Monday, January 1, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 1, 2001

Red Raiders' upset of St. Louis was story of year

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Triumph and change highlighted Hawaii’s sports scene in Y2K.

The cheers are still reverberating throughout the North Shore from Kahuku High’s 26-20 state football championship victory against the nationally ranked St. Louis Crusaders on Dec. 1. The Red Raiders’ triumph brought a long-awaited change in prep football in Hawaii. It ended St. Louis’ 14-year reign as football champions.

Kahuku’s feat leads The Advertiser’s Top 10 stories for 2000.

At the outset and even through the middle of the season, Kahuku didn’t look like a team that could beat St. Louis, which, despite using two first-year starting quarterbacks, rolled its way through the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season.

The Red Raiders opened the year with a 24-21 loss to defending Utah state champion Skyline, then ranked 48th nationally by the FOX Fab 50. They hit a speed bump in a 12-7 loss to Waianae because of turnovers during the Oahu Interscholastic Association regular season.

But Kahuku regrouped and went on to win the OIA championship and blitzed through the first two rounds of the state tournament before beating its postseason nemesis. The Crusaders had beaten the Red Raiders in the inaugural state title game in 1999. St. Louis also beat Kahuku in five Oahu Prep Bowls. Some of those losses came in frustrating fashion.

"This is for all those years we couldn’t do it," Kahuku all-state linebacker Douglas Hiu said after the game. "It’s our turn. I love it."

It was a game of fortuitous bounces for the Red Raiders. Rolls that went against Kahuku in past years rolled its way this time around. Kahuku recovered all three of its fumbles. One led to a first down at the St. Louis 1 on a fourth-down play. That was followed by a touchdown.

Victory may have belonged to the North Shore community, but for Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai the title also was for Oahu’s public schools, which had not won an overall championship since 1984.

"We felt we played the game for the OIA, to save our league," Livai said.

No. 2 Rainbow fades

Somewhere over the rainbow ... is a new University of Hawaii logo.

The familiar rainbow logo for UH athletic teams was changed simply to an "H" during the summer. And that wasn’t all. The football program shortened its nickname to Warriors, instead of Rainbow Warriors.

Fans voiced their displeasure at the change through numerous letters to the editor. When the football team struggled, guess what got blamed?

No. 3 Broadway Benny

It was a storybook season for Hawaii’s Benny Agbayani, outfielder of the National League champion New York Mets.

His season began with so much uncertainty. The Mets were ready to punch his ticket for Triple-A Norfolk (Va.), instead of the Big Apple. But Agbayani, a former St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific University star, persevered. He eventually earned the starting left fielder’s job. He rewarded manager Bobby Valentine’s faith with clutch performances during the postseason.

He opened the season with a dramatic game-winning grand slam in Japan.

Agbayani hit a game-winning home run against San Francisco during the National League Division Series. He also knocked in the go-ahead run in Game 3 of the World Series in the Mets’ only victory against the New York Yankees.

No. 4 UH baseball coach Les Murakami

It was an auspicious start of the new year for the man who transformed UH baseball from a club program to a runner-up finish at the 1980 College World Series.

In January, Les Murakami was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. After 30 seasons, he compiled a record of 1,079-570-4.

But after a 28-28 season, Murakami announced that the 2001 season would be his last.

Then on Nov. 2, Murakami suffered a significant stroke that left him hospitalized for about six weeks. He is now going through rehabilitation.

No. 5 Return to the Final Four

Despite losing All-American Heather Bown to the USA Olympic team, the UH Wahine managed to return to the final four for the first time since 1996. But they departed a match too soon. Nebraska’s size effectively blocked the Wahine from the finals, eventually won by the Cornhuskers. A disappointing end to a 31-2 season.

Sophomore Lily Kahumoku earned All-America honors. All six Wahine starters garnered All-Western Athletic Conference honors. Kahumoku was the Player of the Year and was joined by Maja Gustin, Jessica Sudduth and Veronica Lima on the first team. Jennifer Carey and Kim Willoughby made the second team. Gustin and Willoughby were co-Freshmen of the Year.

Dave Shoji was the conference’s co-Coach of the Year.

No. 6 Farmers repeat

Proving that 1999 wasn’t a fluke, the Farmers harvested their second straight baseball crown under Ken Nakayama, who later announced he was leaving the program to seek a collegiate position as an assistant. He was an assistant with the Island Movers during the summer.

Despite the program’s on-field success, Molokai was nearly denied a chance to defend its title. In November, the school said it might be forced to drop spring sports if it could not come up with at least $25,000 for transportation costs.

But Honolulu businessman Clint Bidwell earned a save, pitching in $30,000 of relief.

No. 7 Sunny days

You know it has to be Sunny Garcia’s year.

En route to winning the second jewel of the Vans G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing, Garcia survived a near-drowning during one of his rides at Sunset Beach. Still, the win made him only the second surfer in the 18-year history of the Triple Crown to win two of the three contests within the same year.

Then he tied for 17th in the Pipeline Masters, the third jewel of the Triple Crown.

But he did accumulate enough World Championship Tour points (7,270) to win a record fifth Triple Crown of Surfing, pocketing $7,500 and driving off with a new Ford Ranger truck.

No. 8 Hawaii yokozuna win bashos

Injuries that kept him out of three consecutive tournaments in 1999 forced Akebono to seriously consider retiring.

Instead, the mountain of a man also known as Waimanalo’s Chad Rowan claimed two bashos in 2000. He would finish 14-1 in the Kyushu Basho in November, his best showing since 1993. He finished the 2000 campaign by winning 76 of 90 matches. His 11 overall titles is good for seventh-place all-time among yokozuna, or grand champion.

Meanwhile, Musashimaru, or Waianae’s Fiamalu Penitani, went 15-0 to win the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in September.

No. 9 Olympian efforts

Even before the Olympic Games, Waipahu boxer Brian Viloria captured the hearts of Hawaii. Afterall, he was Hawaii’s first Olympic boxer since 1956.

He was one of a number of athletes with Hawaii ties to compete in Sydney, Australia.

As the defending world champion, Viloria was the favorite to win the gold in his weight class. But he lost his second-round bout in a controversial decision to France’s Brahim Asloum, 6-4. A day later, Olympic officials admitted the match wasn’t scored properly. Asloum went on to win the gold.

Others also left impressions Down Under.

Former UH swimmer Maureen O’Toole inspired teammates and opponents in helping Team USA achieve a silver medal in the sport’s Olympic debut. At 39, she was nearly twice the age of all other players in the pool.

Also, two two-time All-Americans from the UH - Heather Bown and Robyn Ah Mow - were big contributors to the USA women’s volleyball team, which lost to Brazil in the bronze medal match. USA entered the Games ranked 10th in the world.

No. 10 Sea Warriors NCAA-II women’s volleyball title

For the second time in three years, Hawaii Pacific captured the NCAA Division II national championship, this time beating Augustana (S.D.), 15-2, 15-7, 15-6, in its backyard of Sioux Falls, S.D.

In the process, the Sea Warriors became the first team in the 20-year history of NCAA-II to finish a season unbeaten (28-0).

Four HPU players - Debbie SantAnna, Susy Garbelotti, Flavia Gabinio and Nia Tuitele - were named to the all-tournament team.

Coach Tita Ahuna was named NCAA-II Coach of the Year.

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