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Isle athletes gearing up for state track


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POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2009

KEAAU, HAWAII » The hours of hard work and preparation put in by hundreds of athletes over the last several months come down to a few seconds when it really matters this weekend.

Competition in the Island Movers/HHSAA Track and Field State Championships begins today with the trials at Keaau High School on the Big Island at noon, and at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow in the championship round.

Events today serve as qualifying for tomorrow's main event, except for the boys high jump and girls pole vault, which will be completed on the first day.

Both of last year's team champions—the Punahou boys and the Kamehameha girls—are in good position to aim for a repeat.

The Punahou boys put on a dominant display at last week's Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships. But Hilo, just a few minutes down the road from Keaau, could pose a threat (and not just because of home-track advantage). The Vikings are strong in the pole vault, hurdles and sprints.

"I can remember having a little more anxiety last year," Punahou boys coach Micah Pavich said. "This year (as the two-time defending champ) I feel like there are a lot of teams that could take it, with Saint Louis and Hilo both looking especially strong. I kind of like that role better. I wouldn't necessarily consider us an underdog—but having it be (more wide-open)."

Kamehameha could have the horses to repeat for the girls title. The Warriors hung right with a deeper Punahou team for most of last week's Interscholastic League of Honolulu Championships, and couldn't quite eke out a team victory. Still, the defending state champion has talent led by Ashlee Jiminez and Hailey Kauhane.

Kamehameha coach Gail Murakami likes where her team stands compared to this time last year, when they outdid the Buffanblu when it mattered most. Punahou's depth gets pared down with the more wide-open state field.

"After (the ILH meet), I think we're stronger going into states compared to last year," Murakami said. "I think we have more."

Radford dominated the Oahu Interscholastic Association girls circuit and could have a say. Seabury Hall and King Kekaulike are strong out of the Maui Interscholastic League and Hawaii Prep is a force from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation.