As their brethren on the boys basketball team currently occupies the top spot in the Star-Advertiser’s Top 10 poll of media and coaches, Kalaheo’s paddlers carry some extra motivation to match—or surpass—the success of their hardcourt cohorts in pursuit of state championship gold early next month.
However, before the Mustangs chase their first state boys paddling crown since 2008, the experienced crew will attempt to claim its fifth consecutive Oahu Interscholastic Association title Saturday afternoon in the league championship regatta at Keehi Lagoon.
Last year, Kalaheo set the Keehi Lagoon course record with a 3 minute, 34.47 second mark in the half-mile race. The accomplishment was one of many by the thriving program that has delivered acclaim to the athletic department, which for so many years was recognized primarily amongst the community for its stellar basketball programs.
“The boys come to school and see all the (paddling) championship banners hanging in the gym,” says Kalaheo coach Chelsea Bizik, a lifeguard by day and an experienced paddler who won the Na Wahine O Ke Kai Molokai-to-Oahu title with the Waikiki Beach Boys last summer. “Once they realize that paddling gives them an opportunity to win a championship, many of them think, ‘shoot, I should do that.’ I can guide you to be a champion but it’s up to paddlers like Talus (Carpenter) to want it and push each other to do well.”
Kalaheo continues to bolster its dynastic run on the water and is currently undefeated in OIA competition this season with wins in five consecutive regattas encapsulating both long-distance and sprint races. Another victory by the blue-and-orange clad boys would result in the program’s sixth OIA crown in seven years.
“We’re facing some good competition, but as long as we stick together, I think we can win this one,” said Carpenter, who mentioned Kaiser, Kailua and Radford as competitors to watch out for. “We set the course record last year, so I’d really like to beat that mark.”
Radford should prove a worthy challenger to Kalaheo and the field as the Rams’ boys went undefeated in OIA West competition. Radford is also expected to contend for the girls’ title along with Waianae, Moanalua, McKinley, Castle and Kalaheo. The mixed division features a wide-open field as three boys and three girls from each participating school will combine to knock off defending champion Kaiser.