Q&A: Kaiser vaulter/hurdler Tommi Hintnaus

Tommi Hintnaus (left) and Juliette Lum are Nos. 1 and 2 statewide in the pole vault entering the state championships this weekend at Keaau. Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser
Tommi Hintnaus (left) and Juliette Lum are Nos. 1 and 2 statewide in the pole vault entering the state championships this weekend at Keaau. Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser

Vaulting into the air is an act in defiance of the laws of gravity that most humans don’t participate in.

For Tommi Hintnaus, it’s in her DNA. The Kaiser senior, who will be at Arizona State this fall on an academic scholarship, ranks first statewide in the pole vault with a personal record of 11 feet, 7 inches as the Island Movers/HHSAA State Track and Field Championships nears. At Keaau on Friday and Saturday, she and teammate Juliette Lum, the state’s No. 2 pole vaulter, will test the fickle head and tail winds of East Hawaii. Hintnaus is prepared for everything and anything as a member of Kaiser’s dedicated squad.

“It’s a very technical event. Even Bryan Clay, with all his athleticism, took years to get competitive,” Kaiser coach Kevin Kruszona said. “It’s a process. your priorities as a coach change as they improve. I would always tell them, you don’t jump high enough yet to work on certain things.”

Complicating matters this year is the lack of an official pit to vault in due to the renovation of Kaiser Stadium.

“We would jump once a week at Kaiser at our makeshift pit. I installed a box at the corner of the sidewalk as it turned toward the softball field,” Kruszona said.

As for Keaau, where the weather can also be cool and wet, Kruszona may be expecting peak performances.

“All vaulters love a tail wind helping with forward movement. With a head wind, vaulters usually use softer, more flexible poles to insure getting into the pit. The top six to eight pole vaulters at the state meet are all in the mix. Anyone can have a breakout performance,” he said. “I like that Tommi is seeded No. 1 and Juliette is No. 2 going into the meet. They will be the last to vault.”

Tommi Hintnaus
Kaiser track and field

Q&A / Favorites

HPW: What are your PRs this year and each of the past years in the vault? What has that progression and development been like? And what do you know about the Keaau track and the wind? 

TH: Ninth grade my starting year my pr was 9 feet. Then sophomore year I went up to 11 feet. Then my junior year I went 11 feet, 4 inches. Right now my PR is 11-7 and hoping for a bigger PR during states. Through the years I haven’t really been focused on pole vault because we have to do multiple events during the year so we would only practice pole vault once a week and I would have club soccer practice during the track season so I was juggling many things.

This last year I tried to really focus on the pole vault and hurdles. My sister (Sage Hintnaus) competed on the Keaau track when she won the state meet so I think they have a good tail wind for the pole vault. Hilo is usually on the more rainy side.

Athlete: Yelena Isibnaeva

Team: US women’s soccer team 

Food (at home): Mac and Cheese 

HPW: Mac and cheese — is this basic out of the box? or something more fancy and crafted from scratch? Do you and (teammate) Kristen O’Handley have Mac and cheese get togethers? 

TH: Kraft mac and cheese will do for me. But yes Kristen and I go to CPK for some good crispy mac and cheese. 

Food (eating out): Fettuccine Chicken Alfredo 

Hobby outside of sports: Surfing 

Movie: My All-American 

TV show: One Tree Hill 

Video game: Fun Run

HPW: Is there a common thread between your favorite movie and tv show? And why do you think so many athletes play less video games these days? Or has that always been more of a guy thing?

TH: Yes, I guess there is a common thread between the two because in My All-American it’s about football and how life happens and in my favorite TV show, One Tree Hill, it’s about basketball and how things can happen in life but you can’t give up. For example, when they find out something terrible has happened to them or they can never play the sport they love ever again they learn to live with it.

I think video games have always just been a guy thing. Well to be honest when Kristen and I were on a trip to Texas for the Junior Olympics we played mine craft ’til about 3 in the morning. 

Music artist: Adam Levine 

TH: My favorite tune is by him is Sugar, but the relay teams pump up song before running is “U & I” by Galantis.

Teacher (elementary through high school): 

TH: Ms. Griffith (third grade, Hahaione Elementary)

HPW: Why is Ms. Griffith your favorite teacher? What’s your favorite memory?

