By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
No one incorporates teamwork quite like the Pahoa boys cross country harriers, who partner with close neighbor Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science, and hit the course as one at practice and meets.
The Pahoa-HAAS alliance isn’t a traditional league powerhouse, like Hawaii Prep, but the runners have a feeling that’s better than first place. They push each other, train together, and encourage everyone in the same dark green Dagger uniforms, providing one another with a constant good vibe.
On a blistering, sun-baked Saturday at the relatively flat, pain-free Waiakea course, no one came close to the two lightning bolts — Waiakea senior Ian McQuate and Kealakehe junior Thunder Frost — in the latest Big Island Interscholastic Federation tuneup.
But that mattered little to the newly formed alliance. It’s the first time two really close neighbors are running as one in cross country. HAAS is just up or down the street, depending on direction. It’s not the first time the two schools, and eventual rivals have partnered.
HAAS debuted in BIIF junior varsity volleyball last year. Na Naia’s best player, Maxine Block, played for Pahoa last year. HAAS coach Eric Cockcroft previously said the team would be on the JV for a second season, which allows Block to remain eligible at Pahoa.
Without further ado, let’s introduce the top four Dagger/Na Naia runners in reverse order of finish:
• Hokupaa (Hoku for short) Kahookaulana, Pahoa junior, 21 minutes and 41 seconds.
He also wrestles and competes in track. Last season, Kahookaulana earned bronze at the BIIF wrestling championships at 160 pounds. He didn’t place at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state meet, but had the time of his life.
“It was my first time and it was the best experience,” he said. “I met all the good wrestlers and learned to pay attention, when to attack, looking for openings.
“It’s my second year in cross country. I started everything in 10th grade. I love cross country, the fact that I run with my friends. The feeling of finishing is a very good feeling.”
• Bryce Shook, HAAS senior, 20:17.
With a last name like Shook, it’s a common occurrence that he hears a reference to hard rock band AC/DC’s song, “You shook me all night long.”
“All the time,” Shook said. “The song’s pretty cool, but I don’t care for it. I listen to hip hop and rap.”
It’s Shook’s first time in cross country. He moved from Montana last year, and attended Pahoa, where he ran track.
“Cross country keeps me in shape, and it feels good to run,” he said, emphasizing the health benefits of his sport.
• Jerry Javier, HAAS junior, 20:13.
The guy with two first names and a better abbreviation JJ nickname is in his second year in cross country. He finished above the crowd of 50 at the BIIF championships last year. But he has the same peaceful mindset as his green-uniformed brothers.
“I like running with two schools. It feels more like a team,” JJ said. “What I like about cross country is it’s friendly, not competitive. Everyone supports each other, even the other teams.”
• Reed Hayashikawa, Pahoa junior, 20:11.
He’s usually not the fastest alliance runner, finishing third most of the time. But on a glory filled day for him, he was first. Even better, his time was a personal record or PR in runner talk.
Like his pal Hoku, Hayashikawa is on the wrestling team. Last year, he got silver at the BIIF championships at 145 pounds, and lost his two matches at states. As a freshman, he was fifth at 145, though he weighed 135 pounds. (Only the top three in each division advance to states.)
“It’s the first time I was first,” said Hayashikawa, who flashed the same big smile as his teammates for a photo. “I did pretty good and I improved. That’s the key.
“It’s good motivation with two schools. We work together. It’s good teamwork, and we push each other at practice at the Pahoa track.”
Then asked his goals for his two BIIF sports, Hayashikawa, perhaps, spoke for the group when he gave an answer that was simple and light — adjectives that describe the good vibe for the Pahoa-HAAS alliance.
“I just want to keep improving, never drop back, in both sports,” he said.