On Martin Luther King Jr. Day while many students enjoyed the three-day weekend by sleeping in, 105 enthusiastic runners were lined up at the Central Oahu Regional Park in Waipio at 6:00 a.m., ready to run 5000 meters for the second annual Justice Run.

The Justice Run, organized by junior Johanna Seng, raised more than $2,000 for the anti-sex trafficking ministry at her church, Bluewater Mission. She hopes the money will go to empower at-risk women trying to escape Hawaii’s illegal sex industry. Seng credits her inspiration to 2018 Saint Andrew’s School senior, competitor, and role model Jordan Jones, who organized a race for the homeless youth when she was a high schooler. Seng said, “[Her example] planted the idea in my mind that I could create a race to support a cause I was passionate about as well. I became interested in sex worker outreach because my church is heavily involved in it.” While Seng has learned a lot about the problem in Hawaii through her church’s ministry, she is too young to be directly involved with helping the victims. “I still wanted to help in some way, so I decided to create this fundraiser,” she said.

There were numerous HBA students at the run, some of whom are Seng’s cross country and Track teammates. For participants such as senior cross country runner Lindsay Sasaki, the event is a statement about an important contemporary issue. Sasaki said, “I decided to join the Justice Run because of my love for running and my desire to help in the restoration of the lives of women who have been affected by sex trafficking.” HBA cross country coach Derek Coryell has also been a supporter of the Justice Run and participated in the inaugural run last year. “I decided to join to support Johanna and to support the mission of greater social justice for young victims of trafficking,” he said.

Donning his HBA cross country jersey, sophomore and top finisher Connor Malinger runs in the rain. (Photography courtesy of Sonya Seng)

The light drizzles and friendly ambience set the stage for a relaxing morning for the runners, many of whom race competitively for their schools. Sophomore cross country runner Connor Malinger, who finished first in the Justice Run, enjoyed meeting and running with new and old friends. “It was a lot of fun to see all the people who came out to support the run. I’m glad that this event could bring us together. My main goal was to have fun and hang out with my friends while supporting a good cause. I have more fun when I perform well, so it was a good experience,” he said. Malinger was also excited to run alongside mentor Peyton Oshiro, 2019 HBA graduate and now Chaminade University cross country runner.

Like Malinger, Sasaki found the non-competitive atmosphere refreshing. She said, “I enjoyed that I was able to participate in a race that I didn’t have to race. The purpose of this run was to serve and benefit broken women in my community, not to earn a particular ranking for myself, like in cross country races.” Cross country teammate Kacie Kwan, a top state runner, was grateful for a chance to run for a different purpose. “Sometimes, being competitive gets me thinking too much about the end result, making me forget about the importance of living in the moment and enjoying the journey on the way to the finish line,” she explained.  

The sense of community at the run was felt by many of the participants. Coryell noted, “I also enjoyed seeing and helping people come together to do something that was good for the greater community and good for our little communities of church goers, students, teammates, and runners. It was like we were building something new out of old materials, which is a good thing.”

Seniors Kacie Kwan and Lindsay Sasaki enjoy each other’s company while running. (Photography courtesy of Sonya Seng)

With her last season of Cross Country behind her, senior Kacie Kwan, a top state runner, saw the event as a meaningful experience outside of a competitive environment. “Sometimes, being competitive gets me thinking too much about the end result, making me forget about the importance of living in the moment and enjoying the journey on the way to the finish line,” she explained.

Seng, who will be a senior next year, plans to organize the event again next year and hopes that an underclassman would take over when she graduates. She also hopes to see more participants at the run. “I would love to also get runners from different communities involved, since the majority of the racers this year were either from my church or HBA. It would be great if the Justice Run could gain an island-wide influence,” Seng said.