Not your average Farmer


POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The view isn't common to visitors.

No, the typical images of Hawaii transported via “;Hawaii Five-0,”; postcards of Diamond Head and the sounds of Don Ho won't show anyone what Kalei Adolpho sees.

From hilly Hoolehua, not far from Molokai High School, a view of the south shore is pristine. It's the shoreline that includes a precious reef that has sustained residents for centuries, providing some of the sweetest seafood anywhere. But Adolpho wasn't looking at her destination, Kaunakakai, with thoughts of swimming or diving.

Nine-year-old Kalei had her Nikes on, and the 6-mile trek downhill from the tree lines to the ocean was about running. Kalei followed the heels of older brother Manu, not to become the next Steve Prefontaine or win gold medals or churn out record times. All seven Adolpho keiki ran because daddy, Carl, said to.

“;My dad played basketball and volleyball. When we were smaller, it was, 'You have to run.' Then when you're older, it's just something you do,”; she said. “;It makes everything easier.”;

Across the street from the Adolpho hale, a cow grazes on a pasture and a goat occasionally glances at Kalei. She stretches for just a minute and takes off at a very un-Usain Bolt speed.

“;I do the whole thing at a slow pace,”; she said.

Cornfields line Kamehameha Highway, then there's mostly empty space. Occasionally, neighbors and friends drive by, honk and wave, but mostly there's no more thinking. She's in a zone until she nears town and stops at the harbor, where her parents pick her up.

“;I like the easy pace. It's like meditation,”; she said. “;But competitive running? It's work. Racing is hard.”;

Killer instinct? Not always, but there might not be a sweeter teammate and friend, not just on the Friendly Island, but all the islands.

“;She has a funny laugh. It's goofy,”; friend and teammate Jaime Duvauchelle said.

Adolpho finds live entertainment in Duvauchelle and another two-sport teammate, Danna-Lynn Hooper-Juario.

“;Jaime is smart-aleck funny. Danna is just goofy and out of the blue. Wacky funny,”; she said.

With teammates like that and a huge family at home, it's no wonder Adolpho likes her team sports.

It's been a year since Kalei, now a 16-year-old junior, put on the running shoes and hit the pavement. The days of practicing volleyball, then running 3 miles on her own — when she was part of the cross country team — are history. She still does some high jumping on the track team, but her world involves basketball and volleyball most of the time.

As a sophomore last winter, the 6-foot-1 center led the Molokai basketball team to the school's first girls team state championship. The Farmers swept University, Kapaa and Kamehameha-Hawaii for the Division II crown as Adolpho seized the opportunity. She considered her first game a disappointment — nine points — in terms of intensity. So, she ravaged Kapaa with 16 points, 25 rebounds and seven blocks, with just one foul — knocking out a team that had shocked Kahuku the night before.

In the final, Adolpho logged 32 minutes in a 21-point, 19-rebound, five-block effort against KS-Hawaii. Her presence forced the Warriors to think long ball, and they shot just 28 percent from the field with Adolpho's long arms and quick feet covering the paint. She shot 9-for-11 from the floor and Molokai pulled out a 45-42 title win.

Considered more of a volleyball player before the season, the Farmers' agile shotblocker opened a lot of eyes. She still loves volleyball — the team traveled and played in the Ann Kang Invitational last week — but basketball is right there, too.

She spent a month on Oahu during the summer, staying with the family of HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya, so she could work on her hoop skills four times a week.

“;I have to start playing bigger people, better people, so I can get better,”; Adolpho said. “;I wish I could've gotten more practice with volleyball.”;

She says she never got homesick, but might have missed her six brothers and sisters more than expected.

“;My family, it's hectic and loud. There (with the Amemiyas), it's quiet like a regular family,”; said Adolpho, who went to church each week.

“;I knew my dad would ask,”; she said.

It takes much to raise the ire of Kalei. A flat performance to start the state basketball tourney lit a fire; she was tenacious the rest of the way, earning most outstanding player honors. At the Ann Kang Invitational last week, she played at a higher level after the Farmers hit the skids, pounding the ball with a college-level explosion.

It's just an uncommon view — a 6-1 female sports standout from a tiny, quiet place almost off the grid. Kalei Adolpho is just starting to pick up the pace.