KEAAU — The plan was to see how Emma Taylor would fare in four events, and the Hawaii Prep sophomore passed with flying colors — for now.
Taylor won two sprints and two hurdling events Saturday in her Big Island Interscholastic Federation track and field season debut at Keaau.
Four for four, but Ka Makani coach Pat Lau expects even more in the future.
“She did great today, and I’m happy for her, but we know she can do better,” Lau said.
He was more concerned with building blocks than starting blocks for Taylor, who spent her season leading up to Saturday competing at meets on Oahu and the mainland.
Taylor won the 100-meter hurdles in 15.70 seconds, which is a 2014 state-best time but almost a half-second behind her winning effort at the 2013 Hawaii High School Athletic Association championships. Taylor ranks second in the state in the 300 hurdles after finishing in 46.19, though Lau called it a “terrible run.”
“It was a good run, but it wasn’t a clean run,” he said.
Taylor also beat 13 seconds in the 100 sprint to go along with a win in the 200 (27.29), though neither was a BIIF-best this season. Those belong, respectively, to Kamehameha’s Meagan Kualii and Harper Hottendorf, and neither competed at the meet.
Lau said the learning curve in the hurdles is steep. Taylor has learned a lot, he said, but has a lot of room to grow.
“We set goals and times today, and (Emma) hit them all,” Lau said. “But she should knock a second off her time in the 300 hurdles, and we’re going to clean up her 100.”
If Taylor was winning a race Saturday, then Hilo’s Mehana Sabado-Halpern could most likely be found in fast pursuit. Known more as a distance runner, the junior took second in both hurdles and also was runner-up in the 200.
“I miss distance, but sprinting is fun,” said Sabado-Halpern, who was third in the 3,000 at BIIFs last season.
She was also third at states last season in the triple jump, and she won the event Saturday with a leap of 35 feet, second-best in Hawaii in 2014.
But she was proudest of her effort in only her second try at the hurdles, especially a 300 race (46.66) in which she led late before Taylor caught her. “It’s pretty cool that I could compete (with her),” Sabado-Halpern said. “I just need to work on my form and quicken my strides.”
Hilo senior Isi Holani also recorded a state-best. The defending league champ in both throwing events distanced himself from the field with a toss of 164-07 in the discus, far ahead of second-place Hoku Kamaka (132-03) of Kealakehe.
While Hilo and Hawaii Prep were battling it out for the BIIF girls title last season, Kealakehe only was able to score 2.5 points. The outlook for the Waveriders is much brighter this season thanks, in part, to freshman Nicole Cristobal.
Cristobal claimed the long jump (16-5.50) and finished second in the 100 and triple jump and fourth in the high jump.
Kealakehe coach Duke Hartfield first noticed Cristobal’s’ athleticism and work ethic when he coached her in volleyball last fall.
“She’s a hard-worker and very committed to learning. It’s fun to coach her,” Hartfield said. “She’s really improved her speed this week, and I was very happy with that.”
The Waveriders have at least one other medalist contender in the sprints in Alysa Gamache.
The other athletes to put up 2014 BIIF-best efforts during the fourth meet of the season were: Konawaena’s Celena Molina (400, 1:01.59); Hilo’s Carmen Garson-Shumway (800, 2:23.99); Hilo’s Alysha Medeiros (pole vault, 9-6); Hilo’s Elaine Najera (shot put 105-3); Christian Liberty’s Kekoa Mundo (400, 52.77); Waiakea’s Ian McQuate (1,500, 4:17.90); Keaau’s Maurice Smith (high jump, 6-0) and the Cougars’ 1,600 relay team (3:36.45).
As the Keaau boys seek another league title, coach Vicky Chai-Guerpo called Smith one of the workhorses on a balanced roster brimming with athletes primed to score points. Among the others are Shawn Ventura (who won the 300 hurdles Saturday), Jeffrey Ferrell, Carlos Valdez, Cohlby Roy Espaniola and throwers Matthew Simpkins and Dustin Liva. BIIF threepeat, anyone? “I think the team has enough depth and if they continue to grow as team it is possible,” Chai-Guerpo said.
The race of the day came on the boys side in the 1,500. McQuate, a senior, edged sophomore teammate Louie Ondo by two one-hundredths of a second.