It appears as though the Kaiser outrigger canoe paddling program has gotten the hang of winning on the water.
In the first 13 seasons of the Oahu Interscholastic Association including paddling as a sanctioned sport, the Cougars came up short of winning any championship hardware. However, over the last two seasons, Kaiser has rallied to win three paddling titles including the boys and mixed titles during Saturday’s OIA championship regatta at Keehi Lagoon.
With the addition of the brand-new hardware, the Cougars will now need to make room for two more championship trophies.
Four-time defending champion Kalaheo and Radford entered the boys’ race undefeated having run through the OIA East and West divisions unscathed, but the Cougars found a way to come up golden in what coach Tina Roque confirmed will be her final season at the helm.
The Mustangs — who were forced to reshuffle their lineup due to a last-minute illness suffered by senior stroker Talus Carpenter — reached the halfway turn of the ½-mile race first, but Kaiser rallied down the stretch and hastened their stroke rate to key the upset. The Cougars crossed the line in 3 minutes, 43.85 seconds and fended off Kailua (3:47.13), Kalaheo (3:47.70) and Radford (3:48.26).
“It’s the first time we’ve won a race all season, and to finally get first over Kalaheo feels great,” said Kaiser senior Sinjin Bradley. “Coming in second place (so often) gets boring; it’s great to get another paddling trophy for our school.”
Bradley was joined in the winning canoe by Levi Richards, Alexander Look, Micah Nakamoto, Kamuela Wallace and Carter Matson.
“I told the boys that if they want it, it’s theirs,” said Roque after taking a moment to let the accomplishment set in. “It’s the little things that matter: technique and efficient paddling. Now, I have two weeks (to prepare for the state title race), so we’ll see where we go.”
Richards, Bradley and Look also helped buoy Kaiser in its second consecutive mixed division championship along with Dakota Girdley, Kia Hasegawa and Raquel Robello. As was the case in the boys’ race, the Cougars remedied a slow start that included some miscues in the first quarter mile by picking up down the pace over the event’s final 30 yards.
Kaiser (4:12.50) held off hard-charging Kalaheo (4:13.51) to post the day’s slimmest margin of victory, while Kapolei (4:18.33) and Waianae (4:19.17) could not make up enough ground to upend the defending champions.
“Going down to the (turn) flag we were third, but we kept fighting for it and picked it up to the end—we never stopped,” said Richards, who has been a part of all three Kaiser championship crews. “We’ve got to practice hard in the coming weeks and focus on facing some of the private schools (including perennial state championship favorites) Kamehameha and Punahou.
Castle claimed its first OIA girls’ title since 2007 and led its race wire to wire before eventually posting a mark of 4:25.50. Kalani (4:28.31), Leilehua (4:28.83) and Moanalua (4:30.82) remained within striking distance, but could not catch the Knights.
For the second consecutive season, Waianae was awarded the Tesoro Hawaii Cup after amassing the highest cumulative point total over all three events throughout the six OIA regattas this season. The Seariders racked up 127 points and edged Radford (125 points) and Kalaheo (111 points) to retain the perpetual trophy.
Saturday’s times did not prove fast enough to encroach on any records, and the Kalaheo boys’ OIA-best mark of 3:34.47 set last season remained intact. Kamehameha is believed to hold the record for the fastest time recorded by a high school crew in Keehi Lagoon (3:32.73 in the 2011 state boys’ championship race), while Punahou established the record for the fastest ½-mile effort with a blistering 3:29.605 posted at the 2012 HHSAA championship prelims in Hilo Bay.
OIA Canoe Paddling Championships
1/2-mile course with one turn
The top six teams from each race qualified for the state championship regatta on Feb. 7 at Maui’s Kahului Marbor.
1. Kaiser, 3 minutes, 43.85 seconds (Sinjin Bradley, Levi Richards, Micah Nakamoto, Kamuela Wallace, Carter Matson and Alexander Look); 2. Kailua, 3:47.13; 3. Kalaheo, 3:47.70; 4. Radford, 3:48.26; 5. Kalani, 3:52.46; 6. Waianae, 3:56.70; 7. McKinley, 3:58.14; 8. Waialua, 4:01.27; 9. Pearl City, 4:03.58; 10. Campbell, 4:06.42; 11. Roosevelt, 4:06.91; 12. Mililani, 4:07.76.
1. Castle, 4:25.50 (Shaienne Estepa, Harlee Jay Pedro, Kaila Malama, Kaitlyn Kona, Sarah Lee and Shainna Estepa); 2. Kalani, 4:28.31; 3. Leilehua, 4:28.83; 4. Moanalua, 4:30.82; 5. Kaiser, 4:31.57; 6. Kalaheo, 4:32.37; 7. Pearl City, 4:33.58; 8. Mililani, 4:34.19; 9. Waianae, 4:35.13; 10. McKinley, 4:36.76; 11. Kapolei, 4:48.30; 12. Radford, 4:48.80.
1. Kaiser, 4:12.50 (Sinjin Bradley, Levi Richards, Alexander Look, Dakota Girdley, Kia Hasegawa and Raquel Robello); 2. Kalaheo, 4:13.51; 3. Kapolei, 4:18.33; 4. Waianae, 4:19.17; 5. Nanakuli, 4:22.67; 6. McKinley, 4:23.47; 7. Kalani, 4:23.80; 8. Kailua, 4:25.71; 9. Pearl City, 4:27.26; 10. Leilehua, 4:34.27; 11. Moanalua, 4:38.56; 12. Radford, 4:45.95.
Tesoro Hawaii Cup
Based on cumulative points from all six OIA events
1. Waianae, 127 points; 2. Radford, 125; 3. Kalaheo, 111; 4. Kaiser, 100; 5. McKinley, 96; 6. Kapolei, 90; 7. Leilehua, 90; 8. Kalani, 90; 9. Moanalua, 88; 10. Pearl City, 87.