By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU – The field was random and casual, and it was decidedly incomplete. But make no mistake. By Big Island Interscholastic Federation standards, it was elite.
Zoe Sims and Carmen Garson-Shumway entered for kicks, Emma Taylor continued her ascent and Ua Ruedy skipped the race altogether.
And then there was the winner, Ka‘u’s Kristina Padrigo.
For a glimpse at some of the most accomplished girls track and field athletes on the island, look no further than the entrants in the 200-meter dash Saturday at Kamehameha’s Paiea Stadium.
“I really … wanted … to win that race,” Padrigo said between gasps of breath on the infield. “The 200 has been my weakest event, so I’ve been trying to strengthen that.
“This is my toughest battle.”
Actually, that might already be over.
Padrigo still says she feels a little uneasy when she returns to Kamehameha’s track.
The Trojans senior was standing a mere hop, skip and a jump from the sandbox where she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee while competing in the triple jump two seasons ago.
“Worse than that,” former coach Bob Martin said. “She wrecked it.”
Because she didn’t want to be out a full year and miss her junior season of track, Padrigo opted not to have surgery.
So she underwent physical therapy to strengthen her knee and competed last year. But it wasn’t until this season that sprinter/jumper truly saw a return to form.
“Very dedicated in practice,” coach Brian Dopp said.
Padrigo’s knee suffered a few bumps and bruises during the volleyball season as Ka‘u won its historic first BIIF title. And it held up fine during her first go-around at soccer.
“I scored a goal,” Padrigo said with a smile.
But track is her true sport, and although she says she’s not quite 100 percent, you wouldn’t know it from watching her compete.
“I feel way faster then I have ever before,” she said.
Padrigo is a threat to medal at this weekend’s BIIF championships at Hawaii Prep in four events: the 100 and 200 as well as the long jump and triple jump.
She ranks third in the state among high school athletes this season with a leap of 34 feet, 7.75 inches in the triple jump. She’s also top 10 in the 200 and the long jump.
Padrigo lost to Ruedy in the 100 for the first time Saturday after getting off to a bad start, but the 12.86-second race she ran in March in Waimea is the best in the BIIF this season.
“The 100 is her favorite,” Dopp said. “Just the sheer speed and intensity of it.”
Padrigo made a quick turnaround Saturday, winning the triple jump and the 200, though the top-ranked BIIF runner in that event, Konawaena's Ruedy has her by two-tenths of a second, had already dashed back to Kealakekua for prom by then.
The race did feature some of the BIIF’s best in other events, including runner-up Taylor, a Hawaii Prep freshman who continued her surge in the 100 hurdles, as well as middle-distance standouts Sims and Garson-Shumway.
“They’re really good in their own events,” Padrigo said. “But this was one of my strengths going against them.”
Ruedy rises again
Before leaving, Ruedy lowered her 2013 state-best time in the 300 hurdles to 45.15, which was also a personal best.
Ruedy said the starts have always been the most difficult for her, which is why she prefers the 200 and longer hurdling distance.
“Once I get going, I pick it up,” said Ruedy, who was pleasantly surprised with how she got off in beating Padrigo in the 100.
She’ll need to duplicate that at BIIFs in the 100 hurdles, where Taylor lowered her BIIF standard again and ranks third in the state.
Few, however, have been able to keep up with Ruedy in the 300. She won the state title as a sophomore and was runner-up last season.
“I just try to go out hard and make sure no one catches me in the back,” she said. “Since I was a freshman, that’s always been my main event.”
But it won’t be for that much longer.
She’ll trade in her track shoes and concentrate on soccer as she plays on scholarship for Eastern Washington University next year.
Sims near the top
Meanwhile, Sims, a Hawaii Prep senior, is still going strong after four years of running cross country and track at altitude in Waimea.
And there’s not a hint of burnout in sight for the decorated BIIF champion.
“I love running, I love being part of the team,” said Sims, the league’s reigning cross country and 800 champion. “Running is just a really big part of my life.”
She’ll continue that passion next year at Princeton. The Ivy League school can’t offer athletic scholarships, but the Tigers actively recruited her, and Sims called it a perfect fit.
Sims says she hasn’t even begun to worry about reaching personal bests yet, but she likes her progress compared to 2012, which ended with a pair of close runner-up finishes in the 1,500 and 800 at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association meet.
Sims ranks second in both races this season, and Hilo coach Bill McMahon says the group of runners in the 1,500 is the best he’s seen in the state in 25 years.
The more the merrier for Sims.
“My goal is not about winning for me, it’s about improving my times and running my best,” she said. “But having somebody there definitely helps me push myself and that’s why competition is so great and why we love it.”
Among her top competitors is Garson-Shumway, who focused on the sprints Saturday and surprised even herself with her speed.
The Hilo junior ran a rousing personal-best in winning the 400 in 58.72.
“She was glowing,” McMahon said.
Garson-Shumway is the defending league champion in the 1,500 and her best event is perhaps the 800. But she now owns top-five state times in three events after nearly breaking a school record in the 400.
“I just wanted to break 60.The fact that I PR’d it, was really nice,” said Garson-Shumway, who, much like Sims, cherishes the great competition in the distance races.
“We’re all really good fiends and we push each other,” Garson-Shumway said. “I don’t get tired of running. I enjoy doing what I do.”
In another highlight on the day, Kamehameha’s Casey Poe, Meagan Kualii, Mikela Cabel and Harper Hottendorf teamed up for a 50.55 in the 400 relay to set a stadium and school record. The time is the sixth-fastest in the state this season.
Kualii, meanwhile, established top-10 state distances in the triple jump and long jump.