TH: Ms. Griffith is my favorite teacher because she was so kind and always gave us snacks. Also because she kept in touch through all the years when I was growing up. My favorite memory would be when she would give us cookies every Wednesday!

GPA: 4.125 but overall 3.7 

Class: Psychology

HPW: Kristen said her favorite class is psychology, too. What is it about the class that is the most interesting? How does it apply to track and field?

TH: It helps that we have an awesome teacher to teach us but psychology is amazing because you get to learn about all these different things that go on in your thoughts. Psychology applies to track because you are able to learn how to truly visualize and are able to push yourself harder mentally. 

Place to relax: Sandy’s 

Motto/scripture: Be strong when you are weak be brave when you are scared and be humble when you are victorious. 

What your mom (Jennifer Hintnaus) says that you can’t forget: 

TH: My mom always says run with your heart and give your all from the start. 

What your dad (Tom Hintnaus) says that you can’t forget: 

TH: My dad always says “There’s no such word as CAN’T.”

What your coaches say that you can’t forget: All we can ask for is for you to leave everything on the track. 

HPW: Rank your favorite T&F events to compete in: 

TH: Pole vault, 4×400, 100 hurdles, 4×100 and 300 hurdles.

HPW: How does your track and field affect your daily life during the season and offseason?

TH: Track and field affects my daily life during the season and off-season because I’m always busy with training and trying to be the best I can be. While training there’s not much free time but you find time for things you love, to keep everything balanced. 

HPW: What middle and elementary schools did you attend?

TH: Hahaione Elementary and Niu Valley Middle Schools.

HPW: What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round?

TH: When I was young I played soccer for multiple clubs (Chelsea, Lanikai Tuesday). While growing up doing summer track meets I would compete unattached because my dad would just train me. But as I got older I joined the Hawaii Kai Track and Field club, because I would be able to travel to the junior olympics with a team. 

HPW: Where have you travelled for track and field?

TH: Texas, Oregon, and Maui. 

HPW: What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people? 

TH: Hula 

HPW: Is there enough time for hula?

TH: Hula is still a part of my life when my mom makes me do it for all of our guests that come over. I know only a couple songs that I learned during my time at Hahaione. 

HPW: What is your ultimate dream/bucket list? Where would you like to travel, what life would you like to have as an athlete? And away from sports? 

TH: My ultimate dream is to be in the Olympics. I would like to travel to Africa to see all the animals. I would like to have a heathy, fun, competitive life as an athlete. Away from sports I would like to have an active life with a family. 

HPW: What is the history and background of your name?

TH: I’m named after my dad Tomas Hintnaus, a two-time Olympian in the pole vault as well. 

HPW: As an Olympian, he must have been outstanding. What do you know about his career? What events did he do?

TH: My dad was a two-time Olympian once in 1980 when he competed for America and once in 1984 when he competed for Brazil. He had a dual citizenship and after working all his life to finally make it to the olympics in 1980 when he was in his prime and best shape ever ready to win the present boycotted the Olympics. He then tried again in the pole vault in 1984, but he suffered some injuries and wasn’t as ready as he was in 1980 but he still placed and got 12th. 

HPW: The ultimate dream — becoming an Olympian — what would that take? How high can you go in the next 4-5 years and beyond?

TH: To be an Olympian I would have to commit everything to training and just have the want and desire to truly be the best. I would have to be going at least 16 feet in those 4-5 years to be with the top girls in the world.

HPW: What do you want to major in at college? Maybe two or three most interesting majors? 

TH: What I will be majoring in is the school of sustainability. For a while I wanted to go into kinesiology or psychology. 

HPW: Any shout-outs?

TH: I would like to thank our Kaiser High School track parents for their unconditional support they give us by watching our track meets and cheering us on from beginning to end (eight hrs). The coaches, as well, for always being right and training us to be champions. The sisterhood that our team has created is amazing, it’s like running with my best friends everyday. I would like to thank my teammates for pushing me and making me a better person all around. Also the officials who I have became close with after my four years in track, for always helping us athletes by telling us what they see because they are always watching. Lastly I would like to thank my amazing parents for sacrificing so much time cheering me on and helping my dreams come true.


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