KEAAU — The Big Island Interscholastic Federation opened the cross-country season Saturday with the traditional Canefire Conditioner at Christian Liberty Academy. The three-mile race features harriers pairing up with a teammate, and there are special rules for team scoring.
The objective is to allow everyone to run with a partner in a relay format so that each individual runs three miles — the total distance in a BIIF race, but with a one-mile interval break in between.
“I think that the kids like it, because they have a rest between each mile and they can get away with not being in three-mile shape,” Canefire coach Frank Grotenhuis said. “Coaches have liked the fact that it’s a low-key event, they get to see where their kids are at, and they can see some of their runners win awards.”
“Our goal has been to make it a fun event for the schools and give them a chance to get out to Keaau and see our campus. It is always an eye-opener for our school to see how popular cross-country is.”
This year’s winning pairs were both from Hilo: Stephen Hunter and Timon Skinner for the boys, and Mahana Sabado-Halpern and Nina Bean for the girls.
Viking coach Lory Hunter divided her girls pairs so that their No. 1 runner would be paired with their No. 4 runner and their No. 2 would be paired with No. 3.
“We wanted the team pair to push each other,” Hunter said.
Hilo’s strategy paid off as their teams battled for first place and finished 1-2 with Carmen Garson-Shumway and Kaylee Rapoza finishing within 3 minutes of the leaders.
“This is an exciting run, and this is my favorite race,” Garson-Shumway said.
The Hilo pairs were clocked at their mile splits in the 6:52 range with the final mile reaching a speedy 6:02. TeHani Jones and Tiana Iwata, from Kamehameha-Hawaii, finished third.
Each coach came with his or her own strategy. Michael Franklin, the Hawaii Prep girls coach, has been doing the same thing the past five years. He didn’t want to pull any surprises on anybody and his strategy is to try to train the team to run as a pack.
HPA lost to Hilo by a point, but that didn’t change Franklin’s thoughts on his strategy.
Waiakea coach Jordon Rosado said he likes the format because it affords his team to rest between miles, and he wants to see what it is like when you put all these miles together during the week.
“It’s a great fun way to keep kids motivated to want to run, and the CLA coach does a fantastic job putting this event together,” Rosado said.
Kamehameha coach Joel Truesdell’s team has done the Canefire Conditioner all seven years.
“It’s a great way to kick off the season; the kids love it,” he said. “We don’t really train for the race. Frank Grotenhuis is a great host, and it’s his way of showing aloha.”
On the boys side, the Honokaa Dragons had a 10-second lead on Hunter, but the young Viking made up the time in a thrilling 11-second turnaround.
“We were running in second place until our final baton pass in which we took over the lead,” Hunter said.
Hunter had to pass the Dragons in the final baton pass to make it a clean sweep for the Vikings, but Honokaa still pulled out the team title.
Another pair of Vikings, Isreal Sim and Max Panoff, finished in third place within a minute of the other Hilo team. Parker’s Paul Gregg and Tyler McCullough were fourth, a mere 1:12 from first place.
Grotenhuis said the event keeps getting larger and larger, with 328 on Saturday compared to 300 last year.
c Note: Next Saturday’s race has been moved from Kealakehe to Hawaii Prep.