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BIIF cross-country: Exuding cool in Waiakea heat, Honokaa champ strikes early

Updated: 
October 2, 2017 - 6:37pm

HILO – Maybe the heat got to Sophia Cash’s head and she forgot which race this was.

Or perhaps the Honokaa High running “program” is ahead of schedule this time.

Whatever the case, Cash will not be sneaking up on anybody at the BIIF cross-country championships this season – she’s effectively spoiled any chance she has at playing spoiler again.

There were 85 girls finishers Saturday amid steamy conditions for a 5K at Waiakea, and from start to finish Cash – with a cold, no less – ran with far more zip than anyone else, pocketing her first regular-season victory. The caveat is the junior’s other two wins the past two seasons just so happened to come at the BIIF finals.

“Before the race I noticed it was super hot today,” Cash said, “but I tried to keep it out of my mind and tell myself, no, no, no. Push harder, I can’t let that be a factor.”

Her persona, relaxed and cool, matches her running form.

From an outsider’s point of view, Cash has made a habit the past two seasons of laying low during the regular season and pouncing at BIIFs.

“I had the mindset that I’m going to try hard today, even though I’m sick and my body is kind of being weird,”she said. “I was testing myself and seeing how much better I could get.”

Dragons coach Jeri Moniz said Cash always tries her best, but credited a program for Cash’s annual drive when it counts.

Don’t ask about details on the program, however. It’s a bit of a Dragons trade secret.

“It’s hard,” Cash said. “It’s really hard, that’s all I can say.”

And she makes it look so easy.

Her time of 20 minutes, 59.29 seconds, was more than 90 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Makua Lani Tia Lurbiecki.

Kealakehe freshman Audrey Weir has been the gold standard this season, but most of the Waveriders sat out Saturday’s race, as did Konawaena.

“I’m kind of worrying about myself,” Cash said. “I really like (Audrey). She’s cool.”

Waiakea’s Eric Cabais-Fernandez (17:32.18) also enjoyed a sizeable advantage in the boys field as the Warriors took advantage of a little home cooking to take five of the top nine spots, including Seneca Helfrich (18:02.07) in second.

Two-time defending Division I champion Waiakea could have been even more impressive, but Adrian Larkspur, one of their top runners, watched from the side with a minor injury as

“There is a lot of depth, and it’s great to see different people stepping up,” co-coach Mary Jane Tominaga said. “Definitely the top three, their fairly consistent, but it’s good to see four through seven are slowly building up and they are becoming interchangeable.”

Adding to his win two weeks ago at Keaau, Cabais-Fernandez is becoming a prime contender for No. 1 on the island.

“He’s figuring out what he’s trying to do independtly,” Tominaga said. “He has other goals as well, but at the same time he’s aware he’s able to pull along everyone else at the same time.”

The best race of the day might have been for third, with Hilo’s Steven Chung (18:28.80) edging teammate Elisha Watkins (18:29.86).

The Warriors also drew the best team score in the girls race – JoryAnne Cabalse and Kahala Erskine were fifth and sixth, respectively – but Tominaga expects more from Hilo and perennial champion Hawaii Prep going forward. The last regular season meet is Saturday at Keaau, with BIIFs at Kamehameha on Oct. 21.

The Vikings didn’t run with a full squad, and Teijah Rosas Suenishi led the way in third, while Ka Makani’s Emi Higgins was fourth.

“Hilo is deep and Hawaii Prep is bulding,” Tominaga said. “I think Hilo has a chance this year. They have a strong and young team.”

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