Masuko, Betlach triumph in cross country’s return

  • Kamehameha senior Carlos Masuko

  • Hawaii Prep freshman Caroline Betlach

KEAAU — Carlos Masuko had been gearing up for this race for months in many ways, but as hard and successfully as he ran, he still couldn’t quite find all that he wanted.

For Masuko, a Kamehameha senior, running brings out the competitor and the colleague in him.

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“It’s a big stress reliever for me personally, I like the challenge of it, pushing myself,” he said. “I like the team aspect, these guys are all really close. When you spend your time running with them for a year, at least an hour a day each week, you build a relationship with them.”

When the BIIF track and field season was canceled last spring because of the pandemic, Masuko took a few weeks off before hitting the road on his own in Volcano, where he lives, running six days a week, usually 45 miles total. First he trained for a BIIF cross-county season in the fall, but when that was suspended he hit the reset button and stayed disciplined as he looked ahead to a possible season in January – until that was canceled.

Fast forward to Saturday’s high school cross-country 3K at Kamehameha and a return to racing, and Masuko once again found himself running alone, finishing with easily the best time, 10 minutes, 55.52 seconds, in what amounted to a time trial.

“I’m thankful for having a chance to compete, even if it is against myself, in essence,” Masuko said.

As part of a modified winter season being hosted by Kamehameha and Hawaii Prep, Ka Makani and Parker also ran on a course that showed hits of sun and rain, with plenty of mud. Teams ran together but with staggered start times due to safety concerns, so neither Masuko nor the top girls finisher, Hawaii Prep freshman Caroline Betlach, passed another runner on the course.

“Normally I like to start out slower and catch people, but there wasn’t anyone today to catch. I just had to try and go hard from the beginning, which is not my style,” Masuko said.

Still, he fulfilled his goal of winning and was happy with his time, considering the conditions and the lack of relative competition.

“It’s something, it’s good to do, better than nothing,” Masuko said. “Ideally, we’d be able to race each other, and all start at the same time and I can see how I’m standing up to the competition.”

In his last BIIF race, he finished sixth at the 2019 league championship at Kamehameha, covering the 5K in 17:37.27.

“To be honest, (the intensity) wasn’t as high (today),” Masuko said. “I just tried to imagine where the other racers would be, just like to go off my effort.”

In an imaginary world, some of those racers would come from public schools such as Hilo, Waiakea and Kealakehe.

“I miss those guys, too,” he said. “I miss racing against them.”

The HHSAA nor the BIIF have made a decision yet on the status of the track and field season, which was to have started Monday.

If nothing else, certain events could be included in the spring season that Kamehameha and HPA are planning should the regular season be canceled. As a sophomore at the 2019 BIIF championships, Masuko finished fifth in the 3,000 meters, recording a personal-best of 9:56.53.

He probably never thought that could be his last BIIF 3,000, but he’ll keep running.

“I want to run in college, just trying to get some good times in to show coaches,” Masuko said.

Freshman influence

Betlach feels for all the seniors out there, but the ninth-grader wasn’t giving an inch as she finished in 12:49.82, good enough for fifth overall.

She’s a natural. When Betlach was little, she said she used to tell her mom, “I’m going outside to run.”

In middle school, races were capped of at 1.5 miles (2.4K), and like Masuko she got resourceful out on the course to make sure she felt pushed.

“I kept it competitive, it was really mentally challenging,” Betlach said. “I think I was saying this is what I want to do, this is why I’m here and I want to be proud of myself and what I accomplished.

“Even though there was no one in front of me, I just wanted to reach that finish line is in front of me, that’s my goal.”

During a normal school year, Betlach would run cross-country, play soccer – she was on the field Friday as HPA took on Kamehameha – and try her hand at the 3,000 in track. If there is time, she’ll even swim.

“Being a freshman, it really has given me a different perspective on how important sports are to school, and just how awesome being a student-athlete is,” she said. “I think this is more than just ‘something.’ I think this is the opportunity to get to play when we know there are people around he world suffering.”

In the past, HPA girls cross-country team has been successful by utilizing a pack mentality, where a certain group of racers try to run as one. There were no packs to be had Saturday, but Betlach never felt she was running alone.

“No, because even though we were staggered,” she said, “we still were connected through our passion for running and our excitement to be here and show up and represent.”

Saturday at Kamehameha

3K

1 Masuko, Carlos Kamehameha 10:55.52

2 Smith, Parker Hawaii Prep 12:05.58

3 Milanes Fernandez, Josh Hawaii Prep 12:32.13

4 McCollum, Trent Kamehameha 12:38.26

5 Betlach, Caroline Hawaii Prep 12:49.82

6 Lafaele, Laakea Kamehameha 13:09.29

7 Ganley, Thor Hawaii Prep 13:11.53

8 Mahuna, Micah Kamehameha 13:44.85

9 Hedrick, Charlotte Hawaii Prep 13:53.88

10 Hare, Wendy Hawaii Prep 14:00.02

11 Wilson, Sophia Kamehameha 14:42.46

12 West-Rodriguez, Alianna Hawaii Prep 14:50.51

13 Hedrick, Katherine Hawaii Prep 14:51.54

14 Hughes, Clare Hawaii Prep 14:56.61

15 Long, Kaya Parker 15:01.96

16 Ruzzo, Isabella Parker 15:16.84

17 Buschmann, Greta Hawaii Prep 15:35.94

18 Pacheco, Osiana Kamehameha 15:57.74

19 Perry, Kelii Kamehameha 16:48.07

20 Melton, Nikki Hawaii Prep 16:49.35

21 Hudgins, Ariana Hawaii Prep 17:02.57

22 Nakamura, Juliana Hawaii Prep 17:02.83

23 Ching, Lei Lin Kamehameha 17:10.30

24 Hudgins-Hayward, Kalia Hawaii Prep 17:21.26

25 Faust, Dayanee Kamehameha 17:58.46

26 Orian, Maia Kamehameha 18:18.21

27 Hughes, Madison Hawaii Prep 18:39.41

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28 Bumgardner, Sheinah Parker 19:13.35

29 Anton, Kahalley Hawaii Prep 21:08.37

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