King Kekaulike steps up
big-time as host
On the bucolic slopes of Haleakala, not far past the "Deer Crossing" sign, a championship was earned over the weekend.
Not only did Punahou win its second girls volleyball state crown in a row, fans poured in by the thousands at King Kekaulike High School gym in cool, pristine Pukalani.
Perhaps it was purely hometown support. Maybe it was the specter of most of the state's top teams displaying their finely tuned skills. Either way, when more than 2,000 fans turned out Thursday, it may have been the most spirited crowd ever for a quarterfinal match.
Certainly, it is believed to have been the largest ever for a volleyball quarterfinal anywhere in the state.
Does it mean that the neighbor islands are a better draw for state tournaments?
By the semifinal and final rounds, attendance was still smaller, though at near capacity. The decline in attendance came after local favorite Kamehameha-Hawaii lost to Kamehameha in the quarterfinal round.
King Kekaulike athletic director Kurtis Saiki and his able staff ran a fluid, flawless tournament, complete with a bustling concession stand that kept fans and media well fed.
There was even a public address announcer throughout the four-day tourney. Saiki, a veteran AD confessed that the Valley Isle could have given the teams even more support.
"This was a great opportunity for our island, hosting this tournament. It was a chance for people here to see the best teams and players in the state," said Saiki, who put in a ton of extra hours with his staff, including girls basketball coach Michael Ban.
"I thought we would've had more people here the last two days, but we still had good crowds."
Despite the long hours -- Saiki and Ban spent late nights at the gym cleaning everything up for the next day's action -- they would welcome another chance to host the state championships.
"I told them (the Hawaii High School Athletic Association) that we would be happy to do it, though not every year," Saiki said. "Every other year would be fine."
HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya collected his share of mileage, going from island to island to check on state championship bowling and cross-country events, in addition to volleyball.
The boys volleyball championships were held at Kamehameha-Hawaii, hosted by the Warriors athletic director Bob Wagner and his staff.
"The host schools did an outstanding job of hosting the tournaments. The schools and their staffs worked very hard and were very accommodating, especially their athletic directors," Amemiya said.
"Those sites ran first-class tournaments."