Kozaki Sets New PV Record at Yamamoto Invitational
By Rodney S. Yap
It seemed fitting that if Baldwin High School’s Amber Kozaki was going to rewrite her record in the girls pole vault at the Yamamoto Invitational, that she would have to borrow a pole from one of the boys.
After all, she vaults as high as the boys.
Kozaki broke her own record of 12 feet from a year ago, with a breath-taking jump of 12-1 on Friday, March 22, in one of two final events held at the Yamamoto trials at War Memorial Stadium.
According to Bob Martin of Hawaii MileSplit, Kozaki ranks 18th in the national among female prep vaulters.
The annual invitational meet pays tribute to former Lahainaluna track coach and Maui Interscholastic League official Satoki Yamamoto, who’s name references the stadium and is officially used to identify the venue during the MIL track and field season.
“It felt good to break the record,” Kozaki said. “But it was a little scary going that high on a boys’ pole that I had never used. I ordered new poles but it didn’t come in yet, so I got on another pole that I’ve never used in my life, so it was good.”
With no trade winds to deal with, the future University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine vaulter cleared the crossbar at 12 feet, 1 inch on her second try. She later missed on three attempts at 12-4, an inch higher than her personal best.
“The pole didn’t give me enough to clear 12-4, so I can’t wait for my new poles to come in so I can get there. Hopefully, they will be here by the beginning of next week.”
Kozaki currently tops all female competitors in Hawaii in both the pole vault (12-1) and the long jump (17-10.75).
Although she did not better her long jump mark from a week ago, she did manage a meet-high qualifying best of 17-6.75. And if that wasn’t enough, she won her heat of the girls 100 with a personal best of 12.62 seconds. It was her first sub-13 finish in the 100.
What made Kozaki’s accomplishments particularly special was the fact that she did all three events at the same time.
“I expected to be here in the pole vault, because it was my record from last year. I was surprised by my 100 time and I’m glad I’m continuing to do well in the long jump.”
Preparing to do three events in one night can be rewarding, Kozaki added: “It can be a little tough at practice because I have to do so many things, but it’s paid off.”
Finishing second in the girls vault was St. Anthony’s Taylor Tavares at 8-9, followed by Maui Hgh’s Zeida Roberts at 8-3.
As it stands, only three MIL boys have vaulted higher than Kozaki this year and two are returning state medalist.
Maui High’s Vincent Keomoungkhoune was awarded first place over King Kekaulike’s Jordan Romero in the boys high jump at 5-11 due to fewer misses.
Saturday’s finals of the Yamamoto Invitational get underway with the field events at 4 p.m. First running event start at 5 p.m.
The Seabury Hall girls claimed its first-ever team championship at this event two years ago when Dakota Grossman was a freshman. The state defending champion in the 1,500 and 3,000, also won the 800 and was the meet’s Most Outstanding Female Athlete Award for her triple blue-ribbon performance in 2011.
Grossman is entered in all three events, although there were no trials in the 1,500 or the 3,000, while Hawaii Prep Academy’s Zoe Sims was entered in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 before scratching the two sprint events.
If Sims decides to run the 1,500, expect another epic finish with Grossman — like the one they had in the finals at last year’s state championships. Grossman out kicked Sims over the last 60 meters to win in 4:43.53 to 4:43.78.
Baldwin is expected to dominate the boys division on the strength of sprinter Keelan Ewaliko, hurdler/vaulter Tyler Feiteira and weight man Miki Fangatua.
Here are the highlights from Friday’s Yamamoto Trials:
* Seabury Hall’s Alyssa Bettendorf ran a personal best 12.43 in the girls 100. She also leads all qualifiers in the 200 (26.79) and 400 (60.57).
* Seabury Hall’s Christy Fell leads all qualifiers in the girls triple jump (33-3.75) and 300 hurdles (50.01), lowering her previous best time by almost four seconds.
* Maui High’s sophomore tandem of Cherish Taiseni and Grace Fisher lead in the shot put and discus, respectively. Taiseni tossed the heavy ball 31-9.5 on her second attempt and Fisher is almost a foot better in the discus than Baldwin’s Brooke Higa, 90-06 to 89-0. Saber teammate Christina Lotulelei, who is the league’s best in both events, did not compete in the trials.
* Baldwin’s Keelan Ewaliko leads all sprinters in the boys 100 (10.97) and 200 (22.78). Teammate Aaron Marzan is second in the 100 at 11.14, while Kamehameha Maui’s Jamal Jones is No. 2 in the 200 at 22.79.
* King Kekaulike’s Jake Jacobs is tops in the 400 (51.52), followed by teammate Jay Braun (53.39), and Keegan Gregg ran a strong 800 in 2:05.72, more than four seconds faster than the next qualifier.
* The boys 1,500 will be a barn-burner with Baldwin’s James Pearson (4:35.91), Lahainaluna’s Corban Kaikkonen (4:27.38) and Maui High’s Cody McCorriston (4:33.05). Kaikkonen’s trials time was four seconds faster than his previous best this year.
* Baldwin’s Miki Fangatua is a huge favorite to win the boys ring events. Fangatua has a best of 49-8 in the shot put and a 134-06 in the discus.
* Baldwin’s Tyler Feiteira posted the second best long jump mark of the season at 21-6.75. Only teammate Ewaliko has jumped farther at 21-10. The sprinter, however, fouled on three attempts and was disqualified as a result. Feiteira won the first heat of the boys 300 hurdles, getting pushed by Lahainaluna sophomore Emerson Liburd, 41.13 to 41.35. Kamehameha Maui’s Connor Yap won the second heat of the 300 hurdles and is currently seeded third at 42.34.
* Agapay improved by a foot in the triple jump at 42-3.75 — almost four feet better than the next best distance in the boys division.