Konawaena mixed paddling team becomes first BIIF crew to win gold at the state championship

  • In 2008, Konawaena's mixed paddling team became the first team from the Big Island to win a state paddling championship. (West Hawaii Today/File Photo)

Editor’s note: While the sports world is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Hawaii Today will look back every Tuesday at memorable sports moments on the Big Island.

In 2008, the Konawaena mixed paddling team made school history, in a photo finish at the HHSAA paddling championships at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu.


The downside of an exciting, close race? The Wildcats had to stand by for 15 minutes before they could celebrate their accomplishment.

With the Wildcats at the end was also Kamehameha-Oahu and Maryknoll mixed crews, and all three schools had to wait while officials sorted out which school came out on top.

“After the race, nobody celebrated — nobody knew who won,” Konawaena junior Mikie Suber said in a March 1, 2008 West Hawaii Today article.

Finally, the results were released: the Wildcats had finished in first, in four minutes, .73 second, just ahead of Kamehameha-Oahu (4:00.89) and Maryknoll (4:01.04).

It was history in the making — not just for Konawaena, but for all BIIF schools.

The win made Konawaena the first Big Island team to win a state paddling championship.

Wildcats paddling coach Paul Daugherty called it a “chicken-skin moment.”

“It was just incredible — (less than) four tenths of a second separated first from third,” Daugherty said.

Konawaena had the second-fastest time in the semifinals, but Suber said there were doubts the Wildcats would win the final race. The Wildcats started slow, with three canoes ahead of them at the turn.

“But we made the turn and just took off,” Suber said.

It was a tense 15 minutes for Daugherty and the Wildcats while they waited to see if they had made BIIF history. Daugherty told West Hawaii Today’s Brendan Shriane that he had seen a peek of a final card an official was carrying. Daugherty said he thought he saw Konawaena’s name written on it. He said he didn’t say anything to his team so he wouldn’t to “jinx” it.

But then the announcement came — the Wildcats were champions.

“I don’t think they believed it at first — they thought someone was pulling their leg,” Daugherty said.


But once it sank in, the crew of senior stroker Noel Tavares, senior Joshua Yong, senior Kelli Yamauchi, Suber, sophomore Amanda Loewe-Llanes senior steersman Ryan Daugherty and their supporters erupted.

“Then everybody started jumping around, crying and yelling,” Suber said.

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