KEAAU – Kamehameha’s Kylie Iwamoto and La’iku Paleka are a coach’s dream, and not just because they captured the BIIF air riflery championships, and not just to Warriors head man Tracy Aruga.
Any coach can appreciate not just what Iwamoto and Paleka accomplished but how they did it, reinforcing a couple of favored coaching adages.
Anyone can win
It’s often stated, but much more often the chalk rocks.
Not on Saturday at Kamehameha’s Koaia Gym, where Iwamoto had every reason to assume one of her six higher-ranked teammates would become the top shot.
“Yes,” Iwamoto said, “I didn’t really expect anything like this to happen, so it was surprising. Pretty cool.
“I just told myself not to think so much about the competition and to try have fun while your out there, so I wouldn’t get stressed out.”
Iwamoto won a preseason meet in August, but then she watched as four of her teammates took turns as the highest marks-women at the six regular-season meet.
“I expected her to perform well throughout the season, but she wasn’t maintaining that score that she had in the preseason,” Aruga said. “We kept putting her in every week, hoping that score would come up.”
Iwamoto led entering the final round at BIIF’s and held off all challengers with a 633.1 score. Kamehameha’s teammates Nahulu Carvalho (629.2) and Kanani Araki (629.2), the defending champion, followed, with Carvalho taking second because she shot higher in the final round. Keaau’s Kelsey Hernando (616.1) was fourth and Waiakea’s Carys Urasaki (613.5) rounded out the top five.
“A lesson learned,” Aruga said, “is anyone can be a BIIF champion if they qualify.”
Every shot counts
Paleka knew it well because he’d lived it.
A week earlier, Kamehameha was chasing Waiakea for the team title, trying to give the private-school Warriors their first championship sweep.
Kamehameha caught Waiakea almost to the decimal, with each foursome finishing at 1052.33. The public-school Warriors, however, were awarded the title and a repeat based on scoring more inner 10s during the season (75-70).
“It just made me think that every single point matters,” said Paleka, who was Kamehameha’s second-best shooter during the regular season. “I needed to make every single shot count more.”
With that in mind at BIIFs, the junior established himself as the top seed entering the final round, where, despite any lingering pressure, he came out with the top score again for 622.6 to win a race that was otherwise devoid of shooters from either Warriors squad.
“The fact I was able to get first kind of surprised me,” he said. “I had never been in first,”
Christian Liberty’s Adam Sako (618.4) and Jared Maldonado (607.5) were second and fourth, respectively, with Hilo High’s Xavier Staszkow (609.7) sandwiched in between in third. Waiakea’s Ryan Kim (606.8) was fifth.
“That was a lot of pressure,” Paleka said of the final round, “because I was first, I had to live up to it. If I didn’t, it would be embarrassing.
“I just think about how it’s not the end of the world if you don’t win this. Still, I have to try to win.”
When nerves creep in, he also thinks about one of his favorite TV shows.
“I like to watch ‘The Office,’” he said, “and I think about episodes that I watched the day before. It makes me calm down.”
Paleka got into the air riflery, in part, because he had to. His family requires him to participate in a sport each season. He also paddles, and will likely participate in track and field later in the school year.
Iwamoto entered the sport for family reasons as well, namely her father, Kyle, who “inspired me,” she said. “He was talking about it, and I wanted to do it and just try it and have fun.”
She said she spent much of regular season worrying about qualifying for the HHSAA tournament, so much so that she forgot to have fun.
“I would just end up psyching myself out,” Iwamoto said. “I would get upset, but I just had to be realistic and let it go.
“I think about my family a lot when I’m shooting. I know they are always there waiting in the bleachers for me and supportive, and I know I can count on them to be there, even if I don’t shoot my best.”
Iwamoto did shoot her best – yet, at least – at BIIFs. If she hadn’t won, she could have done no better than become an alternate at states, but with her win she became the seventh Kamehameha shooter to qualify for the Oct. 29 competition on Oahu.
Considering Aruga just needs four shooters to step up and produce a good score toward the team total, he likes Kamehameha’s chances to place, if not win, in the girls race.
“I know I’m going to be shooting with most of my teammates,” Iwamoto said. “In that sort of environment it’s great being around people you know and you trust.”
It’s also great to have a short memory.
“You can’t change the shot that you just made,” she said, “but you can change the shot you’re about to take.”
Hmm, kind of sounds like another favorite coaching adage.
• Contributing to Waiakea’s boys team titles were: Deven Capellas (269.33 season average), Ryan Kim (264.67), Jonah Matsuura (261.33) and Tyler Jeschke (257).
For the Kamehameha girls, the four scorers were: Kanani Araki (269), Nahulu Carvalho (268.33), Beyonce Corpuz (267.67) and Lehua Waianuehea (264.33).
• Heading to the state tournament are: Boys, Devyn Capellas; Colby Terlep, Kamehameha; Travis Puleo, Hilo High; Adam Sako, Christian Liberty; .La’iku Paleka, Kamehameha; Ryan Kim, Waiakea; Jared Maldonado, Christian Liberty; Jonah Matsuura, Waiakea High, 9. Tyler Jeschke, Waiakea; Dylan Rosehill, Kamehameha; alternates, Xavier Staszkow, Hilo and Nicholas Souza, Kamehameha.
Girls, Kanani Araki, Kamehameha; Nahulu Carvalho, Kamehameha; Beyonce Corpuz, Kamehameha; Lehua Waianuhea, Kamehameha; McKenna Hewitt, Kamehameha; Gianna Yokoe, Hilo High; Kiani Aburamen, Waiakea; Dakota Muranaka, Keaau; Briani Iyo, Kamehameha Kylie Iwamoto Kamehameha; alternates, Hailey Chang, Waiakea and Raelee Takayesu, Hilo