Campbell captures high school division in Honolulu Ekiden race


 



WAIKIKI — The second annual Honolulu Ekiden and Music Festival took place Sunday morning with 180 teams coming from near and far to compete in the relay race.

The 26.2-mile race took runners from Kapiolani Park to Sandy Beach and back in six segments. Teams were comprised of anywhere from two to six members, with each member running at least one of six legs that varied in length from 3.3 to 5.6 miles.

There were various divisions that teams competed in, including age groups for college, high school and middle school teams. The five-man team from Campbell captured first place in the high school division, finishing in an overall time of eight hours, 31 minutes and 12 seconds.

The members of the winning Sabers' team were Trighton Mulleither, Alec Bell, Alec Auz, Jeremy Ephraim and Sean Graffis.

"It was hard work, but it was fun and we're just working to make our coaches and our parents and everyone that believes in us proud," said Auz, who will be a junior in the fall and ran both the third and fourth legs of the race.

Campbell cross country coach Mark Inay saw the race as a chance to gain experience for the upcoming prep season.

"They just came off of track and some of them will be running summer track and we graduated kind of a lot of our scoring team from last year so we're just looking trying to replace some of those guys with these guys coming up," said Inay, whose team finished second in the Oahu Interscholastic Association cross country season last fall. "What was good about this race was it a relay, so they're doing it together — not alone like a Great Aloha Run or a Honolulu Marathon, where they're all racing against each other — and they're working together."

Campbell, which won dinner certificates to the Prince Court dinner buffet as a prize, was one of 15 teams entered in the high school division and finished fifth overall. The "Young Farts," a team comprised of runners from several different high schools were second, Moanalua third, Iolani fourth and Punahou fifth.

Roberts Hawaii picked up the entry fee for the high school teams, which Mulleither said eased the burden on the Sabers.

"It's so nice of them to sponsor us, because during the season it's so hard to get sponsors like this to join races," Auz said. "Cross country doesn't get that much attention, it's more of the known sports like football, so we really thank them because it's times like this that we need them and we show them our appreciation by winning this for them."

"Girls on Fire," a team made up of runners from four different Interscholastic League of Honolulu schools, was the first all-female team to finish and placed 10th overall.

"I liked the format because when I was running, I thought about the team and it wasn't just about running for myself," said Hennessey Ellis, who will be a junior at Kamehameha in the fall. "I wanted to do good for them."

Team Hawaii Sport Jaco Rehab repeated as the overall winner and received round-trip airfare to Japan, courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines, as the grand prize. One of the members of the winning team was Kalaheo cross country standout Makai Clemons, who is the reigning OIA cross country champion.

"I think it's a lot more fun, a lot more exciting than just a normal race by myself, because in a normal race I'm pushing myself and whatever I do is what I do, but at least in this race I knew I had to help my team out and whatever they did, it was exciting to see how the race played along," Clemons said. "I think it was pretty cool and when you have a race to look forward, it makes it a lot more fun training."

One of Clemons' teammates Sunday was Jonathan Lyau, a prominent distance runner on the local scene.

"It's great to have the young kids from the high schools out here," Lyau said. "One thing about our team is we're all former or current Hawaii track runners, so that was important to us, we wanted to have a team made up of local runners — in fact, we have former runners from Punahou, Seabury Hall, McKinley, University High and Makai from Kalaheo."

Lyau hopes to see more schools take part in future Ekiden races here in Honolulu.

"It's a fun thing and it builds team bonding and camaraderie," Lyau said. "It's a different event than state track or cross country, because you're out here having fun and it's not so much a competition."

Like Lyau, race director Brent Imonen said he would encourage local prep athletes — not just distance runners — to participate next year and beyond.

"We're hoping that we can continue to grow the local side of this race along with the Japanese support we receive and the high school part of it will be integral to that," Imonen said. "We've had two good years so far, but it's somewhat of a cultural exchange where Ekiden races are well-known in Japan, they're not super well known here yet, but we had a good turnout the past two years and hopefully we can continue to build on this race for the future."

After an awards ceremony early Sunday evening, a concert was held on the Waikiki beachfront. Among the groups that performed were Japanese pop groups Kimaguren, Scandal and Monkey Majik.



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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