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Worthington breaks through for state title


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POSTED: Monday, April 06, 2009

Tapa Worthington picked a pretty good time to collect his first Kanaka Ikaika paddling victory.

Worthington claimed the 2009 Kanaka Ikaika State Championship in the one-man canoe category yesterday by fending off dogged competition in the 24-mile course from Kailua to Waikiki's Kaimana Beach in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 48 seconds.

An 11-year veteran of the solo circuit, Worthington had never finished higher than third. Now he's looking sharp with the Molokai-to-Oahu world championship race just two weeks away.

"Kinda worked out where I've been putting in a lot of mileage this last couple of weeks, so it's paying off," the 33-year-old flight attendant from Aina Haina said. "Kind of looking towards the Molokai solo ... getting to that (mode) where I want to peak at the right time."

Worthington acknowledged that several top-flight paddlers, including defending champ Karel Tresnak Jr., weren't in yesterday's race as they gear up for Molokai. But he figures that staying sharp in a race setting is as good a way to prepare as any.

"I'm just stoked. ... It's an honor to win it," Worthington said. "I know there wasn't a lot of the top guys, but still the guys that entered today, they're just as good. You know, I'll take it."

Runner-up Kae'o'okalani Abbey (2:27:01) matched Worthington for much of the final stretch, but faltered when Worthington, riding farther away from the coastal reef, hit a bump just after the wind sock about 100 yards from the finish buoy. Aaron Napoleon finished third at 2:27:37.

Arlene Holzman of Kailua won a back-and-forth battle with Hui Lanakila teammate and defending champ Jessie Eames to pick up the women's solo canoe title. Holzman (2:50:23) edged Eames (2:50:30) by 7 seconds.

"She was in front, I was in front, she was in front," said Holzman, who finished third last year. "We came through Hawaii Kai together — she was outside, I was inside. Coming around Diamond Head we were together, right around the wind sock right here, and I caught a little baby bump.

"We're good friends," she added. "She's a great competitor, she's no slouch. Any time either of us beat each other, it's pretty nice."

The two will team up for the Molokai relay race across the Kaiwi Channel on May 3.

Zsolt Szadovszki defended his men's surfski long-course title by coasting in at 2:18:55. His nearest competitor, Steve Kelly, came in more than 3 minutes later at 2:22:03.

"From (Makai Pier) that's kind of my home run, if I can say that," the two-time champ said. "Until Makai Pier, Steve Kelly was actually in front of me. And then, after that, I surged away."

Szadovszki said he's primarily trying to learn the local surf patterns as he prepares to cross the Kaiwi Channel in the surfski Molokai World Championships on May 17.

Conditions were favorable despite winds that were predicted as high as 30 miles per hour. Even the Windward seas treated the paddlers well; last year, the contestants endured messy conditions from the very start.

"It was much mellower," said Szadovszki, a Hungarian who moved to Hawaii after winning the state title last year. "There were some breaks, so you had to be really careful. But it was much easier this year."

Jason Ignacio took the men's short-course (13 miles) title in one-man canoes at 1:07:22, and Denise Darval-Chang won the women's short course in 1:25:02. Bob Rocheleau (1:09:47) was tops in short-course surfskis for men.