Wednesday, May 3, 2000
Roosevelt seniorBy Dave Reardon
Kim Higa is the top
girls' vaulter on Oahu
POLE vaulters are the airborne rangers of track and field.
They are fast, strong and fearless.
So how did a petite, teen-age model and hula dancer whose coach says doesn't work very hard get on the path to leaping higher than 10 feet in a single bound?
Roosevelt senior Kim Higa says it's the battle scars that first attracted her, and the sensation of flying that hooked her.
"One of my friends had an accident. He missed the pit and landed on the concrete. He split his ear and had to have stitches. I was like, 'That's neat, I want to try,' " Higa said. "Then I found it's a thrill going up in the air."
Three years later, Higa has avoided stitches and is the top girls' vaulter on Oahu, with a personal-best of 10-3. She is expected to win the event at the Oahu Interscholastic Association championships at Mililani (trials today, finals Friday) and contend next week at the state meet.
She also runs on the Rough Riders' OIA East champion 4x100 relay team, and placed fifth in the 300-meter hurdles at last week's divisional meet. And her coach Sterling Sasaki, makes it sound like she isn't really trying that hard yet.
"I hate to say it, but she's naturally gifted and doesn't work hard," Sasaki said. "She has natural speed and strength, even though she doesn't lift like I'd like her to. She doesn't like to run intervals, either."
But Higa's fellow vaulter, sophomore Jon Nakasone, says she is inspirational -- and that she does put in a lot of effort.
"She works real hard," he said. "If it's raining over here, she'll go over to Moanalua to practice."
Part of the perception of Higa as, well, a slacker, might be because she has a busy life off the track. Yesterday she arrived at practice late because she had an interview for a modeling job.
"She's always been involved in a lot of activities and has to juggle priorities," says her mother Dawn Higa. "The modeling is far between calls, so that kind of takes priority."
This year, Higa put track ahead of one of her other talents -- hula. She was a member of Sonny Ching's winning halau at Merrie Monarch last year. Higa could've gone again last week, but decided to skip the state meet of hula.
"I wanted to concentrate more on track," Higa says.
She wants to catch defending state champion Josha Baker of St. Anthony in the state meet next week. Baker won the inaugural girls' state pole vault last year with a 10-0 effort. Higa was fifth at 9-6.
"After states last year, it kind of pushed me to try harder," she says.
Higa was a cheerleader as a freshman, played soccer the past two years and volleyball last fall. But her most impressive athletic achievement came a few summers ago on Maui, when she visited an uncle who lived on a ranch.
"She'd never even been on a horse before that summer," Dawn Higa says. "Except maybe on a pony at a carnival."
After a few weeks on the ranch, Higa entered a rodeo and came home with four ribbons. Just imagine if she'd really tried.