HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY
CRAIG KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maryknoll's Julie Besenbruch beat the field by 26 seconds at the state cross country championship yesterday.
Besenbruch runs unchallenged for Maryknoll once again
All Juliana Besenbruch wanted to do was help.
As the top harriers in the state raced across the finish line yesterday, she remained there, looking out for them, particularly her Maryknoll teammates.
"It's just what I do. I like my teammates," said Besenbruch, who moments earlier dominated the girls field to win the Honolulu Marathon/Hawaii High School Athletic Association cross country state championship.
She won the 3-mile race with a time of 19 minutes and 26 seconds, well ahead of Mililani freshman Kristin Ali Keith (19:52) and Kauai's Chelsea Smith-Wishard (19:56).
In a way, it was just a welcome return to her old self for Besenbruch, who came into the race as the favorite after an unbeaten season. The 2005 state fifth-place finisher faced more than just a crowded field on a hilly course at Central Oahu Regional Park. The busy sophomore also dealt with the busiest week of the season in the classroom.
"She's had a tough week," coach Chris Yee said. "She's been catching up with a lot of schoolwork."
Besenbruch dealt with three project deadlines for English and American Literature classes. That meant post-midnight studying, burning the candle at both ends, so to speak. A lot of hot black tea got her through -- one or two cups a night -- but the resilient Spartan also had to learn to speak up. For herself.
"I had to be open with my teachers and let them know that I was bogged down," she said. "My dad persuaded me to talk to them. I knew it would be hard fitting time in for everything."
So, the normally self-reliant student, often happiest at looking out for her friends, learned to ask for help. She got that, and she also won herself a first state championship.
Keith, the runner-up, completed a remarkable season by finishing second in the state race. She kept pace with Besenbruch for more than a mile.
"Between the first and second mile, I saw, 'Oh, she's starting to break away.' She's just really fast," Keith said. By the final mile, the leader was 14 seconds ahead of Keith.
Keith had one of the best seasons ever by a ninth-grader, winning the Oahu Interscholastic Association championship easily. Her father, Bill, was deployed to Iraq last summer.
Punahou captured the team title for a second year in a row, dominating the field with a 49-point total. Kamehameha was a distant second with 110 points, followed by Iolani (132), Mililani (164) and Hawaii Prep (171).
Christina Wong's fourth-place finish (20:02) sparked the Buffanblu, who had four of the top 12 times.
"We had a couple of new additions this year. It was very easy to work with this group. They trained very hard," longtime coach Duncan Macdonald said. "We traveled to Stanford early in the year and they bonded very well. They're a pleasant group to be around."