Keaau boys, Pahoa girls claim BIIF crowns


HILO — The Keaau boys came well-prepared to make school history, and the Pahoa girls won without their normal lineup before windy conditions pulled the plug on the Big Island Interscholastic Federation canoe paddling championships on Saturday.

Due to safety concerns with high winds increasing the likelihood of canoes flipping, the varsity mixed was scratched, along with four other races, at Hilo Bay where conditions were more suitable for a windsurfing contest.

The decision for the five races — junior varsity mixed heat 2, varsity mixed heats 1 and 2, JV mixed final and varsity mixed final, in that order — has yet to be determined. There’s an open day next Saturday.

However, there are issues complicating the completion of the BIIF championships. For one, Konawaena has scheduled SAT tests for its students that day.

The top four finishers earned berths to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships, which will be held the following week on Feb. 1 at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu.

The good news is the BIIF batted 2-for-3, getting in the boys and girls finals. Keaau, Kona, Honokaa and Parker are going to states for the boys, and Pahoa, Parker, Kona, and Kealakehe for the girls.

Much later in the day the winds picked up, forcing the last five of the 16 races to be scratched. The only people enjoying the onshore gusts were the kite surfers, who turned Hilo Bay into their personal playground.

“I’ve never seen the weather this bad at the BIIF championships,” said Pahoa co-coach Nate Kaluhiwa, on the job for 11 years. “Lining up was really hard. It was blowing so much you had to be way behind the starting line. The wind was a factor. I had a hard time holding the boat.”

The varsity half-mile races were an adventure for everyone because the onshore wind was blowing hard and right into the canoe’s ama. At least on the way back, after the turn, the ama provided a little stability.

Still, the conditions presented a challenge, even for BIIF champions.

There was no fierce battle for fourth place. In the boys final, Keaau ended the suspense early with a good start and a better finish, sailing home in 4 minutes, 44.95 seconds to Konawaena’s 4:51.88.

All the drama was reserved for the girls race.

The Daggers were missing two power seats, Jessica Agtarap and Jessica Seagraves. Ciena Jadu and Jainine Abraham, in her first varsity start, filled in just fine.

They meshed with stroker Savannah DePonte, Loke Milare, steersman Netai Jadu and Tita Hall-Peleiholani, and the new-look crew didn’t miss a beat.

But Pahoa had to work for its BIIF title. Parker, which won the two all-schools regattas at Hilo Bay and Kailua Pier, proved to be a formidable foe. The Bulls saw red and were charging home.

Then about 20 yards from the finish line, the Daggers made a timely late surge and passed them, clocking a 5:27.70 to Parker’s 5:29.00.

Keaau’s glory

The Cougars have previously qualified for states two other times, the last in 2007 when Hilo Bay hosted the HHSAA regatta.

But bringing home the first BIIF championship carries far more significance.

They finished eighth last year at BIIFs. There are only eight lanes. Keaau has always been a paddling underdog, at least until this season.

Seniors Billson Hisaiah, Robert Harrington III, Lopaka Swope and Travis Basford, junior Adam Ventura, and sophomore steersman Byron Cachola turned the Cougars into big-time competitors. The crew was second at the Hilo Bay all-schools regatta and took first at Kailua Pier, hard evidence that they’re for real.

BIIF championships

Roundup>Varsity girls: 1. Pahoa (Savannah DePonte, Elizabeth Milare, Ciena Jadu, Tita Hall-Peleiholani, Jainine Abraham, Netai Jadu), 5:27.70; 2. Parker, 5:29.00; 3. Konawaena, 5:35.87; 4. Kealakehe, 5:43.02; 5. Honokaa, 5:57.41; 6. Waiakea, 6:10.11; 7. Kanu O Ka Aina, 6:12.63; 8. Keaau, 6:40.93.

Roundup>Varsity boys: 1. Keaau (Billson Hisaiah, Robert Harrington III, Lopaka Swope, Travis Basford, Adam Ventura, Byron Cachola), 4:44.95; 2. Konawaena, 4:51.88; 3. Honokaa, 4:54.27; 4. Parker, 5:00.48; 5. Waiakea, 5:07.94; 6. Hawaii Prep, 5:23.39; 7. Hilo, 5:33.61