JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punahou's Terra DeBold, Kulani Jenkins, Jane Galluzzi and Kelli Moy raised the championship trophy after winning the state water polo championship last week.
SI honors Punahou with yet another title
For the casual fan, or even the astute spectator, Hemmeter Fieldhouse is a wonder of athletics and skylight architecture.
It is also a facility that could easily be outfitted to hang state championship banners. Yes, there's enough room to raise 368 Buffanblu flags.
Instead, Punahou has focused on the present, winning 16 state crowns in the past year, including eight in the last two weeks. That level of success inspired Sports Illustrated to give Punahou a new title: best high school athletic program in the nation.
SI writer Austin Murphy and photographer Rich Frishman spent three days on campus recently in advance of this week's edition of the national magazine.
Athletic director Tom Holden couldn't deny the affect of SI's honor.
"It was exciting. What quickly came to the front was, 'Wow, this is pretty cool.' It's another example of Hawaii getting noticed again, whether it's UH football or Tadd Fujikawa," Holden said. "Every step of the way, someone or some school in Hawaii gets noticed."
Names like Manti Te'o -- considered by many to be the nation's top recruit at linebacker -- and that fairly well-known presidential candidate named Barack Obama are tied to Punahou's name.
Murphy and Frishman went much further, though. Holden said Frishman shot more than 3,000 photos on campus.
"They got a taste of the flavor of what goes on at our campus beyond athletics," Holden said. "They saw things that will help kids at the lower grades with their confidence, and that helps them strive for success later."
Generations of families have poured their knowledge and leadership into the younger generations.
"There's a long history, a genealogy of athletes who've come back to coach," Holden said. "The Macfarlanes, the Crabbes, the McKibbins. When I came here, I felt like my job is not to screw it up."
If anything, he added, SI's honor reaches back in time.
"This is for the kids from before, the Charley Wedemeyers, and all the kids of the future," Holden said.
Competition within the school, even within teams, is always tough.
"From early on, beginning in the younger grades, it seems that Punahou pushes their students to achieve excellence in whatever school endeavors they pursue," said Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya, a graduate of Punahou.
"The high level of competition that Punahou faces in the ILH and against the other leagues in the state tournament forces them to strive to reach their maximum potential. For many different reasons, Punahou's teams bring out the best in their opponents no matter what the sport," Amemiya added. "That's not necessarily a bad thing in high school sports."
Both Holden and Amemiya point to narrow wins in the past year, including a boys basketball thriller over Kamehameha-Hawaii and a girls hoops victory over arch rival Iolani.
"A lot of the credit goes to the league. If we're No. 1 (nationally), there are other schools (from Hawaii) that are real close," Holden noted.
"Although Punahou has won a fair amount of state championships the past few years, it's not like they've won in a cakewalk," Amemiya said. "In some cases, they've lost in state championships."
Iolani knocked off Punahou in the boys volleyball state final on Saturday. Two seasons ago, Kaimuki and Konawaena upended Punahou in their respective boys and girls basketball title games.
Punahou responded this year by winning crowns in both boys and girls basketball.
When the new school year begins in a few months, Hemmeter Fieldhouse will be the same as it is today: clean, well-used and without a single title banner.
At Punahou, they don't need any reminders.