By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
WAIMEA – Hilo High couldn’t quite keep up with Marley Strand-Nicolaisen or Zoe Sims.
But close was good enough for the Lady Vikings in those events, thanks in large part to the work of Eva Toledo and her fellow throwers.
It was pretty clear just which unit was most responsible Saturday for Hilo’s Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls track and field championship.
“Yes, we are,” Toledo said when asked if the throwers were Hilo’s catalyst. “We work hard and want to be champions. Everybody is a champion.”
It's hard to argue with her. The math backs Toledo up.
To be sure, the day was filled with fantastic individual performances, and five meet records fell in the rain at Stanford W. Shutes Track.
Ka‘u’s Strand-Nicolaisen won three golds in the jumps, Hawaii Prep’s Sims rewrote the record books as she cruised around her home track for the final time competitively and Konawaena’s Ua Ruedy started with a fall but finished with double gold.
But Hilo’s strength-in-numbers approach in the shot put and discus proved too hard to beat.
“The throwers did it (for them),” said Hawaii Prep coach Pat Lau, whose team scored points in more events than Hilo and claimed one more gold.
Toledo, a junior, unleashed personal bests in winning gold in the shot put and silver in the discus as Hilo’s throwers all medaled in at least one event and accounted for 30 percent of their team’s point total. As a result, the Vikings coasted past HPA.
“How did I do it?” Toledo said. “I thought of the people who doubted me.”
But that number is dwindling by the day.
“She was a pleasant surprise,” Hilo throwing coach Kauhane Hanson said. “She had a good week of practice, and she put it together today.”
Led by their first-year thrower, the Vikings swept the medal podium in the shot put, with sophomore Rain Hall taking silver and senior Tiara Atuekaho grabbing bronze. Hawaii Prep sophomore Ula Brostek won the discus, but Toledo followed as Hilo took the next four spots. Junior Ofa Folau won bronze.
If not for a narrow loss to Keaau in the boys race, Hilo could have doubled up on titles for the first time since 2005.
Coach Bill McMahon says he makes each of his athletes sign a contract with him, stating that if they miss more than three practices between the beginning and end of the season, they’re off the team.
“Team stayed intact,” he said. “We didn’t lose anybody.”
And Hilo picked up more steam by getting a full season from junior Lii Maertens, who surprised her coach by winning the 400.
Consider Maertens’ last three springs.
In her freshman year, she tried water polo. “It was horrible,” she said.
Last year, she only was able to participate in a half-season of track. “It wasn’t good,” she said.
She spent this season lowering her times in the 400, capping it off with a personal best of 1 minute, 1.79 seconds Saturday. That was more than a second ahead of the 1:02.81 she ran in the trials, which had also been a personal best.
“It was challenging,” she said. “Today was the best I’ve ever done.”
Hilo’s Carmen Garson-Shumway ran races in the 800 and 1,500 that would have set BIIF championship records, but she had to settle for silver going up against the determined Sims.
The Hawaii Prep senior put up a pair of times that rank her No. 1 in the state heading to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championships, which are Friday and Saturday at Mililani High School on Oahu.
Last year at BIIFs, Garson-Shumway used a pass to narrowly edge Sims in the 1,500.
“An upset,” Lau said. “No way this time.”
She dominated the 1,500 on Saturday in winning in 4:42.17, but the 800 was a much better race. Garson-Shumway took the lead with approximately 200 yards to go, but with about 80 left Sims passed her and won in 2:16.61. Garson-Shumway’s 2:17.25 gives the second-best state time this year, and she’s fourth in the 1,500.
“Those are going to be two of the best girls races (at states),” McMahon said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The Vikings’ Mehana Sabado-Halpern took silver in the 400 and triple jump and bronze in the 3,000 — won by Hawaii Prep’s Kristiana Van Pernis — and Kunda Nicholson-Walker earned silver in the high jump and also won bronze.
Hilo, which received its first gold Friday when Alysha Medieros won the pole vault, got points in 13 events, outpointing runner-up HPA 147-134.5.
Strand-Nicolaisen matched the Vikings’ gold total on her own, winning the high jump, long jump and triple jump as she and Kristina Padrigo powered the Trojans to third place.
Strand-Nicolaisen’s leap of 35 feet, 6.75 inches just edged Sabado-Halpern, and each moved into the top five in the state. In the long jump, Strand-Nicolaisen relegated Padrigo to silver by outjumping her by more than eight inches with a 17-1 that puts her sixth in the state.
Both Ka‘u seniors took home four individual medals, as did Ruedy, who recovered nicely after a spill on the first event of the day.
In the 100 hurdles, Ruedy was ahead and running her best race of the year when she and HPA’s Emma Taylor, who was in second, both hit the last hurdle and fell to the ground. As Kamehameha-Hawaii’s Casey Poe won the race and Strand-Nicolaisen followed for silver, Ruedy lunged across the finish line from the ground for bronze.
But the fall had no effect on the rest of her meet.
“No, I just run my race,” the senior said.
In her signature event, the 300 hurdles, Ruedy again lowered her state-best time with a meet record of 45.09, and she and Padrigo took turns besting one another in a pair of sizzling sprints.
Padrigo, who set a school record in the 100 in the trials with a 12.73, won the finals in 12.79 to edge Ruedy by seven one-hundredths of a second. The 200 was even closer, but Ruedy got off to a strong start and held off Padrigo 26.08-26.14.
“I just knew that was my last (BIIF) race and I wanted to come as hard as I could,” Ruedy said. “I’m pretty satisfied.”
Meet records fell in both relays.
Sims claimed a third gold as she Taylor, Van Pernis and Mariah Haight won the 1,600. Taylor collected four medals in all.
Poe struck gold again in the 400 relay along with Warriors Meagan Kualii, Mikela Cabel and Harper Hottendorf.