against the odds
There is no track at Ka'u High School. At least none to speak of.
There are remnants of one, however, enough to allow a 100-meter sprinter about 10 seconds of speed before winding up in the long jump pit.
It was the perfect combination for Ku'ulei Karratti, who excelled at both the 100 and long jump ... and the 100-meter hurdles ... and triple jump. And five other sports which earned Karratti a total of 19 letters during her four years at Ka'u.
Her success translated into Karratti being selected as one of 12 inductees into this year's Nissan Hawaii High School Hall of Honor. It was the first time in the 21-year history of the program that a Ka'u athlete was chosen.
The Class of 2004 was inducted during a banquet last Sunday night at the Ilikai Hotel.
"I was very excited about being the first one from Ka'u," said Karratti, who won the state 100-meter title last month. "Being the first ... that sounds good. I was overwhelmed by the evening. I didn't expect it. I thought it was going to be a little dinner, nothing like it was."
Some 300 people attended the event, about the same number of students enrolled at Ka'u.
"We are very small," said Karratti, who also lettered in cheerleading and was the Trojans' team captain in cross country, bowling, soccer, basketball and track this year. "Sometimes I wish I had gone to a school where I could have practiced on a real track.
"We didn't really have track practice, maybe 30 minutes a day on the old football field. Then we'd go to basketball practice."
The track and basketball seasons are held in spring. Karratti was the only Ka'u player to be named to the All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation team as an honorable mention this year.
Karratti didn't start running track until she was a freshman. Last month, she qualified for four finals at the state meet, finishing fourth in the long jump, seventh in the triple jump and eighth in the 100 hurdles.
David Karratti was not surprised that his daughter gravitated to the short distances that required speed. Ku'ulei was literally following in the footsteps of her mother, Lisa Carlbom Karratti, a former sprinter at Kaiser High.
"Ku'u's always liked speed," said David Karratti, the Ka'u girls soccer coach. "She did a lot of rodeo when she was younger and always took the fastest horses, horses others wouldn't ride.
"I've coached her in soccer ever since she started. It's not easy being the coach's daughter and I told her I was going to be hard on her to show the other kids there were no favorites. But she always did everything well. She's always pushed herself and was very coachable. She always has a game-face on."
So accustomed are the Trojans to seeing Karratti's determined look during competition that her teammates have taken to calling it their "Ku'ulei face" according to David Karratti, a standout football player at Kaiser High School.
Ku'ulei Karratti will be attending the University of Hawaii on a track scholarship. She intends to major in physical education and "she already told her P.E. teacher that she's going to come back and take his job," said David Karratti.
There are three younger Karratti children, all athletes. Ku'ulika, another multi-sport athlete, will be a senior at Ka'u next year.
"Ku'u has set the bar high for our family," said David Karratti. "She has raised the bar for the athletes at Ka'u."
Also inducted Sunday were Krisha Kai and Tuli Peters of Kahuku; Kanoe Kamana'o and Hongzhe Sun of Iolani; Zoie Sevilla and Koren Takeyama of Baldwin; Kaimuki's Daniel Tautofi; Jonathan Spiker from St. Louis; Punahou's Rachel Kane; Moanalua's Caylene Valdez; and Keoni Ruth from Kamehameha. Each receives a $2,000 scholarship.
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