Even with two of the state’s most decorated cross country runners hanging up their cleats, don’t expect a letdown next year.
Dakota Grossman became the first athlete to win four straight state championships at its current distance on Friday, and Davis Kaahanui repeated as the boys champion.
The Spartans followed Grossman to the Division II title and the Warriors continued their dynasty with another team title. But those kinds of teams have plenty more where they came from.
After Grossman, each of Seabury Hall’s scorers were underclassmen. Sophomore Ally Smith led the way by beating OIA champion Vanessa Roybal of Mililani for third place. Freshman Ava Shipman finished 18th, Kiana Smith took 37th, junior Christy Fell was 62nd and freshman Sarah Mutzenberg was 110th.
“For me it was all about the team,” Grossman said. “(Smith) is super competitive, I knew she had the capability to do it. I could see everyone with all of the turns on the course, and seeing them do well pushed me.”
Not that Seabury Hall will challenge the Punahou dynasty. The girls field will be especially stacked next year, with five sophomores taking spots in the top 10 on Friday.
‘Iolani sophomore Amanda Beaman was the fastest of them, beating Smith by four seconds. Roybal is also a sophomore and Punahou boasts the trio of Teri Brady, Noe Obermeyer and Kailey Totherow, all of whom will return for their junior years.
That doesn’t even count Kaiser twins Lina and Erika Schell, who will return for their senior years after top 20 finishes.
Seabury Hall’s girls might be able to sneak up on the ILH powers next year, but Kamehameha’s boys certainly won’t. Everyone will be gunning for the Warriors from the first meet.
Even though Kaahanui is out of the picture, Kamehameha will probably go into the season with the state favorite once again. Kamehameha has had a top-3 finisher in every state meet since 2008.
Next year, it will be Kaeo Kruse who will be running with a target on his back. Kruse, a sophomore, lost to Kaahanui by less than a second in the ILH championships before finishing second again at states. But don’t expect the pressure, which dogged Kaahanui in both championships, to get to Kruse.
“It’s no pressure, it’s just running,” Kruse said. “Plus our team will still be good.”
Both Kaahanui and Kruse credit the system that Kamehameha coach Steve Jenness set up for their individual success this year.
“We are a family,” Kaahanui said. “We stuck together and suffered together.”
Kruse will need all of the support he can get, with Kalaheo freshman Makai Clemons gunning for him and Kamehameha junior Kainalu Asam. Asam finished fifth on Friday, while sophomore teammate Grant Kim (25th) also ran strong. Junior Kanoa Tsujiguchi also returns for Kamehameha.
Jenness will need someone to step up and join Kruse and Asam as the potent 1-2-3 punch he enjoyed this year. But that group grew as the season went along, and he expects the same thing to happen next year. Kruse will certainly be pushed in practice, the same as Kaahanui was.
“Nothing he does surprises me,” Jenness said. “He’s got so much potential. Our whole gang gets along well, and that helps all of them.”
In addition to Kruse, Clemons and Asam, other favorites next year will include Toshihiro Kosins of Kalani, freshman Connor Lael of Punahou and Mililani junior Jakob Dewald.
Grossman and Kaahanui will still be around, they both have track and field season coming up in the spring. But still, they spent a good amount of time on Friday afternoon reflecting on their cross-country careers with a hint of sadness.
“It is kind of sad,” Kaahanui said. “I will definitely do track but I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t do well, there are a lot of fast runners out there. I think I am better in cross country because it is more of a grind.”
Grossman agrees that she is probably better in cross country, but she prefers track and field now because of the atmosphere and the variety of events. She will be trying to add to her haul of eight gold medals in her career, more than any athlete Maui has produced.
“It’s pretty sad,” Grossman said. “We were all just sitting around and thinking ‘we’re done.’ Catching Tia (Ferguson, who graduated from Seabury Hall with seven gold medals) was definitely one of my goals and now I just have to see if I can add some more.”