By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
One rival coach referred to them as “beasts,” and another said they make it seem like “David vs. Goliath.”
Together, they could make all the difference for Hilo. That being said, the Vikings’ throwers will not take center stage at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation track and field championships.
They’ll perform first, but they’ll do so off on the side at a soccer field adjacent to Hawaii Prep’s track.
“We just do our own thing,” senior Josh Kirkpatrick said.
And they do it well, making the Vikings a contender to sweep the boys and girls team titles Saturday. While other events may get more attention than the shot put and discus, few groups have the ability to dominate a BIIF meet like Hilo’s throwers.
“The throwing at our school is so deep, we just count on them,” coach Bill McMahon said. “Even if one girl has a bad day, somebody else is going to have a good day.
“And our boys are even better than the girls.”
The distances don’t lie. Led by junior Isi Holani, three Hilo boys rank in the top 10 in the state in the discus. In the BIIF, Vikings boys rank Nos. 1-4 in the shot put.
“People think it’s a lot of power, but it’s actually of a lot of technique,” Holani said. “It depends on how much work you put in. If you work at it a lot, the technique comes easy.”
Judging by a recent practice, Hilo’s throwers work hard.
By 6 p.m. at the school’s track, the runners, sprinters and jumpers had cleared out and called it a day.
What remained was two clusters. In one group, throwing coach Kau Hane works with Rain Hall, Tiara Atuekaho, Ofa Folau and Eva Toledo. Elaine Najera is also in the mix for Hilo.
“They’ve been working hard and are really close,” Hane said.
At the other end of Hilo’s track, Holani, Kirkpatrick and Sione Holika are busy trying to push and outperform one another.
“Practice is like a meet,” Holani said. “When they do good, you just feel like you have to do better.”
Holani’s toss of 164 feet, 1/2 inch last Saturday at Kamehameha in the discus ranks him second in the state this season among Hawaii high school athletes.
Kirkpatrick is in the top 10 in each event, while Mitchell Medeiros ranks 10th in the discus after his best effort of the season at Kamehameha. Suwaiter Poch is yet another to watch in the shot put.
Where did Hilo find all of these throwers?
“They just fell into our hands,” Hane said.
And they have varying ways of getting ready to unleash fury in the ring. Kirkpatrick tries to get angry and amped up for his throws, whereas Hall and Holani take the opposite approach: they smile.
“Hilo calls it a secret weapon,” Holani said, “but you just try and go out there and smile and get loose.”
While the Hilo boys throwers will vie to take the top four spots in each event at BIIFs, there is more parity on the girls side, especially the shot put.
Pahoa’s Ariel Brown is the defending champion in the event and has the best effort this season, and HPA’s Ula Brostek could medal in either discipline.
But Hilo’s top-end depth gives it an edge Saturday against HPA, a perennial girls BIIF title contender.
“We can’t keep up with Hilo in the field events,” Ka Makani coach Pat Lau said. “We have one thrower, they have four in the shot put and discus that can place.
“On paper, we’re ahead on the runs, but they’re killing us in the field. It’s going to be tough for us.”
The most experienced of the Lady Vikings are Hall and Atuekaho, who are each in their second year in the throwing program.
“It’s way harder than what you think,” said Hall, who has the best discus toss in the BIIF this season. “It takes a while to get down the technique.”
Atuekaho’s been strong of late, reaching her best distances of the season in winning both events last Saturday.
Another edge that the Lady Vikings have in the field over the Ka Makani is at pole vault with the emergence of Alysha Medieros.
Less than eight weeks into her career, the sophomore has cleared 9-0, giving her the top mark in the league this season by six inches.
Pole vault coach Sherman Viernes recruited Medieros to the event because he liked her combination of size, speed and strength. At first she said she was scared, but as she’s started to refine her technique, it’s become a fun event and one that she hopes to specialize in.
“I just wish I had it tried sooner,” she said.
Medieros can get the Vikings off on the right foot at today’s 10 a.m. trials, which include finals in the girls pole vault and boys high jump. The finals start at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Boys race tight
While the consensus among most coaches was that Hilo held the edge over Hawaii Prep in the girls race, “wide-open” was the operative term used to size up the boys field.
Led by Avery Hardie-Jordan, Kealakehe is a contender for its first crown.
“We’re right there,” coach Duke Hartfield said. “It’s going to be exciting.”
That’s certainly an apt term to describe Hardie-Jordan in the sprints. The senior ranks in the top 10 in the state in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and he and the Waveriders both have gotten a boost from sprinter Jordan Cristobal.
“His (starts) are insane,” Hardie-Jordan said of Cristobal. “I have to work to catch up. I think that makes me faster.”
Hardie-Jordan, whose personal best in the 100 is 10.94, also will anchor the Waveriders’ BIIF-leading 400 relay team, a foursome that includes Cyruss Cho.
Keoni Yates can give the Waveriders points in the long jump, triple jump and high jump, and Thunder Frost will attempt to do the same in the distance runs.
However, Hartfield said Kealakehe would like to find away to “interrupt” Hilo’s dominance in the throwing events.
Kealakehe’s best bet to do so figures to be with Feke Kioa.
Keaau coach Vicky Chai-Guerpo wasn’t stressing her team’s title defense heading into the championships.
“I think my kids want it,” she said. “For us, it’s not so much about winning as it is about reaching personal bests. If we do that, wins will come along.”
Talon Ota and Jeffrey Ferrell are central to the Cougars’ plans.
Ota is the top-ranked BIIF boy in the triple jump and he’ll anchor Keaau’s league-leading 1,600 relay team.
Ferrell, who also runs a leg of the 1,600, is No. 2 in the 800 behind HPA’s Kellen Gillins.
For Waiakea, Ian McQuate looked in championship form in running his best races of the season last Saturday in the 1,500 and 3,000.
The Warriors’ Michael Morikawa will battle Kamehameha’s Rihei Grothmann in both hurdling events, and Morikawa is also a threat in the triple jump and long jump.
Waiakea’s Lucas St. George and HPA’s Kenneth Christie are the only BIIF boys to clear 6-0 in the high jump, and St. George also could be a contender in the 400, where he’s ranked just behind Honokaa’s Dylan Oandasan. Ota could have a say as well.
Waiakea’s Colton Austria has been second behind Hardie-Jordan in many sprints this year.
Just like on the girls side, Hilo has the edge in the pole vault behind Katon Pestano, who’s gone a foot higher than anyone else in the league in 2013.