For this year’s HBA cross country runners, running at least 15 miles a week during the season has certainly paid off.
The boys varsity team won the Division 2 State Championship in Kauai, taking home the boys varsity title for the first time since 2012. The girls varsity team finished in second place, with freshman Johanna Seng (2nd) and sophomore Kacie Kwan (8th) medaling for the Eagles. This is the first time that both the boys and girls divisions have brought home state trophies in the same season. The intermediate girls team finished second in their championship race—with four girls in the top 10 group in one season, the most in HBA history—while the boys team finished third.
Cross Country training at HBA—which took place every day after school and on Saturdays—includes sprinting up hills, running miles, working on pacing, and workouts that include weight training. According to girls coach Derek Coryell, cross-country members must be dedicated to the sport and possess “character, honesty, hard work, commitment, patience, and love for others”. Coryell admits the training is intense but believes results only come from hard work.
According to Kwan, the cross country is chiefly a team sport. “When I hear the word ‘cross country’, I think of sweat, commitment, passion, camaraderie, grass, etcetera. It’s a sport that has presented its challenges in the categories of physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual and it’s changed my life.”
Looking ahead, Coryell hopes to improve on what his team has established this year. “One, I hope that we keep being strong and committed together, keep pushing our limits as a team, and that we absolutely love doing it. Two, I hope we can be the first ever HBA girls cross country team to win a state championship.”
For the varsity boys, junior Peyton Oshiro, sophomore Michael Garces and freshman Ethan Aimoto have their sights set on next year’s championship title next year. Reflecting on the season, Oshiro said, “Everyone grew so much from the first day of practice to the final meet. I really enjoyed seeing people improve their times and have fun running as a team. I really love this sport because its very exciting and challenging to run against your teammates and runners from other schools. Cross Country teaches people how to persevere through adversity physically and mentally.”
Like Oshiro, freshman Mari Monico—who finished 22nd in the state championship, just 10 seconds shy of medaling—says cross country has taught her valuable life lessons. “It helps you push through obstacles in life and really grow as a person,” she said. Seventh grader Faith Fujiwara, a first-year cross country runner, said of her championship race, “I finished third place and didn’t know what I had come in until I saw the card. I was so happy! I had beat my record by 30 seconds! It was such an amazing feeling to have.” Both Monico and Fujiwara plan to return next year and improve their personal bests.
Varsity medalist Seng has her future aspirations beyond the state level. “It is a total super dream of mine to get to the national championships for individual runners as a sophomore. I’d be ‘legend’.” Seng says she joined cross country in eighth grade to get to know more people. Little did she know that it would become a significant part of her school career. “I cannot imagine life without cross country. Not only has this sport improved my fitness level and future college resume, it’s given me a better experience in all aspects of my life and helped me to grow as a person,” she said.
From seeing his runners devote their summer and fall breaks to running, to seeing his team captains—senior Natalie Kwon, juniors Jazerine Nakamura, Alexis Nakabayashi, Jada Inouye, and sophomore Kacie Kwan—lead with positive attitudes, Coryell has a long list of things he can be proud when looking back at the season. “We basically started out fast and just kept getting faster all the way through the state championships. Two words characterize the season: historic and blessed,” he said.
The boys varsity team that competed in Kauai also included Nicholas Kwon (’20), Joshua Fujita (’18), Lucas Chun (’18) and Christian Kuwaye. The girls varsity team also included Lindsey Jaeger (’21), Jada Inouye (’19), Lindsay Sasaki (’20), and Anika Keuning (’18).