’s one more regatta as a tuneup. The crew was seventh, or last place.
“Keaau is super strong, Kamehameha is tough and Kealakehe did well last week in Kona,” Tanoai said. “If the girls can put it together, we can be up there. We’ve got one more week to figure it out.”
Sometimes, determination is the best trump card.
The Cougars are the defending BIIF girls champion and looked fired up.
“That was a great showing by the girls,” Keaau coach Grant Kaaua said. “They worked hard over the break. The finally looked like our girls. They had that look in their eyes they were going to get it done.”
Like HPA, the Cougars employ a lot of juggling.
Stroker Lori Liu has given the crew a spark. Keaau had smooth flow because of their timing and teamwork and powered out of turn. Hunter Prieto and Kiana Vallente share time as the steersman.
“It pushes both of them,” Kaaua said. “We’re still trying to find the best combination for the whole team.”
Then the Keaau coach pointed out what makes the HPA boys crew so tough.
“HPA looks good,” he said. “They’ll compete at states. That’s due to all their hard work. I’ve seen them paddle all summer long.”
1. HPA (Ford Stallsmith, Kala Thurston, Bennet Varney, Hunter Ellis, Sheldon Aribal, Jake Honl-Deguair), 3:46.69; 2. Kamehameha, 3:56.07; 3. Keaau, 3:56.38; 4. Waiakea, 4:05.19; 5. Parker, 4:05.61; 6. Kealakehe, 4:06.08; 7. Hilo, 4:13.93; 8. Konawaena, 4:29.92.
1. Keaau (Lori Liu, Tiara Halma, Makalei Watson, Liana Prudholm, Kyla Fabiani, Kiana Vallente), 4:26.71; 2. Kealakehe, 4:34.59; 3. Kamehameha, 4:35.26; 4. Ehunuikaimalino, 4:36.93; 5. Konawaena, 4:40.02; 6. Parker, 4:46.48; 7. HPA, 5:06.23.
1. HPA (Kala Thurston, Megan Chong, Hunter Ellis, Jacquie Stark, Annika Berezney, Jake Honl-Deguair), 4:03.34; 2. Keaau, 4:10.09; 3. Konawaena, 4:11.67; 4. Kamehameha, 4:15.31; 5. Parker, 4:15.87; 6. Kealakehe, 4:16.99; 7. Waiakea, 4:24.92; 8. Hilo, 4:43.89.
1. Kamehameha, 1:52.62; 2. Keaau, 1:54.08; 3. HPA, 1:54.81.
1. Kealakehe, 2:05.95; 2. Waiakea, 2:06.65; 3. Keaau, 2:07.31; 4. HPA, 2:08.79; 5. Kamehameha, 2:10.38; 6. Parker, 2:15.42.
1. Keaau, 1:55.16; 2. Kamehameha, 1:56.56; 3. Kealakehe, 1:57.10; 4. HPA, 2:00.44.