Baldwin Strong Favorites to Win Boys Track Championships
By Rodney S. Yap
To hear the coaches tell it, the Maui Interscholastic League boys track and field championships is about “showing up” — not just one day, but both days.
The league championship trials get underway today and the finals are set for Saturday at the Satoki Yamamoto Track & Field Facility. Field events start at 4:15 p.m. and the first running event, the girls 100-meter hurdles, begins at 5:30 p.m.
“It’s about qualifying for the finals,” Baldwin High School boys coach Gary Sanches said.
“Back-to-back days. If you’re a horse, it’s going to show. You have to show up for two nights, not just one.”
The MIL championships is only the second two-day meet on the league schedule and a perfect practice week for the state meet on the Big Island in two weeks, King Kekaulike coach James Alger said.
“Our goal is to get the boys to understand two-day meets,” remarked Alger, who also coaches cross country at King Kekaulike.
“Because in two weeks it’s for real. You have to fight for your spot, and can you carry that same event the next night? We’re going to see how our boys respond after the trials and we’re going to advise them as we go along. This will help us establish a game plan for state.”
For Kekaulike, the league’s up-and-coming boys program, team points and MIL standings are not important. With plenty of young talent, boosted by a handful of crossover athletes — mainly basketball players — this weekend will resemble a dress rehearsal in preparation for the state meet.
“We’re not here for team titles, we are here trying to win state medals,” Alger said.
With the team concept on the back burner, Baldwin will in all likelihood win its seventh consecutive MIL championship on Saturday. The only question will be by how many points. Last year, the Bears scored 189 points, more than second-place Kamehameha Maui (77) and third-place Maui High (70) combined.
Nevertheless, Sanches has seen too many pulled muscles, late check-ins, false starts, dropped batons, and other disqualifications in his time to claim victory before the meet begins.
“King Kekaulike is beginning to blossom and if we screw up things could be very close,” Sanches insisted. “Right now, we’re OK. We lost two kids to academics, but that’s ok, life goes on. Fortunately we have depth and people can step up.”
Sanches is right, Kekaulike has been turning heads in the last couple of weeks, behind the jumping of Jansen Agapay, the running of freshman Jake Jacobs, and the vaulting of Michael Teves, who a week ago at the Punahou Relays attempted a 15-foot vault. Teves catapulted to No. 1 in the state by winning the vault at Punahou with a PR of 14-3.
“He just ran out of gas,” Algers said of Teves. “He’s also a big part of our 4 x 400 relay team,” currently No. 1 in the MIL at 3:32.20.
Agapay, a basketball player still learning to long, triple and high jump, has made remarkable gains for a beginner. Agapay is currently second to Baldwin’s Keelan Ewaliko in the long jump (21-8 to 21-6.5), second to teammate Luke Brown in the triple jump (42-3.5 to 42-0.5) and fourth in the high jump (6-feet).
Jacobs has been the talk of the boys sprinters since coming onto the scene at the Ken Kamakea Meet. The 51.30 quartermile he posted remains an MIL best. Later that same night, about 15 minutes after the 400, Jacobs ran a 2:05.50 in the 800. He has since added a 22.92 in the 200, which ranks him fourth in the MIL.
While it’s nice to qualify for a lot of events, Algers said the Kekaulike coaching staff wants to align its talent with the best medal opportunities in the next two weeks and prepare them for the pressures they stand to face.
“Now the kids have to decide on just one or two events and which ones will it be,” Algers said.
Baldwin is loaded as usual in the weight events with defending MIL champion Pasoni Tasini ranked No. 1 in the state in the discus (173-3) and No. 2 in the shot put (51-5.5). Vetekina Malafu is the state’s best high hurdler (14.9), followed by Kamehameha Maui’s Kala’i Yap (15.58) and teammate Tyler Feiteira (15.60). In the 300s, Feiteira is the MIL’s best at 42.10, with Yap a close second at 42.47. Maui High’s Kimo Tashiro-Rivera and Kekaulike’s Jordan Romero are tied at 42.50.
Feiteira (13-6) and Kihei Charter School’s Lucas Zarro (14-0) will challenge Teves in the vault.
Ewaliko is the Bears’ top sprinter and leads a handful of Baldwin runners, including Malafu in the 100-meter dash (11.03). Seabury Hall sophomore Jay Braun is at the top of both the 100 (10.94) and 200 (21.9) sprints. Braun, who rested his legs last week, is the only MIL sprinter to run a sub 11-second 100 and sub 22-second 200. Both hand-timed marks have him ranked third and second, respectively, in the state. Braun has also consistently landed 21-foot-plus jumps in the long jump, where he is third (21-6.0).
Adding to the action-packed weekend, is the boys 1,500 and 3,000 duel between Baldwin junior James Pearson and Maui High senior Nicola Perez-Gerreaud. Pearson has been faster of late, but not my much 4:12.43 to 4:14.87 in the 1,500 and 9:19.33 to 9:22.42 in the 3,000. If the two runners are not shoulder to shoulder one is drafting behind the other a stride off the pace — rarely more than that until one delivers the winning kick.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for Nicola and Pearson,” Sanches said.
“If we can get three guys (qualified) in each event were on our way,” Sanches said. “Qualifying for the finals is our primary goal. But from what I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, the Maui kids are sure stepping up.”