State paddling: HPA takes home two medals

It took Hawaii Prep paddling just one regatta to accomplish something the BIIF as a whole had only done once in 17 previous tries at the HHSAA championships.

Spearheaded by senior backbones Kala Thurston, Hunter Ellis, and Jake Honl-DeGuair, Ka Makani were the first Big Island school to capture two state medals Saturday at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, a silver in the mixed race and a bronze for the boys.


“I told the seniors, don’t leave anything out there, and they brought it,” HPA coach Mesepa Tanoai said. “To watch that was pretty memorable.”

The runner-up mixed finish represents the best result for a Big Island crew at states since Konawaena’s mixed canoe claimed gold in 2008. That still stands as the BIIF’s only victory since the event started in 2002, and Ka Makani joins Kealakehe (mixed runner-up in 2007) as the second silver medalist.

HPA finished its half-mile race in 4 minutes and 14.69 seconds, far in back of Punahou (4:03.80), which also won the girls event. In the preliminary, Tanoai used the crew that won BIIF gold – Thurston, Ellis, Annika Berezney, Gabriella Silva, Mikaela Chong, Honl-DeGuair – then he subbed in Paloma Fields for the final.

History has been hard on the BIIF in the boys event, but HPA paddled to bronze in 3:49.20 – Kamehameha-Kapalama edged Punahou for gold 3:46.12-3:46.44 – becoming only the second Big Island boys crew to medal and the first since Kealakehe in 2011.

HPA used its BIIF-winning crew – Thurston, Ellis, Bennett Varney, Kama Liu, Ford Stallsmith and Honl-DeGuair – to win its preliminary against Kamehameha-Kapalama, and one paddler was subbed in for the final.

“They only thing that surprised me was Kamehameha,” Tanoai said. “To watch them blow by us was pretty amazing.”

Prior to Saturday, 2011 was the only year in which BIIF crews brought home two medals (HPA won mixed bronze that year).

Seven BIIF crews saw their days end in the semifinals: Keaau girls and mixed, Kealakehe girls and boys, Kamehameha boys, Parker mixed and the Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino girls.


HPA’s three medals all-time are second-best on the island behind the Wildcats’ six. Kealakehe owns two, and Keaau one (mixed bronze last season).

The BIIF’s girls medal drought extends to 2005, when Konawaena took bronze.

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