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BIIF air riflery: Kamehameha finally hits championship mark

Updated: 
October 6, 2017 - 10:21pm

KEAAU – Kamehameha shooters taking aim at practice only have to glance slightly to the left to read the banner on the wall.

No matter how steely they focus on their targets, they’ve no doubt memorized it: THINK LIKE CHAMPIONS. ACT LIKE CHAMPIONS.

The Warriors, collectively, finally are champions.

It’s not hyperbole to say one off the BIIF’s all-time greatest dynasties fell Saturday when Kamehameha’s boys edged Waiakea at Koaia Gym in the last regular-season air riflery match. It wasn’t only Kamehameha first team title – it was the first time Waiakea failed to sweep the crowns since the BIIF sanctioned the sport.

“Success wasn’t as accident, it was a choice that they made,” coach Tracy Aruga said Thursday, pointing at the banner. “They were determined, and you could see it reflected in their scores.”

Kamehameha trailed Waiakea entering the final of six matches – the title is decided by the top four season-scoring averages per team – so Aruga gave his shooters a goal to put them over the top. Devez Aniol (269.67 season average) was the top shot, but Nainoa Kalaola-Maruquin (260. 33), Johnathan Ching (255.67) and Ethan Lee (253.67) also each surpassed their marks as Kamehameha edged Waiakea by almost 10 percentage points.

“Our last match, home turn, we had a duty to do and fulfill it,” said Kalaola-Maruquin a senior.

On the girls side, Waiakea extended its reign behind Kiani Aburamen (266), Shaye Nishimura (265.67), Anne Nakamoto (263) and Tori Hironaga (262.67), edging Kamehameha by 4.33 points based on its balance.

When it was over, Kamehameha was cleaning up its gym when Waiakea’s boys came back in to congratulate the Warriors on the changing of the guard.

“It showed how much class that their team has,” Aruga said of Waiakea.

But, finally, Kamehameha has the brass.

“(Coach) pushes us in every practice to do better, but it’s not always serious when we practice,” Aniol said. “We’ll have fun, too. He has that balance of relaxed focus and leisure.

Aniol, a junior, is the top seed entering the BIIF championships, which are on tap for 3 p.m. Saturday at Waiakea. Kamehameha’s Tiari Fa’agata (268.67) leads the girls competition, just ahead of teammate Iceley Andaya (267.67).

Aruga started as a volunteer assistant five years ago – his son Logan is a former BIIF champion – and this is his third year as coach.

“After my first year as a head coach, I wasn’t satisfied,” Tracy Aruga said. “In my season there was a total paradigm shift in the program: the way we trained, the way we educated and practiced. Everything changed.”

“From that point on, we’ve seen a different outcome.”

Of Kamehameha’s bunch, Aniol is more of the straight shooter, happy to give his teammates a reassuring message if he sees them shooting astray.

Beating Waiakea was “not really a focus for me,” he said. “It was just about getting better everyday and helping the team out.”

“For us, usually when we have competitive-style practices, the shooters push each other to see who is better and eventually that leads to higher scores,” Aniol said.

Kalaola-Maruquin is the one who is more apt to crack a joke to keep tensions in check when shooters are lined up.

“I like to a make fun of them and cheer them up,” he said.

Kalaola-Maruquin shot as a freshman and sophomore, before taking his junior off. He came back for his senior season after Aruga reached out to him.

“I kind of felt like this was our year and we were going to take it,” Kalaola-Maruquin said. “And in the end we did.”

However, he doesn’t figure to be trying to ease any of his teammates this Saturday.

“It’s every man for himself,” he said with a smile.

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