Sunday, August 7, 2005


Hawaiian cruises to
another state title

The canoe club wins its fifth
straight AAA division crown

LAHAINA » The last time the state canoe racing championships were held on Maui was in 1999, when a champion was not declared because the regatta was called on account of darkness with two events remaining.

That decision didn't go over very well with the hometown Hawaiian Canoe Club, which was leading at the time and appeared headed to its first state title. Hawaiian has left nothing to chance since then.

Hawaiian captured its fifth straight AAA division crown yesterday at Honoka'o'o Park, relying on its traditional formula of success: a high number of qualifiers, a meet-leading 34 this year, and the continued dominance of its keiki crews.

Hawaiian finished comfortably in the lead, amassing 353 points. Kailua was second with 275, taking first in the 55 Women and Freshmen Men. Hui Nalu was third with 240, followed by Hui Lanakila with 192 and Kaneohe with 140.

The regatta was not even halfway through its 37-race program when it became obvious that Hawaiian, the Big Blue Machine from Kahului, was headed for yet another title.

"We led from beginning to end in 1999," Hawaiian head coach Diane Ho recalled. "They should have treated it like a baseball game and given the team that was ahead the championship.

"But that was a long time ago. We don't worry about the past. We worry about today -- winning it at home -- and the future," Ho added. "That (1999) didn't so much serve as an inspiration for us as much as giving us the confidence that we could do it."

Hawaiian got off to a flying start by winning the opening event (12 Girls), took control of the regatta by winning three straight races (15 Girls, 15 Boys and 16 Girls) in events 11 through 13, and then added yet another first in 18 Boys for five gold medals in 16 events. Not only that, but Hawaiian also picked up three silver medals over that span. Hawaiian later added a first in the Freshmen Men.

"Our goals are to continue to excel with our keiki and for our adults to continue getting better and better," Ho said. "If we do those things, the rest takes care of itself."

With a membership of "300-something" and with only 194 actual participants, Ho said Hawaiian's coaching staff had to relegate about 50 keiki and an equal number of adult paddlers to the beach.

"It's difficult, because many of the paddlers we had to leave out would be in the boats of most other teams," Ho noted. "The difference in paddling is that you can only get six people into a boat at a time. There are no substitutions as there are in other sports such as soccer or baseball.

"It says a lot about the family orientation -- the sense of ohana -- that exists on this club that almost everyone who was not able to participate today still showed up to work in the food booths, to help out in the tent, to do whatever they could to help those who were actually competing."

Kai Opua of the Big Island took top honors in the AA Division for clubs with nine to 17 crews, outpointing Outrigger 182-164. Kai Opua took top honors in the Freshmen Women, 16 Boys and Open Mixed. Puna, which was leading with eight events remaining, finished third with 152 points, despite capturing the meet-ending 40 Men as well as the Novice A.

In Division A for clubs with up to eight crews, Keohou O Kona ended Wailea's three-year run as champion. Keohou earned 79 points, beating out Wailea with 77 and Waikiki Beach Boys with 75.

"It was a good run while it lasted," said Wailea coach Kapena Whitford, whose paddlers won the Sophomore Men and Senior Men. "We qualified one less crew than we did last year, and that proved to be the difference."

Notes: Absent was Oahu powerhouse Lanikai, which withdrew from the state championships because its canoes were initially deemed illegal due to the use of fiberglass in their construction. The state association subsequently gave Lanikai a waiver that would have allowed it to compete, but the club declined the invitation because many of its members had made other plans in the interim. ... The event served as a backdrop for segments on ESPN's SportsCenter as part of the network's "50 States in 50 Days Summer Tour." Former KGMB-9 sports director Neil Everett anchored the reports. ... An estimated 3,000 paddlers representing 56 clubs competed this weekend.

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