KYLE GALDEIRA / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Kamehameha-Hilo's girls 15 crew paddled to victory at the state championships yesterday.
Title No. 7 is heavenly for Hawaiian
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When it comes to the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship, there is no team better than Maui's Hawaiian Canoe Club.
The Valley Isle team won its seventh straight HCRA title yesterday, claiming the AAAA Division with 359 points in races held in Kauai's Hanalei Bay.
Finishing second 31 points back was Lanikai, while Kailua (273), Outrigger (217) and Hui Nalu (179) rounded out the top five.
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HANALEI, Kauai » In the week leading up to yesterday's Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta, Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui chose "believe" as its rallying cry.
Hawaiian had won the previous six state championships, but faced what looked to be an uphill battle yesterday. In addition to the pressures of defending its multiple titles, the club competed in the newly formed AAAA Division (21-39 crews entered) with 31 crews, compared to the 38 and 36 fielded by Lanikai and Kailua canoe clubs.
But, in its return to the beach at which it won the first state title to begin the streak back in 2001, Hawaiian emerged victorious, claiming the AAAA Division with 359 points yesterday in the calm waters of Hanalei Bay, Kauai, to make it seven in a row. Lanikai finished in second with 328 points, ahead of Kailua (273), Outrigger (217) and Hui Nalu (179).
"There's really no phrase to describe it, because for the first time the performance by our club today just leaves me speechless," Hawaiian head coach Diane Ho said. "They believed they could do it. They believed that seven crews more was not an obstacle. But I've got to say congratulations to everybody else, because this win by us was made possible by the parity in canoe paddling. Other clubs and organizations stepped up to the plate."
The regatta featured roughly 3,000 paddlers representing 57 clubs, which entered crews ranging in age from 12 and under to 60 and over in 39 races ranging in length from one-quarter to 1 1/2 miles.
Hawaiian's program came away with seven wins, including a dominating run by the men who netted victories in the novice A, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior races. The girls 14 and 16 and under crews also brought home gold for Hawaiian.
The sophomore men's crew from Hawaiian navigated its 1-mile course in 6 minutes, 48.48 seconds.
"It feels good. We knew it would take a lot of our energy collectively," said crewmember Jacob Abeytia. "I've been paddling with some of these guys since we were 10 years old. Maui doesn't get as much respect as far as the men's crews go, so it's definitely a steppingstone for our program."
Kai Bartlett, Peter Konohia, Carlos Gomes, Kekoa Cramer and Tyson Kubo rounded out the crew.
Hawaiian used the same six-man crew in the senior men's race, and again emerged victorious, completing the 1 1/2-mile course in 10 minutes, 31.35 seconds. With the victory, the crew claimed the Michael Tongg Perpetual Trophy, which was awarded this year as a tribute to the HCRA's recently deceased former president.
"After the sophomore race, we knew the competition would be tough, and that (this one) wasn't in the bag," said Bartlett. "I think the sophomore race kind of warmed us up, and even though we were a little tired, the blend felt real good and it all came together.
"Hawaiian's strong, they hung with us when they were missing a lot of crews, and with the open men and women, they jabbed us," said Lanikai head coach Dave Smith. "They're just strong, and Hawaiian's got a great program; they really stepped up today. Their kids' program did really well early, and their open men and women's crews did great. They've got some tough paddlers. We had it all lined up this year, and we couldn't get 'em."
A source at Hawaiian Canoe Club said that the club's 21 total medals was a state record.
Hui Lanakila took the AAA Division (13-20 crews entered) with 152 points, outpacing Puna (145), Kihei (138) and Kahana (131).
The Waikiki Beach Boys took the top spot in the AA Division (7-12 crews entered) with 122 points, getting by Keauhou (112), Na Molokama (110) and Kai Opua (103).
The Beach Boys' senior women's crew won its second consecutive state crown, completing the 1 1/2-mile course in 12 minutes, 11.83 seconds. The crew went undefeated through its Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a campaign, and the club's intense, year-round cross-training program paid dividends.
"That was a surprise -- we thought it'd be a wire-to-wire race," said the crew's steersman, Sue Brown.