Rani Henderson: Volcano’s Magic


In its short existence, the Volcano Rain Forest Runs has become one of my favorite Big Island running events — and this past Saturday was no exception.

Clearly others felt the same way as 660 competitors showed up for the half marathon, 10K, 5K and keiki races that took place in Volcano Village at a crisp 4,000-foot elevation. This event has evolved into far more than an ordinary running race — it has become a vibrant “mini-festival” featuring magicians, face painting, juggling acts, music, food vendors and retail booths. Truly an enjoyable morning for everyone and a worthwhile weekend trip over to Volcano.

Despite the early morning cool temperature of 59 degrees, things heated up rather quickly in the hilly half marathon race showcasing panoramic views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Last year’s defending champion Billy Barnett and Hilo’s Jonathan Peralto turned it into a two-man race for first as the duo stayed together until the top of the hill at 8.5 miles. Barnett then cranked up the heat — blazing down the hill to take the victory with a 1 hour 18 minute and 3 second time.

Peralto trailed in second with an impressive 1:20:51, and Hilo’s Jonathon Ucker outpaced Laupahoehoe’s Alan Ryan over the last mile to finish third in 1:26:57 to Ryan’s 1:27:30.

The women’s race became a friendly battle between Oahu’s Candes Gentry and myself, to see who would reach the finish line first to our awaiting babies — Gentry’s 11-month-old and my 4 1/2-month-old son. Somehow I managed to find my stride to cross first with a time of 1:28:58, followed by Gentry close behind at 1:31:11. Seattle’s Jennifer Yogi ran a speedy 1:34:43 to place third.

Joe Barcia of Keaau led wire-to-wire in the 10k race with an outstanding time of 39:16. Keeping it close was Honolulu’s Thomas Gouard in second at 39:37, and Tucson’s Tim Urista at 41:27 to round out the men’s top three.

Hilo’s Kim Pierce separated herself from the women’s pack to cruise through the finish line in a winning time of 44:51. The race for second was a close one between Jan Yamashiro and Sharon Munk of Williams Lake, Calif. Yamashiro used one final kick to outsprint Munk 47:30 to 47:36 respectively.

An honorable mention goes out to Big Island Mayor, Billy Kenoi, who crossed the line in an impressive time of 1:00:41. Aside from catching the runner’s bug, Kenoi has also proven himself to be quite the triathlete this year — participating in Lavaman Waikoloa, Ironman Hawaii 70.3 and Team Mango’s Trashcan Triathlon.

Youth prevailed for the top three males in the 5k event. Hilo High School’s Stephen Hunter clicked off an average pace of six minutes per mile to finish first in 18:36. Thirteen year-old Nick Paduano from Lake Stevens, Washington state, held off Ryan Witthans for second place with a time of 19:14. Witthans placed third a few strides back at 19:24.

Less than a minute separated the top three women — making for an exciting finish. Hilo High School’s Carmen Garson-Shumway used her cross-country running skills to pass Pahoa’s Heather Scarbrough in the final 100 yards to finish in a great time of 20:27. Scarbrough came in with a solid 20:37, and Mehana Sabado-Halpern rounded out the podium with a 20:59.

On the following day, many athletes would shift climates and head to Kona for Peaman’s Brown Bear Bash and Sunny Sprint — a 1/3-mile swim in Kailua Bay followed by a 3.1-mile run on Alii Drive. These biathlons are by far, the best free, fun, and family oriented speed workouts in town. Many of Kona’s best athletes have started off as mere Pea-Wees.

Kona’s Luis De La Torre, one of Hawaii’s fastest biathletes, finished strong with a winning time of 25 minutes and 5 seconds. David Holden managed to keep it close — coming in second with a stellar 25:21, and Louis Sam in third at a respectable 27:06.

Despite a recent broken wrist injury, Karlyn Pipes made it look easy — finishing first with a speedy 28:43 to place sixth overall and first for the women. Kelly Jernigan came in a few minutes later at 32:28, and Jennifer Stabrylla at 32:40 to round out the women’s top three.

In the shorter Pea-Wee race, Nophia Pinto dominated the 200-swim and 1-mile run in an outstanding time of 12:21. Second went to Elijah Hall at 13:40, and Ciara Blaber in third at 14:36.

Relay teams had the opportunity to do the full or short distance. In the full, Split Pea division, Sarah Somsanguansit and Jeremy Gambing topped the field with their combined time of 28:37. The shorter Pea-Wee Split Peas division went to Wonder Woman and Xitlalitl Reyes in a time of 12:46.

And for those who think dog-paddling is slow, just ask Hana how it’s done. Hana the dog, paddled her way to finish first in the 1/3-mile swim. The always smiling Makena Becker was the first pea-ticipant at 8 minutes and 30 seconds.

Athletes can look forward to lazier weekends over the next two weeks as there are no swim-bike-runraces scheduled on the calendar.

Lastly, another round of applause is in order for Kona’s 17-year-old swimming sensation, Leahi Camacho, who successfully conquered the Ka’iwi Channel this past weekend in 14 hours and 43 minutes. Camacho is currently the youngest to accomplish this endeavor with the ninth fastest recorded time in history.