SB FILE / MAY 2006
June Ann Lusk and the Baldwin Bears have placed second to Punahou for two straight years. CLICK FOR LARGE
Lusk, Bears on track for run at state title
June Ann Lusk gets her last shot at home
Baldwin's June Ann Lusk hopes that home cooking is enough to bring her school the state track title this weekend.
If not, it is at least a good opportunity to share a meal with friends.
Lusk will compete in both hurdles, both relays and the long jump in the state track championship at War Memorial Stadium in Maui beginning Friday, hoping her effort helps cut the margin between her squad and favored Punahou.
Lusk, who will attend the Naval Academy after graduation, and the homestanding Bears have taken to eating together to bring a team aspect to an individual sport.
JUNE Ann Lusk understands a basic principle of leadership: Lead your people to the table. The Baldwin High School track and field star knows the team that eats together wins together.
"Track's considered an individual sport, but we try to get a team aspect going," said Lusk, who has helped the Bears to four straight Maui Interscholastic League titles. "We try to schedule meals together a lot. IHOP, Ruby's, Koho."
ISLAND MOVERS TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
» Friday (trials), with field events starting at noon and running events at 3:15 p.m.; and Saturday (finals), with field events starting at 3:30 p.m. and running events at 5:40 p.m.
» Yamamoto Track at War Memorial Stadium, Wailuku, Maui
The Baldwin girls aren't just hungry for pancakes, burgers and bentos. They long for a state championship, and if Lusk and sprinter Brittany Feiteira can dominate their events Saturday (Friday trials), Baldwin can become the first MIL school to win a girls Hawaii state championship.
As usual, three-time reigning champion Punahou (which has 29 titles overall) stands in the way. Going strictly by top marks posted this year, the Buffanblu would win with 84 points to 62 for Baldwin.
But track meets aren't contested on paper. This one is at the Satoshi Yamamoto Track and Field facility at War Memorial Stadium -- on Maui, in Baldwin's backyard.
Lusk was a freshman in 2004 the last time the state meet was at her home track, when the competitors learned how the elements can come into play. A huge storm hit the Valley Isle that night, and only those who could adapt thrived.
"I remember running the 200 and the water being so deep," said Lusk, who finished fourth in that final and also earned two fifth-places as a ninth-grader as the Bears finished third. "It shows anything can happen at a track meet. Punahou's a great team, but hopefully some breaks will go our way."
They didn't two years ago at Mililani, when Lusk was disqualified from her best event, the 100-meter hurdles, for having a fingernail on the starting line. She recovered to take three second-place finishes and a third, but Baldwin's title hopes were dashed. The Bears finished second with 60 points to Punahou's 83.
Last year at Kamehameha she won the 100 hurdles, took second in the 200 and fourth in the 100 as the Bears finished second again to the Buffanblu, this time by less than five points.
With the meet on Maui again, Lusk is confident.
"It's a nice plus to have it at our home track," she said. "We usually have to travel and stay at a hotel and it takes you out of your routine. This will be just like any other day, and it puts Maui out there to have the meet here."
Lusk is humble and speaks barely above a whisper. But those who know her say that hides a five-alarm competitive fire.
"Junie is a really, really talented girl, and she doesn't want to tell anybody about it," said Baldwin coach Neil Takeyama, who has her entered in both hurdles, both relays and the long jump this week. "She's quiet and introspective. But you put a pair of spikes on her and she becomes a different person."
Lusk will need to battle to win her events. Sarah Nicolaisen of Ka'u, the 2005 state champion, has posted better times than her this season in both the 100 hurdles (15.17 seconds to 15.54) and 300 hurdles (45.42 to 46.98), and Lusk is just eighth going in at the long jump with 16 feet, 7 1/2 inches.
But there's no denying she's one of the state's best athletes, and is at her best when it counts most. Lusk was also a Star-Bulletin All-State selection as a softball center fielder this year, after helping Baldwin to the state championship.
"She's a great kid, very soft-spoken, but she's a killer when it comes to championship events," said Rob Collias of the Maui News.
Lusk is a winner in the classroom, too. She maintains a 3.74 cumulative grade-point-average (while taking classes such as honors calculus), and graded out well enough on entrance exams to earn appointments to the military academies.
She narrowed her choices to Hawaii, West Point and Annapolis. She said her visit to the Naval Academy blew her away, and Lusk will be a midshipman and compete for the Navy track and field team.
Army-Navy football games might cause an annual family rift, since June Ann's dad is retired Army Lt. Col. Ted Lusk. But he and mother, Sue, are proud of their daughter's decision.
"It's her choice, and we're happy for her," said the father.
Her grandfather, the late Robert Lusk, another retired military man, would be proud, too. He died of cancer shortly after the 2005 state meet. June Ann had mailed her track medals to him on the mainland.
"We were very close, he was a role model in my life," she said.
June Ann acknowledges that many young people would shy away from the military, especially during a war. And academy life provides its own brand of physical and psychological challenges that can make a tough track practice seem like a leisurely stroll.
But she looks forward to it.
"I am nervous, but I also think it will be a great experience that will help me mature," said Lusk, who will major in quantitative economics and aspires to be a surface fleet officer. "I know they're going to challenge me. I like to see what I'm made of, and I know I will be surrounded by great people. I'm strongly loyal to my country, and will do whatever it takes to serve."