Seabury Hall Girls Defend MIL Track and Field Championships
By Rodney S. Yap
On Saturday third, fourth and fifth place will celebrate with the same enthusiasm as second and first.
That’s because it was the Maui Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships – and if you’re Baldwin High or Seabury Hall, every point is critical to the girls final standings.
Last year, Seabury Hall snapped Baldwin’s championship streak at 11 straight titles, with a 160-point performance. The Spartans’ 12-member team won 10 of 16 events, including every track event except the 100 hurdles and 4×100 relay. However, state champion sprinter Kailea Tracy-Visintainer and middle-distance ace Lea Lunbland have both transitioned to college, at Stanford and San Francisco, respectively. Their departure left state champion Dakota Grossman as the team’s go-to girl going into today’s trials at the Satoki Yamamoto Track & Field Facility.
Although the team is smaller, 9 to 10 girls, and not functioning at 100%, Seabury Hall head coach Bobby Grossman said his team was up to the challenge of defending its league crown against Baldwin and the rest of the MIL.
“Last year we won the MIL for first time and it doesn’t get much better than that,” Grossman said. “But I think we’re actually stronger this year than last year. But Baldwin has a number of great athletes that have stepped up for them this year.”
And that’s where it gets interesting. Nothing changed in how the private school from Olinda will approached the two-day meet. with field events beginning at 4:15 and running events at 5:30 p.m. on both days.
The boys were scheduled to pole vault first on Friday, with the girls going first Saturday. The girls high jump was first on Friday, followed by the boys and visa versa Saturday.
“We’ve got 10 girls, 9 of them have four events each,” Grossman said, starting with his sophomore daughter Dakota, who is entered in the 800, 1,500, 3,000 and is an alternate in the 400. Last year, Dakota single-handedly scored 18.5 points, two shy of the maximum 20.5 — for two first-place finishes (1,500, 3,000), one second place (800) and one relay (4×400) win.
Grossman finished less than a .1 second from collecting two gold medals at state year ago. Hawaii Prep Academy sophomore Zoe Sims edged Grossman in the 1,500, 4 minutes, 45.61 seconds to 4:46.40. The Spartan freshman later won the longer 3,000 race in 10:42.53 as Seabury managed an MIL girls best second-place finish at state with 64 points compared to Punahou’s 66.33.
Seabury traveled to the Big Island last weekend, competing in the BIIF All-Comer’s #2, where Grossman dueled Sims again, this time Grossman turned the tables on Sims in the 1,500 (4:59.92 to 5:00.17), won the 3,000 (11:29.87) and finished fourth in the 800 (2:29.29) to a triumphant Sims in 2:23.53.
When it comes to championship meets, King Kekaulike coach James Algers likes to look at the names coaches have listed as alternates in the running events. He says, you can get a feel for the strategy and possible maneuvering a coach may be setting up.
Baldwin should mount a huge lead in the early going, outscoring the Spartans between 35 and 40 points in the two weight events and pole vault alone.
The Bears have the top two vaulters in the state in Kristine Felix, the two-time defending state champion, and current No. 1 Amber Kozaki (12 feet, 3 inches). Felix is No. 2 at 11-9 but holds the state record at 12-6. Last year the duo did little else but vault.
This year, Baldwin coach Keoni Tengan (who was unavailable for comment) challenged his best athletes to step up and become more productive. As it turns out, Felix and Kozaki were only scratching the surface of their talents as Felix is currently the MIL’s top sprinter in the 100 (12.3) and 200 (26.72) and the state’s best long jumper at 18-1. Kozaki is sixth in the 100 and No. 2 in the long jump (17-0). By spreading their wings, Felix and Kozaki could bring Baldwin an additional 29 points outside of the pole vault.
For the Washington State-bound Felix, who signed a National Letter of Intent with the Pac-12 school earlier this year, her new-found talents will be a boon next spring.
Baldwin is also loaded in the triple jump with the top three jumpers in Pelemarie Buka (36-8), Amber-Lei Madriaga (34-4.75) and Tenisha Ruidas (33-7.5). Seabury’s only hope to break up Baldwin’s dominance is Justine Malek in the triple (32-7) and Roxane Gaedeke in the long jump (16-3) — the two defending MIL champions, respectively. Malek won last year’s event in 32-2 and Gaedeke in 16-2.5. If things stayed status quo, the Seabury tandem would net three points in the jumps compared to the 13-3 advantage from a year ago.
Kamehameha Maui could break up Baldwin’s 20-point advantage in the jumps with Makana Pundyke and Ashley Wendt. Maui High’s Christina Lotulelei tops the shot put, followed by Baldwin’s Analea Martin and Alesha Martin. Kekaulike’s Teianna Collins-Shirota leads the the Martin sisters and Lotulelei in the discus.
The event up for grabs between Baldwin and Seabury will be the hurdles. While Baldwin could sweep the 100 hurdles with Sanoe Anguay leading the way, Seabury’s Christy Fell is seeded fourth. In the 300s, Gaedeke is No. 1 followed by teammate Alyssa Bettendorf and Baldwin lurks at Nos 4-5-6.
“Any one girl has a bad day, that could make the difference in the meet,” Grossman said.
Bottom line, “All of our girls have to run what their capable of doing and 20% of the team will have to have a breakout performance — meaning a couple of key people need to do something special.”
Regardless, Grossman said his team is not focused on times or distances, but on medals.
“We’re going after medals,” he concluded.