It is probably fitting that a new course gets a new champion.
Hanalani junior Adam Harder is favored to win the ILH cross country championship on Saturday at Punahou, the first time the meet will be held there since 2011. It has been held at Mid-Pacific since then.
Reigning champion Aaron Shiinoki of Punahou has since graduated, leaving the title for Harder to pick up.
Harder has won five ILH meets this year and was the top Hawaii finisher with a fifth-place showing at the elite ‘Iolani Invitational in the middle of September.
‘Iolani senior Charles Sakamaki has finished second to Harder four times this season and figures to be the most likely to push him on Saturday. Sakamaki won a race of his own this season, taking gold at Kapolei on Sept. 29 when Harder took a week off.
Harder holds the fastest time in Hawaii this year according to https://www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/Hawaii/ with a 16:01.04 clocking at ‘Iolani in the middle of September. Sakamaki’s best clocking is just four seconds off him at 16:05 at Kapolei.
Other contenders Saturday include Aziah Schaal of Pac-Five, Hanalani sophomore Ben Hodge and ‘Iolani sophomore Josh Lerner, who finished a spot ahead of Sakamaki in 21st at Kualoa Ranch.
‘Iolani is expected to win its fourth straight team title, which would be the longest run since Punahou from 1984-1992.
The ILH girls race figures to be way more wide open than the boys with no clear top two.
Le Jardin senior Gianna Sbarbaro is the only girl to win more than one race this season, but the last time she broke the tape was Sept. 29 at Kapolei after finishing second to ‘Iolani junior Aya Margraf two weeks ago. Other winners this season include Kristina Tessa of Maryknoll and Punahou senior Maiya Fujiwara. Johanna Seng finished second to Seabury Hall’s Chloe Gangnath at Punahou last week.
Fujiwara has the top time in the state with her 18:59.3 at the elite Nike Desert Twilight XC Festival in Sept., but Sbarbaro was just five tenths of a second slower at Kualoa Ranch the week before that. Hawaii Baptist’s Kacie Kwan was supposed to be the heir apparent after finishing second to Jordan Jones last year, but she finished fifth at Punahou last week behind Punahou’s Georgi Brady and Maya Mastick.
The Buffanblu are expected to win their fourth straight team title and 12th in 14th years.
The OIA will be running its league championship at the same time on Saturday at Central Oahu Regional Park.
Kalaheo’s top male runners, East champion Chase Eckenfels and Kangsan Meyers, will be under some pressure to extend the school’s current five-year run with the individual champion. It might be an uphill battle, though, as West champion Kainalu Pagente of Pearl City was 41 seconds faster than Eckenfels at Kualoa.
Narayan Schnieder of McKinley matched Pagente and Eckenfels with two victories this season and Roosevelt’s Reimon Wada had one.
The Chargers haven’t had a boy win the OIA since Michael Donaldson in 1996 and the Rough Riders have never had a winner and haven’t had a boy finish in the top three since 1998.
Even if the Mustangs don’t get the top finisher, they are expected to gain their third team title in four years.
Dallas Inouye can make it a Moanalua repeat in the girls race after Brooklyn Allen won last year. She won the East championship to go with two other races and West champion Hannah Schmidt of Leilehua matched her with three wins.
Moanalua’s Malea Kaneyama had the other victory and finished second to Inouye last week.
Na Menehune haven’t taken the OIA team title since 1994 and haven’t had a top-three finish since 2003.