By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Justin Gray recorded the best score of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation air riflery season in early September. A week later, the Waiakea senior had qualified for the league championships. Since then, he’s stepped back so others could get their shot.
“Basically, he did his job,” Warriors coach Mel Kawahara said.
It’s been business as usual for the rest of Gray’s teammates as well heading into today’s individual finals at Konawaena, which start at 10 a.m.
Waiakea boys shooters hold down the top five seeds, led by the the defending league champion. Boosted by the season-high 271 he shot Sept. 7, Gray’s average (265.33) is almost nine points better than that of teammate Chris Silva. Silva, a junior, is the most improved Warrior with his marksmanship, and he just outranked Tyler Aburamen, Abraham Sylvester and Brentson Kinoshita. The latter three teamed up with Gray last year as Waiakea won the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championship.
“Chris was somewhat of a surprise for us,” Kawahara said. “He’s improved by 10-15 points.”
Looking to repeat as girls champion, Lindsey Kimura took the same route as Gray. The senior only shot in three of the season’s six meets so that Waiakea could work on its depth. As a result, the school qualified 19 of its 23 participants for the finals.
The girls team, also the reigning state champion, began the season looking for two shooters to step up and bolster Kimura and Karise Kuroda. Junior Jamie Ikeda matched Kimura during three meets, Kuroda and Kamehameha’s Kealapua Bernabe were just a point behind in average and Maileen Nakashima gives Waiakea a fourth shooter among the top five seeds.
Kuroda is a two-time runner-up at BIIFs and she also took second at states last year.
Kawahara says his teams relish competition, and the girls likely will face it today from Kamehameha’s Bernabe and Jessie Coney.
Kamehameha coach George Van Gieson feels as if his program is finally making strides to try and compete with Waiakea’s juggernaut. The addition of coaching staff has allowed Van Gieson to focus more on fine-tuning his girls shooters, and Bernabe and Coney have seen their scores improve.
Bernabe is mature enough that her coach lets her run practice.
“Kealapua can win anything, and between her and Jessie it’s a toss-up,” Van Gieson said. “They’re close friends. We put them side-by-side and they push each other.”
Also owning state spots are Konawaena’s Robert Omija, Kamehameha’s Kahekili Donner and Waiakea’s Guy Yokoe on the boys side, and Karyl-Lin Yamakawa of Waiakea. Though a lesser-ranked shooter could take the final spot by winning at the championships.
1. Justin Gray, Waiakea, 265.33; 2. Chris Silva, Waiakea, 254.66; 3. Tyler Aburamen, Waiakea, 253.33; 4. Abraham Sylvester, Waiakea, 252; 5. Brentson Kinoshita, 251; 6. Robert Omija, Konawaena, 249.33; t7. Kahekili Donner, Kamehameha, 249; t7; Guy Yokoe, Waiakea, 249; alternate: Josiah Lerback, Konawaena, 248.6.
1. Lindesy Kimura, Waiakea, 254.67; 2. Jamie Ikeda, Waiakea, 254.67; 3. Kealapua Bernabe, Kamehameha, 253.67; 4. Karise Kuroda, Waiakea, 253.67; 5. Maileen Nakashima, Waiakea, 253; 6. Jessie Coney, Kamehameha, 251.33; 7. Karyl-Lin Yamakawa, Waiakea, 244.33; alternate: Allena Shimabukuro, Waiakea, 242; alternate: Liza Saludares, Hilo, 241