HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD
Unlikely distance runner looking good for Leilehua
Show most track and field coaches a 6-foot-3, 180-pound basketball player, and they'll show him the way to the jumping pits.
But when Leilehua coach Shawn Nakata saw Paul Williams easily run a practice 2 miles in 11 minutes, he got a different idea.
"Without any training. That's a pretty good sign he might be good at it," Mules distance coach Mike Akagi said. "And he's a great kid, maybe the most coachable I've ever had. A 'yes, coach' guy."
Williams, the largest runner at yesterday's OIA championship trials, appears to have talent to match his physique. The junior was first in the 1,500 and second in the 3,000 yesterday at Mililani, and the OIA West champion in both events is still learning the basics such as pacing.
"He just needs to learn when to hold back sometimes," Akagi said.
Running from the front nearly throughout, Williams dominated both of his heats. Tactics can come later; Williams is hungry for the tape, even in trials. He battled back and forth with Moanalua's Louis Torres before crossing first in 4:23.16 to Torres' 4:23.96.
"I just feel I've got to push it," Williams said.
He won his heat in the 3,000 in 9:57. Only teammate and state cross country champ Bryce Jenkins was faster, taking the other heat in 9:31.
Williams, a Schofield-Barracks Army dependent from Georgia, said he didn't expect to become a long-distance runner when he joined the Mules.
"Not really. I just went where the coaches told me. I'm just glad to be running and competing," Williams said.
Williams and Jenkins figure to lead a points barrage for the Mules in the long runs in tomorrow's finals, but the Mililani boys and girls qualified en masse yesterday, and the Trojans are heavy favorites to take both team titles.
"Honestly, I think I couldn't have asked for a better trials," Mililani boys coach Marshall Kochi said. "I was a little worried because (top sprinter) Ikaika Payamo is still out with an injury. But Kawika Ornellas is a tough kid, and he and Demetrius Thomas have stepped up for us in the sprints."
Hurdler D'Andre Benjamin was smooth in the 110s, qualifying first in 15.28. He and teammate Peter Poentis are also poised for big points in the long jump, second and third at 21-34 and 21-0.
Aiea's Eric James could steal some of the individual show from Williams. He led the long jump with 22-4, and qualified second in the 100 and 400, while also making the finals in the 200.
The Mililani girls look to be in good shape to win a fourth OIA crown in six years, despite a minor setback in the 200 that could cost the Trojans a few points because of a late check-in.
Star sprinter Brittany Stephens is on course, though, as she qualified first in the 100 in 12.41, and is also favored in the 200. Ciara Quarles posted the top time in the 400 at 61.92, and Kristin Ali Keith, Kelli Ishihara and Nicole Painter dominated the qualifying in the 3,000 -- even though they'd gone on a 20-minute run earlier because there was reasonable doubt there'd be trials in the event.
"It looks pretty good, but we don't want to be too confident," Trojans girls coach Dane Matsunaga said. "We may have a lead on paper, but things can happen and that can disappear real fast. Kahuku and Radford have a real chance."
Tomorrow's field events start at 3:45 p.m. and the running events begin at 4:45.