Paddling: HPA varsity boys continue to dominate heading into BIIF championships

  • Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today
    The Keaau varsity girls crew places first in a BIIF regatta on Saturday at Kailua Bay in Kailua-Kona.
  • Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today
    The Hawaii Prep varsity boys crew competes during a BIIF regatta at Kailua Bay on Saturday in Kailua-Kona.

KAILUA-KONA — The plan has been executed to near perfection by the Hawaii Preparatory Academy boys varsity paddling crew.

Led by Jake Honl-DeGuair, Kala Thurston and Hunter Ellis, Hawaii Prep swept all four regular season meets this year and are the No. 1 seed heading into the BIIF championships next week at Hilo Bay.

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“We now have the priority pick for lanes and that is what we were looking for,” said Ka Makani head coach Mesepa Tanoai. “It gives us a bye leading into the quarterfinals and semifinals, and, even if we somehow get disqualified next week I think we would still have the first pick.”

The lone hiccup in Hawaii Prep’s season was the loss of Sheldon Aribal. The multisport athlete, who also plays football and baseball for Ka Makani, suffered a broken collarbone in a recent motorcycle accident.

“It has been hectic since we lost one of our boys to an accident,” Honl-DeGuair said. “But we had a little peace of mind knowing we had a couple of people we were thinking of bringing up.”

Tanoai has rotated nearly 10 paddlers into the mix for the varsity boys. He also rotates guys from the varsity boys to the varsity mixed as he attempts to avoid doubling up his younger paddlers in a meet. The process has been effective and the Hawaii Prep varsity mixed crew has won three of four races this season.

“We have a lot of young paddlers, all freshmen and sophomores, but they are all hungry and want to be apart of what is happening,” Tanoai said. “We are deep and the boys have a good chemistry. It is nice that we can accommodate mixed varsity and stay strong without jeopardizing younger guys doing two events.”

The strength of the youth of Ka Makani’s program was on display on Saturday in the final meet of the regular season at Kailua Bay, as was the veteran leadership by Honl DeGuair, Thurston and Ellis.

The Hawaii Prep varsity boys crew dominated the field in a time of 3 minutes and 47.37 seconds. Waiakea finished a distant second at 3:56.37, while Kamehameha rounded out the top three in a time of 3:56.90 in a close race for runner-up.

For Honl-DeGuair, this season is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last four years. The senior steersman started as a stroker as a freshman and continued to fill that seat through his sophomore season. However, when the crew needed a steersman during his junior season, Honl-DeGuair stepped up.

“Jake opted to take on the steering position and he has only gotten better and better,” Tanoai said.

“I love it,” Honl-DeGuair added. “It keeps me more engaged and gives me more to do than just paddle.”

Filling out the rest of the crew for Ka Makani’s most recent varsity boys win were Bennett Varney, Ford Stallsmith and Kama Liu.

Hawaii Prep also claimed the mixed win at Kailua Bay in a time of 4:08.65. In an extremely close race, Keaau finished second at 4:08.72 and Parker placed third at 4:08.85.

Keaau earls varsity girls win again

The Cougars claimed their third win in four races in the varsity girls field. The crew of Lori Aiu, Tiara Halama, Makalei Watson, Liana Prudholm, Kyla Fabiani, Kiana Vallente and alternate Hunter Pricto placed first in a time of 4:28.70. Rounding out the top three were Kealakehe (4:31.32) and Parker (4:39.80).

“We basically had everyone returning from last year’s championship crew,” Keaau head coach Grant Ka’aua said. “All we needed to replace was the steersman and that was not as automatic as I was hoping it would be.”

Taking over the steersman duty for the team this year is the tandem of Vallente and Pricto. Pricto was a stroker on last year’s championship crew.

As for the crew’s time, Ka’aua believes the varsity girls will be competitive at states.

“The times are fast on the Big Island. They comparable to the state,” Ka’aua said. “I think whoever goes on to represent the Big Island this year will compete.”

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Rest of the field

Keaau won the JV girls race in a time of 2:14.79. Kamehameha took first in JV mixed with a time of 2:06.11. After having to redo the JV boys race due to interference, Kamehameha came out on top with a time of 1:55.39.

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