Tuesday | January 16, 2018
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BIIF cross-country: Honokaa, Waiakea juniors best in BIIF

KEAAU – There is more to running cross-country than the obvious physical exertions.

The mental grind plays a part as well. Some teams run in packs to gain an advantage, and runners have to choose between going for the early lead, following the leader or hanging back and waiting to surge.

Strategy, however, took a backseat to pure performance at Saturday’s BIIF championship 5Ks, where Honokaa’s Sophia Cash and Waiakea’s Eric Cabais-Fernandez made their moves at the starting gun and never relented, paying little attention to a morning sun and muddy terrain at Kamehameha.

When it comes down to it, Cabais-Fernandez said, “I just blank out and run. I don’t really think about it.”

Both junior champions appear equally easy-going but are described as determined by their coaches.

Leading from wire-to-wire, Cash became the Dragons’ first three-time champ since Tia Greenwell (2007-09), and although it looked like she was fresh enough to take another run at the course after crossing in 21 minutes, 33.79 seconds, Cash said otherwise.

“It hadn’t really hit me that I was running BIIFs,” she said. “I was like this is BIIFs, it’s an important meet. Do really good.

“I just went my pace, and then I saw (HPA’s Maile Lawson). I thought, oh no, am I going too fast or too slow.”

Neither – she was just right.

In fact, after Cash came home there was a waiting game, more than a minute, until Makua Lani sophomore Tia Lurbiecki claimed silver.

“When I went round the loop, I was wondering why no one was behind me,” Cash said. “Were they hiding? Are they going to come out of nowhere? I was like I can’t slow down, I can’t give in.”

Cabais-Fernandez established himself as a BIIF contender this season, and in winning his first title (17:50.59) he enjoyed the added bonus of leading the Warriors to their third consecutive team title.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said.

Teammate and friend Adrian Larkspur filled in a few blanks after finishing fourth.

“(Eric’s) amazing and really coming into his own,” said Larkspur, a junior. “It was an across-the-board amazing performance for Waiakea. We couldn’t ask for a better team than this.”

Kealakehe freshman Alec Ankrum was second with Konawaena senior Josiah Vallez third.

“He’s really excited to see what he can do for the next three years,” Kealakehe coach Brad Lachance said of Ankrum. “He’s following the program and he’s really good that way.”

Youth – with all the talent set to return and the promise of next season – was among the primary themes of the day, no more so than with Hilo’s girls, who held off perennial power Hawaii Prep to claim the championship without the benefit of a senior.

During a typical practice session, the Vikings can be seen running up Waianuenue Avenue, rain or shine.

“Everyday they practice they have fun,” Hilo coach Bill McMahon said. “They really have a good time, even if it’s a hard workout, they revel in the hard work.

“They never expect to get a rain day.”

With all due respect to Hilo’s Teijah Rosas Suenishi (fifth), Cloud Rodin (seventh), Devon Paulson (10th) and Sam Marrack (20th), McMahon was most excited about his fourth-highest scorer, sophomore Alexia Palafox in 19th.

“She has been getting steadily better every single race,” McMahon said, “and today she shined.

“If you’re going to talk about any girls on our team, talk about her.”

Lawson, one of the best swimmers on the island, wound up third, and Kealakehe freshman Audrey Weir was fourth.

Kamehameha’s girls finishes first among Division II teams and fifth overall

Waiakea made a mockery of the boys team race, posting seven finishers in the top 16. They only needed five scorers, and Seneca Helfrich (sixth), Joshua Ho (seventh) and Deylan Okinaka (11th) also did the honors for the Warriors.

Hawaii Prep, the top Division II school, was far behind in second.

“The way the top seven came in so tight,” Waiakea co-coach Lance Tominaga, “they were all feeding off each other.”

Larkspur, Helfrich do their part, he said, but lately Cabais-Fernandez has set the tone.

“You tell him what you expect at practice, he’s going to try and give that and more,” Tominaga said.

Honokaa coach Jeri Moniz said the same about Cash, relaying a story about how a recent dip in the pool meant to be a mere refresher for Cash almost turned into a marathon training session.

“That’s just her mentality,” Moniz said. “She’s driven.”

Cash still has the HHSAA championships, set for Oct. 28 on Kauai, on her plate as well as another season of track and field, where she’s the two-time BIIF champion in the 3,000.

If she wanted to, she could probably double as a motivational speaker. Cash said minutes before her race was set to begin she took some time to keep everyone on the start line cool headed.

“Everyone was working so hard and I saw a lot of people who were nervous,” she said, “and I thought, no, no, I’m nervous, too, it’s OK.

“Everyone is amazing. I want them to work hard and achieve their dreams because nothing is impossible.”


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