The Defender: Kruse overcomes illness

Kaeo Kruse, Kamehameha junior. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser
Kaeo Kruse, Kamehameha junior. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

It wasn’t a fun week for Kamehameha junior Kaeo Kruse.

On Tuesday, he was diagnosed with a flu and respiratory infection. Three days before the ILH track and field championships — and one day before trials — the timing was absolutely not good.

But he made it through the next few days. He was superb in the 1,500-meter run, logging four laps in 4 minutes, 2.88 seconds to edge Punahou’s super sophomore, Connor Lehl (4:03.13). After cooling down, Kruse wasn’t sure if he’d give the 3,000 run a try.

Nowhere near 100 percent physically, he got the ask from his coaches as Kamehameha’s grip on first place became loosened. Punahou was creeping closer and closer as day turned into night in pristine conditions at Kamehameha’s Kunuiakea Stadium.

“Punahou really closed that gap on us, so our coaches wanted me and Kainalu (Asam) to run the 3,000. My coach said I can do whatever if I want. If I feel good, I can push it. I just wanted to go for the win, so I switched it up.”

Kruse roared to the finish on the last turn.

“It was a slow pace, and I usually kick it at 400,” said Kruse, who held off another 200 meters before gunning it to the close.

Kruse won with a time of 9:27.01, again edging Lehl, who came in at 9:30.64.

“I just wanted to compete and defend my (1,500) title from last year,” Kruse said. “I wanted to break 4 (minutes in the 1,500), but that was before the sickness.”

Kamehameha finished with 167 points to Punahou’s 154.

It’s been a remarkable season for Kruse, who won the state crown in the 3,000 last year with a time of 8:43.12, shattering the previous mark of 8:52.44 set by Pierce Murphy of Island School in 2012. Going after the 1,500 at states will be quite a test. All four of last year’s top state finishers graduated. Lehl, who was a freshman last year, will likely be Kruse’s toughest foe.

“He’s doing really great this year,” Kruse said. “He’s a great runner. Everybody pushes me to get better.”


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