The HBA varsity cross country team placed 4th (girls) and 3rd (boys) at the HHSAA Cross Country State Championship on November 4, 2023. Despite the many injuries that plagued their runners this season, the team managed to qualify for the state championship by being in the top 40 finishers in the ILH Division Championships.
“This season has been one of the toughest. There were many up and coming fast runners who [joined cross country] this season so it was very competitive,” said senior Dylan Terayama. Fellow senior Madi Callo shared her summary of the season, adding, “This season has been full of unexpected turns for our whole team, especially with injuries. Even though our team has been battling injuries throughout this season, we [were] still motivated and focused on our end goal—States.”
Girls coach Shelby Tanaka noted that the size of the team was another challenge this season. “The difficulty about this season was that we previously had graduated 4 seniors, so it was a rebuilding year—learning to trust each other, gaining confidence, new runners coming into the program or the transition between middle school to high school level, and having new leadership amongst the runners. Another difficulty is the [small] size of our team; it is difficult when any of our runners get injured or sick and have to sit out, therefore making us unable to score as a team in a few races,” she explained.
Despite the challenges, the runners were able to set new goals and see themselves improve. “My goals were to just make the varsity team and to run a sub 18 flat and I have achieved both goals. I made the varsity team and got my varsity jacket and I ran a 17.09 5K,” said freshman Madan Abe. He also got his first taste of the state championships and was pleased with the result. “Champs was the best race of my life. I got 6th overall which means I got a medal. All I wanted to do that race was give it my all and to try and stick with all of the fastest runners,” he recalled.
Fellow freshman Rylee Sato is also encouraged by her progress this season. “My first goal going into this season was to make the scoring varsity team (the top 5). I did end up meeting that goal and it was the most shocking and happy day for me, and that started forming new goals for me like being able to keep up with the rest of the girls, placing pretty high up in races, competing in states and championships. So far this season I feel that I’ve been getting closer and closer to each goal. I have completed most goals this season, but there are always ways where I can really improve and complete each goal better, so I can come steps closer to completing my goal throughout each year of cross country and even track where my name becomes well known and feared.”
Coach Tanaka is proud of the hard work that her athletes have put in. She said, “A strength of the team is the dedication each girl puts in every day; it is something they practice throughout their day not just at practices or on race days—proper nutrition and hydration, prevention exercises, adequate sleep along with all the hard work they put into every workout in order to improve.”
Callo, in her last season as a senior, had to sit out for a number of races due to a bunion injury, but was able to run in the ILH championships. “My goals for cross country this year was to get ILH all-star and medal at ILH champs. Fortunately, even though I am still battling an injury I was able to complete my individual goal. Years ago I would have never imagined myself running cross country, but I am glad I joined because what makes it enjoyable is not the running or winning aspect but the friendships and close bonds I have made,” she said.
Coach Aaron Kondo believes a supportive team culture is what has carried them through the season. “Something that I really appreciate about the team is that they get along well with each other. On race day, that translates well to helping each other out, whether that be racing together to move up in places or pushing forward to fill in for each other if someone isn’t having their best day,“ he said.
Heading into the state championship, Kondo was proud of the team’s effort in preparing for their final race. “They’ve done all the work that they need to do throughout the season, so trusting in that and being confident in themselves and their teammates will be key on race day. It would be great if any of them have an extraordinary, out of this world kind of race, but if they perform up to the standard that they set for themselves every week, they’ll be in a good place,” he said. Looking ahead, Tanaka hopes more students will try out the sport. “If anyone would like to join, please do. You might surprise yourself at how well you can do,” she said.