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BIIF: Konawaena’s Vallez pointed in right direction

October 10, 2017 - 12:05am

KEAAU – Konawaena’s Josiah Vallez carries the proper endurance and the right mindset.

Give him the correct directions, and he’s good to go.

Vallez’s third victory of the BIIF cross-country season came Saturday at Keaau, and although he was slightly disappointed he didn’t come in under 17 minutes, his time of 17:01.79 was still a personal best for a runner who started in track and seems to be transitioning well to 5Ks.

“At first, I did not think about doing cross-country, it was just track,” Vallez said. “But my coach (Patrick Bradley) saw what I could do, and I feel really comfortable running.

“Mentally, I’m pretty strong. I don’t give up, I’m not a person to give up.”

And about those three victories – there very well could have been a fourth. The last time out at Keaau on Sept. 16, Vallez held a lead and was running comfortably when he made a wrong turn and “everybody started passing me.”

Vallez, a senior who claimed BIIF gold in the 800 meters in May, recovered to finish third, but he wasn’t taking any chances Saturday.

“I went over this trail when I first got here,” he said.

Honokaa junior Sophia Cash won for the second week in a row, pulling away after Kealakehe freshman Audrey Weir dropped out with an apparent sprained ankle.

With a two-week break before the BIIF championships Oct. 21 at Kamehameha, Vallez’s goal is to keep pushing himself, mentally and physically.

The things he can’t control at BIIFs are the pack of runners he is likely to encounter from Hilo and Waiakea.

The Vikings’ Steven Chung (17:14.80) and Samuel Gibson (17:20.25) finished second and third, respectively, and Elisha Watkins came in fifth, one spot behind Kealakehe’s Alec Ankrum, who has won two races this season. Vikings coach Bill McMahon was most impressed that junior Seth Wilson gave Hilo a sixth runner in the top 14.

“Their times indicate that we are where we want to be right now,” McMahon said.

The Warriors didn’t race their top runners but still put three in the top 10.

Vallez, who may be the lone top contender wearing Wildcats green at BIIFs, has a strategy for facing opponents who are running in a pack.

“You can really get trapped in between them,” he said. “You’ve got to be smart. You can either think about going ahead of them and risk going out too fast, or you can stay behind them and at the right moment know certain parts of the trail where you can cut in.”

For Vallez, wearing green means go.

“I take risks,” he said. “If I feel (I’m being blocked), I’m definitely going to take off.”

Bradley said Vallez learned his confidence from running last season with former teammates Cody Ranfranz, the defending BIIF champion, and Lawrence Barrett.

“I learned you want to run your race; you’re not running other people’s race,” Vallez said. “You’re racing time, not people. People are unpredictable. Time never changes, so if you keep your pace, you’re going to get better.”

The girls race looked to be an enticing BIIF championship preview, with upstart the Weir, who had finished as the top BIIF finisher in all four races she’d entered, holding a slight lead on Cash, the two-time defending champion.

Cash (20:32.12) said she had taken took the lead and wasn’t aware that Weir dropped out.

“Hopefully, she’s OK,” Cash said.

With Venus Rodin (20:42.20) taking second, Hilo placed five runners in the top 10 (Teijah Rosas Suenishi, fifth; Cloud Rodin, sixth; Sam Marrack, ninth; Alexia Palafox, 10th), despite also having a runner drop out.

Five is key number as that’s how many runners will count toward team scores at BIIFs.

Makua Lani’s Tia Lurbiecki was third and Kealakehe’s Leann Hamilton fourth.

“We wanted our kids to run as hard as they could because we have a week to rest,” McMahon said. “There is nothing to lose. You’re going to be able to taper for the two important races that are coming up.”

After BIIFs, the HHSAA championships are Oct. 28 on Kauai.

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