Keanu Wallace had what could have been a heartbreaking week, but in his irrepressible way, he never stopped surging forward.
By the time the ILH boys track and field championships ended on Friday — with a lengthy shower, of course — Wallace was at peace. He was actually at peace for much of the week, despite the circumstances.
After losing the 2020 track season, then his senior year of football to the pandemic, the blazing-fast wide receiver/sprinter had two football scrimmages with the Crusaders this spring. He also took aim at a potential record in the 100-yard dash. That opportunity, however, was another takeaway by COVID-19 when a classmate tested positive for COVID-19. In the ensuing days, Wallace tested negative twice and was cleared to return to campus and practice.
The ILH has a longer quarantine requirement, 10 days. That meant Wallace had to sit out of the ILH boys track and field trials on Wednesday. His dream of setting a record dissolved.
“They should’ve let Keanu run,” said Punahou wide receiver Christopher Paige, who won the 300-meter hurdles. “Even if he ran at Saint Louis and they time it there.”
By Friday, the quarantine expired and Wallace competed in events that didn’t require participation in the trials.
“For Keanu, the only events that didn’t have a trial were the 4×100, 4×400 and the long jump,” Saint Louis coach Alika Fonseca said.
Wallace placed third in the long jump, his first try at the event in two years, with a distance of 21 feet, 6.25 inches. He also anchored the 4×100 relay team to victory.
The Crusaders placed third in the 4×400. Facing a big gap of roughly 40 yards on the anchor leg, Wallace ran an unofficial 49.5 seconds, according to Fonseca.
“That’s my PR. That was my goal, to catch up with ‘Iolani. It’s all mental. Fifty percent physical, 50 percent mental,” Wallace said.
He long jumped 21 feet, 6.25 inches. Wallace practiced it just one day, Thursday, and hadn’t delved into it since 2019.
The 4×100 was fun, and his unofficial split time boggles the mind.
“I knew I couldn’t run the 100 today. They clocked it at 10.1 hand-timed,” he said.
Faster than DK Metcalf?
“You add on .29 of a second for hand-timed,” Wallace said.
Despite the circumstances, Wallace hasn’t complained once.
“He really gets it,” Fonseca said. “From my perspective, my job as a coach is to make sure that I give every guy the best opportunity to do what he deserves to do, and what he can do. Their job is to make their decisions and try to make things as safe as possible. I don’t do that job. My job as a coach is to make sure that I stand up for my kids, not just Keanu, but four or five kids that (tested negative and) had to quarantine, too. Kids who could’ve been out there today, that all could’ve dominated, too.”
Like Wallace, they needed to compete in the trials in order to qualify for Friday’s finals.
“Those are mostly freshmen, sophomores and juniors,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca also coaches wide receivers, which meant he and his football/track athletes were spread between the two sports operating simultaneously in this pandemic spring season.
“The bigger schools do a really good job at making sure that they have everybody doing every event. That’s what I’m working on for Saint Louis School. This year, we’re back to the same old stuff, a bunch of jumpers, a bunch of sprinters,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily lose guys. I did lose some guys, but some guys had to do both. Even for me, sometimes, I had to figure out what’s more important, football or track? And they’re both in the same season. Figuring that out was a battle in itself.”
Wallace had it figured out after a full year-plus of constant workouts. Running hills. Running on the sand. Weight training. A chance to finally start for his beloved Crusaders at wide receiver. He plans to make the most of his preferred walk-on opportunity this summer at Washington. He leaves in June.
“It is what it is. We’ve just got be grateful for what we have,” he said. “I pray for everyone who’s affected by this. My prayers go out to anyone who’s had this (virus).”