Top 10 local sports stories of 2018

  • Daniela Ryf at the Ironman World Championship. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

10. Wrestlers Umu, Bailey are Big Island’s Golden girls

For a roughly 20-minute stretch at the state championships, the mats at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Center were West Hawaii strong as Konawaena’s Kapoina Bailey and Kealakehe’s Roxie Umu each claimed elusive state titles, giving the BIIF multiple wrestling gold medals for the first time since 2012.


Bailey took home the 168-pound title, while Umu grinded out a victory at 184.

9.Unger makes Pro Bowl, keeps top-seeded Saints centered

Big Island native and Hawaii Preparatory Academy grad Max Unger has had a major impact for the Saints from his center position, helping the team secure the top seed in the NFC for the NFL playoffs.

Unger’s top-flight play has helped New Orleans’ high-powered offensive attack thrive with QB Drew Brees at the helm. Brees recently became the league’s all-time passing leader.

Unger was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2013, back when he was with the Seattle Seahawks.

8.Kohala girls, Kealakehe boys make BIIF volleyball history

Kohala got its first title ever in girls volleyball and Kealakehe got its first banner in a while in boys volleyball.

The Cowgirls beat four-time defending champion Konawaena for their thrilling BIIF championship, led by coach Chyler Imai — a 2012 Kohala graduate — and BIIF D-II POY Mikayla Kekoa.

Kealakehe won its championship in comeback fashion, dropping the first two sets to powerhouse Kamehameha-Hawaii before getting the win. It was the program’s first title since 2003.

7. Hawaii Prep continues state soccer dominance

The hottest spot in the state for high school soccer? It’s in Waimea at Hawaii Prep.

Both the girls and boys programs reeled off state titles — the girls a fifth in a row and the boys a third.

The Hawaii Prep girls avenged a BIIF title game loss to Kamehameha-Hawaii, beating their Big Isle rival 3-2.

The Ka Makani boys title came with some interesting circumstances. It was the inaugural year of Hawaii Prep playing in Division I, after winning the D-II title in back to back years.

Even more curious: the result. The title game ended in a 0-0 due to weather, making HPA co-champs with Baldwin, a first in boys soccer.

6. First time events come on Big Island: XTERRA off-road triathlon and Champions Cup

The Big Island welcomed two new and exciting events in 2018.

First up was the Champions Cup, an event in the Invesco Series, which is reserved for some of the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. Jim Courier, Tommy Haas, Mardy Fish and John McEnroe.

Haas bested McEnroe for the title in a spirited final match.

The Big Island also welcomed the inaugural XTERRA Hawaii island off-road triathlon.

Bree Brown and Jose Grace won the 1/2-mile swim, 10-mile mountain bike and 3.1-mile run around the Hapuna area.

5. Hilo, Kamehameha take BIIF football titles

Hilo rolled to its sixth consecutive BIIF title and the program’s first undefeated league season since 2016.

After winning the state title in 2017, the Vikings made it back to Aloha Stadium for the state title game to defend their championship. However, Waipahu proved to be too much, knocking off Hilo 42-22 in the championship.

On the D-II side, Kamehameha dethroned Konawaena, stopping the Wildcats three-year run atop the BIIF.

The Warriors were bumped out of the state tournament in the first round by Kaimuki, 28-27.

Also during the season, Konawaena celebrated 50 years of having a football program.

4. Psalm Wooching continues to trail blaze in rugby world

Kealakehe graduate Psalm Wooching continued to make headlines in the rugby world, after leaving behind a potential career in the NFL to pursue his passion.

Wooching suited up as the US national team starting flanker against Chile in February, earning his first cap.

Recently, Wooching signed a pro contract with the San Diego Legion of Major League Rugby.

3. Jerry Kelly wins thriller at Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai

At the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, Jerry Kelly bounced back from an inexplicable miss off the tee to stun Colin Montgomerie in the season opener on PGA Tour Champions.

Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory.

2.Konawaena adds to girls basketball dynasty

All that underdog noise? The Konawaena Wildcats were not having any of it.

With stifling defense, efficient offense and a whole lot of heart, Konawaena shut down its doubters and captured a fourth consecutive HHSAA Division I championship and ninth overall with a 47-32 victory over Maryknoll.

Coach Bobbie Awa distanced herself even more as the winningest girls coach in Hawaii high school history, with all nine of Konawaena’s titles during the dynastic run coming under her watch.

1. Ironman World Championship turns 40 as Ryf, Lange win

What a day it was in Kona as Ironman celebrated 40 years. There was a ring, a sting and record shattering day from the defending champs.

Lange set the benchmark at the storied 140.6-mile race, clocking a course record time of 7:52:39, becoming the first triathlete to break the mythical 8-hour barrier in Kona.

At the finish line, he dropped to a knee and proposed to his girlfriend.


On the women’s side, Daniela Ryf overcame a slow start and a jellyfish sting to better her own 2016 course record, stopping the clock in 8:26:16.

“Madam Pele was with us today,” Lange said postrace. “She gave us probably the best conditions we have ever had at this race. She probably knew this was the 40th anniversary of the best race of the world.”