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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Rain can't wash away joy of competition

By Mark Norman

Editor's note: Mark Norman, a musician and coffee farmer in Kona, wrote about the Big Island Interscholastic Federation track and field qualifying meet, conducted in heavy rain Saturday in Kona, and what he thinks it means to the high school student-athletes to have their sport back:

The conditions at Konawaena were wet and cold. Dismal would be a more apropos description. For a time it was a flat out deluge. Yet the kids still went out there and competed, even if they didn't have to run. Whether it was trying to make states times or for some other reason, there they were running in the rain.

Nick Barry of Konawaena, one of the top hurdlers in the state, soaking wet, striding over the high hurdles at full speed. Kids trying to stretch and warm up for their events in the rain (warm up?). Starting guns misfiring, timers hopefully having water resistant watches, coaches trying to keep their paperwork intact.

What a day. But through it all, a sense of joy pervaded the event. The kids were so happy to have the opportunity to compete. You would see them arm in arm from different schools walking around laughing, hugging, laying it all out on the field. It was beautiful for me to watch.

I don't remember witnessing this kind of camaraderie during past events. It was like the kids knew this was a real extra special occurrence. Like when you come so close to losing the opportunity and then there's a reprieve.

The seniors having their last chance at glory really stepped it up a notch. Toward the end the rain lightened up and eventually disappeared for a time but it was still cold and wet.

Some inspiring moments:

In the boys 1,500 there was a Waiakea runner who appeared injured. However, I think he was actually physically challenged. He ran in the rain and finished last, but the crowd roared its approval at his effort down the home stretch.

Cobey Ackerman in the girls 1,500, running alongside her Hawai'i Prep teammate in the home stretch, had her head turned toward the girl and was talking to her, telling her to run harder, step it up. They crossed the line in first place simultaneously.

Kids coming in last place running hard, still trying to beat each other and then laughing at it all once it was over. You have to take a step back and look at these kids. They are the cream of our youth coming into adulthood. Growing, learning, a real treat for me to observe.

I'd say it was more like a privilege for me to be there. I had my time and enjoyed it with music. These kids choose to do so with sports.