HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
HBA's Lauren Ho led the pack across the finish line at Central Oahu Regional Park yesterday.
Ho and Kamakaala repeat at ILH cross country meet
The weight of being a two-time league champion took a toll on Lauren Ho.
She never showed that burden, though. The Hawaii Baptist Academy senior capped an amazing season by winning her third Interscholastic League of Honolulu cross country crown yesterday at sunny Central Oahu Regional Park.
Ho completed the 3-mile all-grass course, which included some moderate slopes, in 18 minutes, 49.7 seconds.
Jeremy Kamakaala of Kamehameha, the favorite in the boys race, withstood a strong performance by Punahou's Peter Deptula to defend his individual league championship. Kamakaala crossed the finish line in 16:16 after breaking away from Deptula at the 2-mile mark.
Kamakaala won the state title in 2003 as a sophomore.
Punahou swept the team titles for boys and girls. The girls collected 32 points, well ahead of Kamehameha (67) and Maryknoll (77).
Maryknoll's Julie Besenbruch placed second in 19:58. Punahou's Kristi Torkildson (20:13) and Marisa Schoen (20:36) placed third and fourth, respectively. Haley Abing of Maryknoll was fifth (20:42), and two more Punahou harriers, Chelsea Oda (20:48) and Pua Chang (20:52), gave the Buffanblu four finishers among the top seven.
Punahou's boys tallied 34 points, edging out Iolani (39). Aside from Deptula in second (16:42), the Buffanblu were led by Chris Burniske (17:31), Everett Jellinek (17:33) and Mike Wong (17:42) in sixth, seventh and eighth.
The dominance of Ho in the girls race was undeniable. She has been unbeatable since returning from an offseason lower back injury that still isn't 100 percent healed.
"I felt like there's more pressure this year," said Ho, who surprised the field as a sophomore two years ago by winning the crown.
As a junior, she had the perfect season. The bar of excellence -- and expectation -- rose even higher as a senior.
"You have to believe in the process. I mean, believe in your training, what your coaches tell you," she said. "If you believe in what you're doing, you're bound to be successful."
Even in the celebration of another ILH championship, she wasn't fully satisfied.
"We raced here last week. I wanted a better time," said Ho, who was about 10 seconds off from that effort. She has been focused on her training for the Foot Locker race in early December, and the past week was packed with heavy mileage.
"It got longer and more intense," she said. "But this week, I'll start cutting down."
The course, with two laps around the soccer field and a long straightaway into the interior of the park, closed out with two small upslopes before the turnaround at the 2-mile mark. The final mile is the return stretch, a final lap around the soccer field.
Well before the first lap, however, Ho was in command. At the midway point, she was 33 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.
"I wanted to create as much space as possible," Ho said.
Kamakaala didn't have any space for 2 miles thanks to Deptula. The two seniors were even until they hit the turnaround mark.
"We picked up the pace there. I kind of turned it on again," said Kamakaala.
His top challengers in the ILH have narrowed the gap.
"I think every week is different. Today, especially, you could see it in their eyes more," he said.
Deptula was happy with both the team title and his runner-up showing.
"I tried something new today, running in front," the senior said. "I knew I could hang on at the top of the hill, but my chest got a little tight from the coldness. Jeremy ran really well today."
Kamakaala's coach, Steve Jenness, wasn't surprised by a thing.
"I just wanted Jeremy to be comfortable, not to try to win it all in 2 miles. He's a smart runner. I don't have to talk to him a lot," said Jenness, now in his 18th season as cross country coach.
"Peter and Morgan give him a rub every week. It looks easy to people, but it's never easy," Jenness said, referring to third-place finisher Morgan Stephenson of Iolani.