The Kamehameha-Hawaii girls have won the last five Big Island Interscholastic Federation judo championships, relying on depth to fill the different weight classes and pile up valuable points.
The Warriors are in good shape once again, with 12 girls on the roster, including four returning BIIF medalists in Nellie Towata (98 pounds, silver), Tiari Carreira (109, silver), Noelle Pohina (129, bronze) and Kailey Lapenia (172, bronze).
All of the judoka are seniors. There’s no better motivation than a last chance to grab gold or extend the school’s title streak.
“It looks pretty good this year,” coach Jenna Aina said. “The boys have a good chance for the BIIF title as well. I’m pretty excited to see how the season will turn out.”
But Hilo is standing in the way with a roster of 10 girls, including five BIIF medalists in junior Shaylyn Arakaki (98, gold), junior Seysha Bondaug (109, bronze), junior Lahi Kanakanui (139, gold), sophomore Kathleen Shon (139, silver) and Lia Nakamura (172, gold).
However, Arakaki and Bondaug are on the disabled list, injured during the wrestling season. At the BIIF championships, Arakaki, in her first year in wrestling, won a title in the 97 weight class while Bondaug was second at 113.
Katie Funai adds a little depth. The sophomore tried out for wrestling and won a BIIF title at 109. The rookie judoka could be a comfortable fit at her familiar 109 weight class, if she shortens her learning curve again.
“She doesn’t give up and picks it up pretty fast,” Hilo coach Jacob Shon said. “She’s already doing moves a lot of people don’t attempt in their second year. She’s a really quick learner. I have a feeling she’ll do pretty well. Her mat work doesn’t need touch up.”
Last year, Nakamura claimed gold at states, and so did Konawaena’s Tanalei Louis, now a senior, in the 129 division. Lapenia took home bronze.
Most of the Kamehameha girls started as rookies, coming over from wrestling and working hard to turn themselves into BIIF title contenders.
Hilo and Kamehameha are lucky to have at least 10 girls, the same amount of weight classes.