Kalaheo joins the list of paddling state champions with mixed crew win

Kalaheo's mixed varsity girls and boys paddling team won the state championships on Saturday. Photo by Kat Wade/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

(Note: This story also appeared in Sunday’s edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

The 2020 state paddling championships saw three different victors, with Kamehameha’s girls finishing first, Punahou’s boys avenging last year’s loss, and Kalaheo notching the first mixed victory outside of a Kamehameha, Punahou or Seabury team since 2010.

The half-mile sprints at Keehi Lagoon were neck-and-neck for most of the heats up through the midpoint turn around each team’s flag on Saturday.

Kamehameha senior Teiana Gonsalves praised her team’s perseverance and unwillingness to lose in the final heat.

“I think that on our final heat, that race, we had no regrets, which was exactly what we wanted to do going into the race and we just left everything out there,” she said. “Just poured in our past four years all in that one race, so it felt amazing.”

The Warriors girls finished in 4:12.61, followed by Punahou at 4:20.55 and Seabury Hall at 4:28.13.

>> PHOTOS: High school paddling state championships

“(Winning) feels actually amazing because I started paddling for my school’s program in my freshman year,” Gonsalves added. “So it’s just a reflection of all the blood sweat and tears, and my love for the sport and my sisters on the water.”

The Punahou boys pulled ahead of Kamehameha in their final heat, which senior James Morris credited to the team’s start.

“For boys, we were — we thought we’d get left out at the start, we thought we’d have to scrap our way back into it, but we had a clean start,” Morris said. “Our steersman pulled a synchronized turn in the end, and we kicked our way back.”

With a final time of 3:36.52, the Buffanblu boys gained momentum and left Kamehameha (3:41.80) and Waimea (3:44.58) behind.

The varsity mixed final was the most unexpected point of states, as Kalaheo earned the first victory apart from the ILH and Maui winners in a decade.

Mustangs seniors Jeremy Mansell and Helani Aspelund basked in their win, with Mansell saying “It’s kinda crazy because it’s the first OIA win in nine years,” adding “I don’t think it’s really hit yet, but it feels really good. Kind of surreal.”

The Mustangs inched past Punahou at the end of the race, coming in 41 hundredths of a second before the Buffanblu to finish in 3:46.37, with Punahou coming in at 3:46.78. HPA closed the top three in the mixed race at 03:54.31.

“We didn’t expect this win at all,” Aspelund said. “But for a lot of us, this was our last race ever in high school, so we used that to push as momentum to win.”

When asked what propelled the Mustangs to their unanticipated achievement, Mansell said, “Seeing Punahou right there pushed us forward.”


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