BIIF air riflery spared in fall sports postponement but remains on hold, pending virus pandemic

  • Hilo’s Gianna Yokoe used a carefree attitude as a steadying force last season to claim gold at the state air riflery championships in Honolulu. (Parish Kaleiwahea/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Hilo High’s Gianna Yokoe put a season’s worth of middling finishes behind her as a junior at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association air riflery championships, riding a brotherly piece of advice to a surprise state conquest.

“You have to care, but not care (all) at the same time,” Yokoe told the Tribune-Herald last October. “I guess that mindset really does work.”

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Such an easygoing philosophy comes in all the more handy in 2020, when even “low-risk” high school sports face an uncertain future because of the renewed sense of urgency in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Air riflery, along with bowling, were the fall sports spared postponement until 2021, but neither will start until at least Sept. 14, if at all, after the HHSAA extended its “no-contact” period earlier this week.

“Being the defending state champ hasn’t changed my mindset much,” Yokoe said Tuesday. “Whenever the season may start, I’m ready to get back to practice and give my senior season everything I have, just like last year. As we all know, anything can happen. I am also prepared if we have no season at all.”

Coach Rayner Galdones said many of the Vikings were itching to shoot, including Yokoe, but the only contact he’s had with any of his shooters since their last practice in March has been by group text.

Yokoe’s ready and waiting, if not relaxed.

“I have been practicing just a bit at home since our last school practice,” she said. “Nothing intensive, but I’ve been trying to maintain my muscle memory.”

The sport is as low profile on the Hawaii high school scene as it is “low risk,” but the BIIF has earned high marks of late, with three schools producing five individual state champions since 2011 (Kamehameha’s Devez Aniol in 2018; Waiakea’s Guy Yokoe, Gianna’s brother, 2015; Waiakea’s Justin Gray, 2013; Waiakea’s Kellie Iwasaki, 2011) and seven in all.

If a season, abbreviated at is might be, comes to fruition, Yokoe would try to be the first to repeat.

“It’s easier to social distance than other sports,” Galdones said, “we’d separate the kids by maybe one or two lanes. Everyone is issued their own rifle, we don’t share.

“The only thing is, if the kids can’t go to school, I can’t practice. My practice facility is at the school.”

As it is, administrators may wait to see if in-person instruction – which has been delayed by four weeks on the Big Island – is viable for a period of time before considering green-lighting extra-curricular activities.

“I imagine it would be a really short season, I think we’re to going to have two, maybe three weeks, to prepare for the matches,” Galdones said.

And “matches” would resemble practices this season since the traditional setup of holding a meet each week at a rotating list of schools would be abandoned.

From what Galdones has been told by BIIF air riflery coordinator Michael Costales, the St. Joseph athletic director, each school would shoot at its facility and post shooters’ scores on the Orion Scoring System website for comparison.

The lack of a centralized site could complicate scoring, however.

“Air riflery has a scoring system, there is a committee that does it,” Galdones said. “So they would have to set a schedule, so we would have to figure that out, too.”

If the season is a go, schools conceivably would have a larger pool of athletes to draw from since football, girls volleyball, cross-country and cheerleading were postponed. Waiakea and Kamehameha, which practice in their school gyms, usually field the largest air riflery rosters in the BIIF. Galdones said he may try to fill a few openings, but he keeps his roster on the smaller size to fit his practice facility.

“I don’t know, we just have to wait and see,” he said, echoing the sentiment of many a coach in 2020.

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Either way, Yokoe will be patiently waiting.

“The higher-ups will do whatever they see fit and necessary for the health and safety of all athletes this year,” she said.

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