KEAAU — Back on March 22, Kamehameha coach Manly Kanoa did his best to get the word out about his boys track and field team. In an interview with the Tribune-Herald, he talked about how hard the Warriors worked, and he talked about how hard the Warriors competed.
But despite Kanoa’s best efforts, the Warriors received minimal coverage.
Six weeks later, Kanoa — soaked from a celebratory Gatorade bath — had the last word.
“I tried to tell you,” he told the Tribune-Herald. “I really tried to tell you about the boys.”
One stuck out more than the rest Saturday.
Fittingly, Rihei Grothmann ran the final leg of the final race, the 1,600-meter relay, clinching the Warriors’ first Big Island Interscholastic Federation title since 2009 and medaling in all six events he entered.
Grothmann won two gold medals, claiming the 300-meter hurdles in a personal-best 40.25 seconds and the triple jump with a leap of 41 feet, 8 inches. The senior had a hand in almost half of his team’s 97 points, which was nine better than Hilo.
He said he’s no fan of the 300 hurdles, adding, “but I have motivation to do my best and whatever I can for my team.”
“We really came together in practice, and we just pushed each other in practice, day in and day out.”
Sophomore Tre Evans-Dumaran captured Kamehameha’s other gold when he defended his title in the 110 hurdles by lowering his school mark to 15.23, which was just ahead of Grothmann (15.25).
“We really go at each other in practice,” Grothmann said. “If someone’s going to beat me, I’m glad it’s him.”
The other multiple gold winners at the finals were Konawaena sophomore sprinter Luca Vartic, who remained unbeaten in the 100 and 200 this season and added a third gold by anchoring the 400 relay, and Waiakea sophomore distance runner Louie Ondo.
But nobody left the meet as decorated as Grothmann. He took third in the long jump, and he and Evans-Dumaran were on relay teams that earned silver and bronze. Evans-Dumaran scored points (top six) in all six events he entered and medaled in four, including bronze in the 300 hurdles. Another hurdler, Phil Aganus, was Kamehameha’s third biggest point-scorer.
“We put the team title out there as a goal and knew it was attainable because of the hard work we put in,” Kanoa said. “Great coaches and terrific kids that have a lot of heart. And they run pretty fast, so that helps.”
The biggest surprise for the Warriors came from just beyond Keaau High’s stadium, where Koa Thompson took bronze in the discus by clearing his previous best by more than 20 feet.
“We’re in our own world,” Thompson said “Nobody is really out there.
“Nobody was expecting me to place as high as I did, so I’m really grateful.”
Powered by a 1-2-3 finish in the shot put by Sione Holika (51-07.25), Isi Holani and Jon Salzman, the Vikings were runner-up for the second straight year. Waiakea was third and two-time defending champion Keaau and Kealakehe rounded out the top five.
Holani, who swept both throwing events at BIIFs last season, also took silver in the discus behind Kealakehe’s Feke Kioa (155-04). Holani still has the best toss in the state this season heading into the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championships, which are Friday and Saturday at Kamehameha-Kapalama on Oahu.
Christian Liberty’s Kekoa Mundo (51.01) was the class of the 400 for the second consecutive year, while Keoni Yates delivered for the Waveriders by winning the long jump (21-05.50) and finishing second in the high jump behind Hawaii Prep’s Kenny Christie (6-0).
In the 3,000, Ka Makani’s Nate Latwig (9:26.93) won for the first time this season.
Victory is commonplace for Vartic, who racked up a pair of personal records. In the 100, he said he started cautiously after a false start was called and finished in 11:03, then he held off Hilo’s Mike Williams with a 22.64 in the 200.
“I dug my turn, but he pushed me,” Vartic said. “I just had to clear my mind, focus, breathe and finish it.”
Vartic did the same when he took the baton in 400 relay in an even race with Kamehameha.
“Once I got it I pulled away, and time tells he rest,” said Vartic, a contender to score points in both sprints at states. “Feeling good; accomplished.”
Williams went home with three silvers and a bronze, while the Vikings’ Caleb Jon Statler-Ellamar collected two silvers and two bronze.
Ondo just started running recently while training for basketball season.
“My dad used to drive the car behind me, and he’d beep the horn if I was going to slow,” Ondo said.
He PR’d in the 1,500 (4:07.77) and 800 (1:59.68). Ondo never let up in the former, unseating defending champion Ian McQuate, his senior teammate, but he said he surprised himself in the latter.
“I wasn’t looking to win,” he said. “I thought I was going to die off and hit the wall.”