HONOLULU — Keauhou kept one of its well-known streaks alive at the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association state championship on Saturday, relying on its trademark senior paddlers to cash high finishes into valuable points.
The 62nd annual state regatta added two inaugural events — the women’s 65 and men’s 65 — to kick off a windy, smothering, sunny day at Keehi Lagoon, where Keauhou showed its dominance early, winning those two early races and playing to its strength.
Then the West Hawaii club’s points slowed to a trickle as the youngsters occupied the next 16 races, but enough points were scored and Keauhou won the Division AAA (13-20 races) for the third straight year.
But the thing about streaks is they eventually end. Keauhou’s mixed 55 had been rolling along — winning gold for four straight years — but that streak ended.
At least, there was lots of joy for Keauhou and other Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association clubs in Mudville, which would be an appropriate nickname for Keehi Lagoon, fitting for the stench that wafted through the air.
“I thought someone threw dead fish in the back,” said Kai Opua men’s coach Eddie “Piki” Hayward. “I don’t remember that smell from two years ago.”
An HCRA official explained that the wind hits tree pods near Nimitz Freeway and produces an odor that is similar to raw sewage, a chemical spill, year-old rotten eggs or a combination of all three. Otherwise, the atmosphere of the place was enticing for the 58 canoe clubs, and roughly 3,500 paddlers.
Joy was in the air for Nicolaas Schenk, who was part of Keauhou’s novice B men (for rookies) gold crew.
Keauhou made a good turn, got a nice lead and hauled tail to the half-mile finish line in 3 minutes, 48.87 seconds, ahead of Oahu opponent Hui Lanakila’s 3:49.15.
Schenk, 23, said it took the judges two hours to determine a winner, looking over the photo finish. But the long wait was worth it for Schenk, who works at Kukio Resort and teaches paddling.
“It’s unreal. We go undefeated all season and win a state championship. It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s a good group of guys. The key thing is we got out of the turn first, and at the finish they kind of stopped to celebrate and we paddled through.
“A lot of the guys who work at Kukio paddle for the club. It’s good camaraderie and a great experience.”
As the case with streaks, Hayward had a good one. His guys, the junior men, edged longtime powerhouse Lanakila of Oahu by a hair, 7:34.11 to 7:34.29.
It’s Kai Opua’s first gold in the men’s division (18 years and older) since 2002, and that had Hayward jumping for joy while holding his nose.
“We’re stoked. It’s good to know we broke that streak by Lanakila,” he said. “Hopefully, we can start another streak of our own. The key was everybody was on the same page at the same time.
“After the Moku O Hawaii championships, we had rigorous time trials. We wanted to make our weekday practices as difficult as possible and our Saturdays as easy as possible. Our freshmen men were just two-tenths of a second out of a medal. You always want to make the medal round.”
Maybe Kai Opua, with its strong youth program, can start a nice, long streak. The girls 13 won gold, whipping Leeward Kai, 2:12.75 to 2:16.70.
“Our girls 13 showed what the Big Island can do,” Kai Opua athletic director Mike Atwood said. “We’d be undefeated, but in one Moku race we didn’t have our steersman. It’s the same girls 12 that won the state championship last year.”
Keauhou’s mixed 55 streak is over. But at least Sammie Stanbro, who was there from the beginning, continued to extend her legacy.
Whenever a new age division is introduced — the women 55, 60 and Saturday’s 65 — she was there and earned gold. Stanbro also got gold with the women’s 60, which clocked a 4:38.46 in the half-mile race, ahead of Maui’s Waakapaemua’s 4:49.98.
“Every crew contributed points and made positive gains,” Keauhou president Bill Armer said. “We did seven races in Hilo during the Moku season, and that created a lot of scrambling, not only for us but everyone on the west side. We persevered. There was a lot of people moving up and down (in age divisions), and we did different combinations every week.
“We hardly had the same crew together for two weeks in a row. But all that shifting around, blending and reformatting led us to where we are. I know some crews are disappointed, but as a club overall we’re happy where we are.”