Dave Reardon

Press Box

By Dave Reardon

Sunday, May 27, 2001

Don’t forget Chelsey-
Ann and Bertram


CALL 2000-2001 the Year of the Underdog in Hawaii high school sports. It began with Kahuku loosening the St. Louis stranglehold in football and ended with Aiea surprising us with its girls basketball victory over Kalaheo.

Teams from Oahu Interscholastic Association schools also won the boys basketball and baseball championships.

Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, is not only a tireless organizer. He's also a pretty good researcher and historian.

According to Amemiya, the last time the OIA took the "big three" of football, boys basketball and baseball was 1973-74 (Waianae, Leilehua and Aiea).

Can you guess what that school year has in common with the one ending now? A teacher's strike.

(Twilight Zone music, please.)

Sheer coincidence, of course.

My favorite stories of the past school sports season are about underdogs. But individuals, not teams.

One was a girl from Nanakuli, the other a boy from the Big Island. Neither won a championship or all-state honors. On the surface, what they did was hardly spectacular -- a 1-yard touchdown run and a non-qualifying hurdles trials race. But one's story was symbolic of our changing times, and the other is indicative of the increasing level of competency among our state's high school sports leadership.

Chelsey-Ann Kaimi played slotback for Nanakuli. On Sept. 15, 2000 against Moanalua, she rushed for the first touchdown ever by a girl in a Hawaii varsity football game.

Kaimi's coach, Al Beaver, is a tough but fair disciplinarian. Kaimi was no token. She was on the team and played because she deserved it.

What impressed me most about Kaimi was her low-key attitude. She's just another kid out there banging shoulder pads, trying to win football games and have some fun doing it.

Bertram Sylva ran hurdles for Waiakea. On May 18, 2001 in the state track and field trials, minutes off delayed flights from the Big Island and Oahu, he ran the 110 high hurdles in 16.02 seconds -- not good enough to make the finals, but important in a larger sense.

Sylva is symbolic of how prep sports organizers made nearly all the right calls in a trying situation due to the school teachers strike.

Under normal rules, Sylva would not have made it in time to compete in his only state meet event. But organizers had the foresight to plan for travel delays, since most coaches were under the impression school time could not be missed for sports because of the strike.

The state meet began 19 minutes late to accommodate a hurdler with nary a chance to place. But nobody seemed to mind. High school sports can still be about participation, even at a championship meet.

Overall, it was a great year. Unique challenges were overcome by players, coaches, officials and administrators. Everybody take a bow.

OK, with that done, your next mission: Football classification, please. Despite it being the Year of the Underdog, there were too many 84-0 games.

Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii from 1977 to 1998,
moved to the the Gainesville Sun, then returned to
the Star-Bulletin in Jan. 2000.
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