By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Justin Gray’s goal was a state record.
He shot for the moon and fell short, but the senior was still plenty good enough to become Waiakea’s latest shooting star.
Gray captured the Hawaii High School Athletic Association boys air riflery championship Tuesday in Honolulu, completing the state cycle for the powerhouse Warriors.
Cool, calm and collected as usual, Gray was happy with his score, a personal-best 537, but he at first figured others had turned in higher cards at Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.
“I didn’t pay attention to what others shot,” he said. “When they said my name was at the top, I was really surprised.”
Waiakea coach Mel Kawahara wasn’t caught off-guard, calling the two-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion a model of consistency.
“Everybody’s been chasing Justin all year,” he said. “He just went on and did what he always did.”
When he shoots, Gray says he’s able to enter a mental zone where nothing bothers him. It’s the same steely focus that he calls on when he practices two of his favorite hobbies, kenpo karate and judo.
“I’m not sure why, but it’s mental habit I’ve developed over the years,” said Gray, who is pursuing a scholarship opportunity in college.
Gunning for the state mark of 553 set 14 years ago, Gray nevertheless finished seven points ahead of Punahou’s David Watanabe. Mid-Pacific’s Zachary Chang (529) was another point back in third and Waiakea’s Chris Silva (527) was fourth as the Warriors narrowly missed out on a state repeat, finishing only two shots behind Mid-Pacific.
Gray’s victory was the final notch in the belt for the recent era of Waiakea air riflery, a program that has struck gold the past four seasons at states. The boys team finished first in 2010 and 2012, when it doubled up with the girls, and Kellie Iwasaki won a girls individual title in 2011. Gray’s win is the first by a Waiakea male since Steven Nozaki and Regan Ancheta won back-to-back crowns in 2004-05.
Waiakea’s Abraham Sylvester (514), Tyler Aburamen (512) and Brentson Kinoshita (507) — all members of the boys title team last season along with Gray — occupied spots 15-17.
The Warriors lose their top five shooters, but Gray doesn’t expect a drop-off.
“I think the cycle of success will continue,” he said.
Waiakea’s Guy Yokoe (496) was 21st, Kamehameha-Hawaii’s Kahekili Donner (465) was 39th and Konawaena’s Robert Omija (440) was 40th.
Also trying to defend their title, the Lady Warriors were third, led by Jamie Ikeda (526) in eighth and Lindsey Kimura (520) in 14th.
Kealapua Bernabe, the BIIF champion from Kamehameha, was 16th at 517, and her 10 bull’s-eye helped her break a tie with Waiakea’s Karise Kuroda.
Other BIIF shooters included Waiakea’s Maileen Nakashima (511, 23rd) and Karyl-Lin Yamakawa (489, 29th) and Kamehameha’s Jessie Coney (471, 36th).
Maryknoll’s Nadia Hata posted 548 for the best score of the day to win the girls standings, while Pearl City (2,099) won its first team title at states. Punahou (2,078) was second, four points better than Waiakea.