It started with a vision.
Four years later, Hanalani is one of the premier Division II cross country programs in the state. Jeremy Honold arrived in 2014 to a campus that didn’t have a program. With only 300 students grades 7-12, Honold brought a plan that was part science, part faith and 100 percent effective. Perspiration plus inspiration.
Adam Harder is the top harrier in the ILH now after winning the boys individual crown last weekend. But solo work is rarely the norm in cross country. Harder’s teammates have also jumped in with both feet, embracing the offseason training designed by Honold. In all, five Royals placed in the top 50 at the ILH championships.
Hanalani, with Harder, Ben Hodge (18:12, ninth at ILH), Kevin Au (19:07, 21st), Ben Scully (19:54, 34th), Corban Hodge (40th, 20:14) and Logan Castro (46th, 20:28), is on the cusp of something magnificent. HBA has more depth — seven of the Eagles placed among the top 29 at ILH — and a much larger enrollment. But the Royals like their chances, and it wasn’t always that way.
2013 was the last time Hanalani didn’t have a qualifier for states. In ’14, sophomore Rihito Sasaki placed 90th (18:45) and senior Nate Wasson was 180th (20:11).
In ’15, the boys team placed 17th in the D-II state race. Tucker Chase, Samuel Chase, Corban Hodge, Naoto Kubota and Matthew Fulton followed Sasaki and Wasson as pioneers for the boys program. Chase, who placed 50th (17:59) as a sophomore, showed the most promise.
Chase departed when his family moved back to the mainland — military transfer is a common part of life at Hanalani — but the momentum was in motion. Sophomores Conor Martin (106th, 20:46) and Corban Hodge (164th, 21:35) kept the flame lit. Then, poof — both were gone, just like Chase.
In ’17, the Royals buckled down again. Harder’s year-round training began to bear fruit. He took eighth place at states with a time of 17:06 and teammate Ben Hodge was 22nd (17:40). Harder was the second-fastest sophomore in the HHSAA. The fastest was Smith (16:51), who placed fourth overall.
Honold now believes the ’17 squad would have turned the corner and performed even better if he’d known then what he knows now.
“Last year was the hardest year. We had the wrong mind-set and I should’ve caught it earlier. We had a solid year the year prior. Unfortunately, we lost two guys to military (transfer),” Honold said. “Tucker is now at West Point. He won his state league when he was a senior. Conor transitioned to a pretty decent middle-distance runner. With those two guys gone, our boys would keep saying, ‘If Tucker and Conor were here…’ “
They needed five to qualify for states, and only three did.
“We really shot ourselves in the foot. We believed a little too late. When I realized it, we tried to pull them out as quick as we could,” Honold said. “In May, I told them if you give me five or six months, we can walk away with a state title. I pulled out the data and said, ‘This is logical.’ Times have come down. Our summer program is similar to what I did in college. I asked them to think ahead.”
Honold, an ’09 Kapolei graduate, never considered himself a natural harrier. When he attended Whitworth College, his coach told him that he’d have to work harder, do more, sacrifice to become a college-level cross country contributor.
“That’s where I started really dissecting things and really where I became insane about it,” Honold said.