Punahou’s girls and ‘Iolani boys waited 16 months for another shot at the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title.
It was worth the wait. The Buffanblu, coached by Duncan Macdonald, rode their depth and a near-individual title by Sasha Iizuka-Sheeley to capture the ILH girls cross country team title at Mid-Pacific Institute. The Raider boys charged to their team title behind a strong individual runner-up finish by freshman Devin Pang.
Punahou is the winner of the last eight girls cross country state championships. There is no state championship this academic year for fall and winter sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ILH is the only league in Hawaii that had a cross country season after postponing it from the fall season.
The Buffanblu chased ‘Iolani’s freshman phenom, Jolie Nguyen, who won the girls individual crown with a time of 13 minutes, 14.5 seconds on the hilly, wet and somewhat soggy course at MPI. It was a different course due to the soggy football field conditions, which mean the starting line was on the road heading to the hill above the field. That also meant two runs up that hill during the two-mile race.
“Instead of going straight up the hill in the beginning of the second lap, you go around the building near the finish instead of just cutting straight through,” said Nguyen, who ran at MPI earlier in the season. “What got the best of me is knowing you have to do another loop after the first one, which is exhausting. Running with the boys gave me the incentive to go harder.”
Punahou’s Sasha Iizuka-Sheeley was right behind with a time of 13:15.7. Teammate Lauren Saunders was third (13:24). Iizuka-Sheeley, a sophomore, and Saunders, a junior, were joined by four teammates among the Top 12. Brie Yamamoto (13:52), Kyle Hasegawa (13:53), Elise Wong (13:55) and Katie Blair (13:57) are all freshmen. Punahou finished with 32 points.
‘Iolani tallied 43 points for second place. Freshmen Jaymie Frith (13:43) and Maile Healing (13:44) placed sixth and seventh, respectively. Senior Sophia Kop was 11th overall (13:57) and classmate Myndee Dyer (14:15) was 18th overall.
Caley Chun led Hawaii Baptist (69 points) to a third-place finish. The sophomore was fourth overall (13:32) and senior teammate Lindsey Jaeger (13:59) and sophomore Christina Toyomura (14:02) placed 13th and 14th, respectively.
Le Jardin sophomore Elena Piette was fifth individually (13:39).
Kamehameha (119), Mid-Pacific (150), Le Jardin (151) and Maryknoll (161) followed.
A wet morning was followed by a sunny afternoon in Manoa Valley. With temperatures in the mid-70s, ‘Iolani was the first school on the docket. The course was unfamiliar to some who hadn’t run at MPI, including Kamehameha’s talented freshman, Madison Murata. Considered among the favorites, Murata started the course strong, but the hills took the wind out of her sails. She finished 17th overall (14:08).
2021 ILH Cross Country Championships
1. Punahou 32, 2. ‘Iolani 43, 3. Hawaii Baptist 69, 4. Kamehameha 119, 5. Mid-Pacific 150, 6. Le Jardin 151, 7. Maryknoll 161.
Individual (Top 20)
1. Jolie Nguyen, ‘Iolani, 13:14.49
2. Sasha Iizuka-Sheeley, Punahou, 13:15.7
3. Lauren Saunders, HBA, 13:24
4. Caley Chun, HBA, 13:32
5. Elena Piette, Le Jardin, 13:39
6. Jaymie Frith, ‘Iolani, 13:43
7. Maile Healing ‘Iolani, 13:44
8. Brie Yamamoto, Punahou, 13:52
9. Kyle Hasegawa, Punahou, 13:53
10. Elise Wong, Punahou, 13:55
11. Sophia Kop, ‘Iolani, 13:57.14
12. Katie Blair, Punahou, 13.57.52
13. Lindsey Jaeger, HBA, 13:59
14. Christina Toyomura, HBA, 14:02
15. Kristina Domingo, Maryknoll, 14:03
16. Mari Monico, HBA, 14:06
17. Madison Murata, Kamehameha, 14:08
18. Myndee Dyer, ‘Iolani, 14:15
19. Alyssa Alvarez, Punahou, 14:20
20. Mahina Kaomea, Kamehameha, 14:22.