The Scene: Off the beaten trail in Ka’u, a rugged course awaits

  • Photo by courtesy O' Ka'u Kakou Patrick Stover won't be back to defend his title at the Ka'u Coffee Trail Run.

With only a handful of years in the rearview mirror, it’s been a short but almost neon-style history for the Ka’u Coffee Trail Run, scheduled for its sixth renewal Saturday a little after daybreak, when more than 250 trail runners will take off in Pahala on an adventurous run popular for two reasons.

“We think it’s probably the toughest trail run around here,” said race director Jay Starbird, “because that’s what people keep telling us. We were looking for a kind of niche market to build on and I think we found it, but the other thing is, I doubt you can find a more scenic run up the mountain, with some vistas you just don’t see, and you can’t see them any other time, because so much of it is private land, not open other than for this.”

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By midweek, the Ka’u Coffee Trail Run, which includes a half-marathon, 10K and 5K, had surpassed 250 entrants, expecting the usual 20 or so late registrations prior to the start of the race.

This is the only run Starbird owns and he has no plans to expand his empire.

“I barely have the time to do everything we need to do to keep this going,” he said. “We spend eight months planning this, our first planning meeting was last February; we learned to do it right you have to get everything in order and plan for contingencies, people falling out or moving or whatever.

“For instance, we have 13 aid stations for the half-marathon (13.1 miles), and that means each one needs to be staffed with volunteers who know what they’re doing and each station has a HAM operator so we can communicate if there are any issues, but that requires 13 HAM operators willing to give up their time to be of help to us.

“It’s a lot of stuff you have to get in order to pull one of these off,” he said.

Patrick Stover, one of the familiar faces of Big Island trail runners, won the half-marathon last year but won’t be recording back-to-back wins.

Working with the cross-country team at Konawaena High School these days, Stover’s training has been impacted by the time he’s spending teaching and coaching, not that he’s complaining.

“It’s really good to be working with this group,” Stover said, “It makes me feel good to try to give a little back to the trail runners out there.”

But for a few months this time of year, his personal schedule is altered.

“I’m not ready to try to win it again this year,” Stover said. “I’m just going to try to enjoy the run and have fun, but, for sure, this is the toughest trail run on this island, I mean how many others have an upgrade like this one?

“It’s very pretty though,” he said, “I’ll try to enjoy the beauty.”

Stover is readjusting his training schedule and plans to be back at it in the 100 Percent Kona Coffee Marathon and Half marathon Nov. 9, and he hopes to enter the Hilo marathon next year.

Be like Curtis

You can help a lot of people just by doing something you like to do.

That might be the subtext for local official Curtis Chong, who was honored last week by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association when the group recognized him as the male Outstanding Sports Volunteer — along with female recipient Loke Huddy — for his continuing efforts in the community.

Chong spent a couple of decades serving as director of Little League District 4 (County of Hawaii), and is legal counsel for the BIIF, a process in which he is at the very end of the line for complaints from parents, coaches or whoever it may be.

“There’s a whole process set up and fortunately, pretty much everything gets decided before it comes to me,” Chong said, “and that’s a good thing.”

Complaints go through coaches, school athletic directors, the BIIF executive board and the Appeals Board before they demand his action. The number of cases he has had to deal with in the last 20 years, he said, could be counted on one hand.

But from AYSO refereeing, to doing the public address at Hilo High School football, baseball and basketball games, Chong has given more free hours of his time than he could begin to count.

“I was trained by some good people, some great people,” he said, “starting with Royden Okunami, my mentor. It gets in your blood, you want to help out.”

And sometimes, like last week, people notice.

Oldest island tournament renewal

There will be no repeat champions in the 96th annual Big Island Amateur on Saturday and Sunday at Makani in the longest-standing golf tournament on the island and the second oldest in the state, trailing only the Manoa Cup, which has 111 years of history on Oahu.

Pono Yanagi won last year’s Resident Championship with a 1-over, 145 that included a par 72 on the first round and a 73 the second day, when he outpaced runner Ken Zecchini by four strokes.

Honolulu’s Davis Lee took the overall championship with a red-hot 68 backed up by a par round on the second day that left him at 140, five strokes ahead of Yanagi.

Yanagi is off to college and Lee moved to the mainland, so Barry Amoran, in member services for the sponsoring Hawaii State Golf Association isn’t quite sure what to expect with a dwindling field of contestants lined up for the event.

“Numbers are down,” Amoran said in a mid-week telephone interview, “but I’m not seeing a trend of any kind, not sure why we didn’t get the usual numbers.”

Typically, Amoran said, this tournament will attract 70 to 80 aspirants, but as of mid-week there were only 46 signed up, none of them winners a year ago.

“You have to say it’s wide open,” he said, “it should be interesting to see who goes after it.”

Off and running

They are under the radar, off the news cycle for most print and online media, but there are still 11 teams and more than 200 young people participating in a series of running meets again this year.

The league, if you choose to think of it that way, isn’t officially organized through the BIIF or other groups, but if the middle school coaches get their athletes interested while they are in sixth to eighth grade, there’s a good chance their names may be popping up in high school and club meets in the years to come.

The first meet was held last week at Kamehameha Schools, with four more to come for the novice runners. Distances for the trail runs are 1.5 miles, about half of what the high school distances are, but this collection of young runners includes teams from Parker Ranch, HAAS and other smaller schools and clubs.

Details aren’t a priority at this stage, it’s the ritual of competition that becomes significant for young runners, but the top three teams in the first meet, in boys competition, came from Sunrise, Kamehameha and Hilo, while the top three girls teams were Waikoloa, Sunrise and Kamehameha.

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The top three individuals for boys were Parker Patterson (Hilo), Lucas Kay-Wong (Kamehameha), and Shane Tominaga (Sunrise), the top three girls were Kekaihulali and Kekaimalino Halpern (Hilo) and Wynter Radey-Morgan (HPA).

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