Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, May 27, 2002


The senior men's crew of Na Keiki O Ka Moi won the 1 1/2-mile race at Keehi Lagoon yesterday, helping the club finish in fourth place overall. Leading the crew is Brian Amantiad.

Kaneohe edges Lokahi
in Hui Waa opener

Koa Kai places first in the
competition for smaller clubs

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

There are indications that the winds of change may have started to blow within Na Ohana O Na Hui Waa. But they were not strong enough yesterday to affect the final outcome of the canoe paddling association's opener to its 2002 regatta season.

At the Adam Ahai Memorial at Keehi Lagoon, the two clubs that have been continuously swapping regatta wins in recent years again finished in the top two spots. Winning the event was Kaneohe Canoe Club with 64 points, and coming in second was Lokahi, with 56.

"It feels good to win," Kaneohe head coach Clint Anderson said. "Everybody worked hard. Never expected it, but. We shocked."

That's because despite the same ending to a story that seems to have been told numerous times already, the outcome belied the fact that the competition has improved and both Hui Waa powers are in periods of adjustment.

Still, these factors were not significant enough to create new drama - yet.

After holding on to second place through more than three-quarters of the 36 total races, Manu O Ke Kai finished third with 44 points. Na Keiki O Ka Moi's paddlers rode a strong performance from their men that surprised a lot of people - including themselves - to fourth place, at 36. Winning the A Division for smaller clubs was Koa Kai.

The women's senior paddling team of Kai Poha finished third in yesterday's regatta. The team included Dee Myers, Tala Suafai, Lei Endo, Emily Kobashigawa and Gail Ahina.

"It was tough today, everybody scored points," Lokahi head coach Robert Viernes said. "Ka Moi had some really good crews, especially the men. I expected Manu to be there because of the number of entries they put in. There's a little bit more strategy now, a chess game."

Ka Moi paddler Jason Bellefeuille, 32, stroked the club to dominant victories in both the prestigious Men's Senior race and also the Men's Open 4. "We worked good as a team, that was the most important thing," he said. "We didn't really expect this; we just wanted to see how we would do. We had no expectations."

This season, Kaneohe has a significant number of new paddlers in its youth divisions, which traditionally have been its biggest strength. One race in, things appeared in order, as the Windward-side club won six of 13 youth races, and placed second in four others.

Through its kids' strong performance, Kaneohe built a 45-29 advantage over its nearest competitor, Manu, at the halfway point.

"We had a lot of kids come out last-minute and a lot of new paddlers this year," Anderson said. "I'm just shocked they all did well, and even (others) like our 35-Men's, they came out winning today. The puzzle fit together today, but it's just the first race. Like any sport, there's always next week."

Lokahi used to have a seemingly unlimited reservoir of strong women paddlers, who would power the club back into contention - and often into the winner's circle - in the second half of regattas.

That is no longer the case, as the Ala Wai club is fewer in number and was not able to sweep the three open women's races as it is accustomed to, instead settling for a third in the freshmen race and wins in the sophomore and senior.

"We're always hopeful (to continue winning), but you just never know," said Dy Valdez, 37, who sat No. 3 as Lokahi won the 1.5-mile Women's Senior race in 13 minutes and 43.77 seconds.

"(The competition is) there, and we don't take for granted wins at all," she added. "It's still something we need to work hard at. We're very realistic ... we know the competition is going to be there waiting for us."

Lokahi was still trailing Kaneohe by 10 points and Manu by two after 28 races, but pushed its way to second with five second-place finishes and a third in the last seven races.

Hui Waa resumes action next Sunday with a Maili Beach regatta hosted by Waikiki Yacht Club.

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