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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Holding state tournaments was the right move

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Was it really just 20-something days ago that they hastily told us there was no way Hawai'i could hold state high school championships in spring sports?

Could it have been only last month that Superintendent of Schools Paul LeMahieu summarily declared the 20-day teachers strike had taken too big a bite out of the calendar, leaving no choice but to call off state events?

Imagine a district superintendent maintaining the public schools should sit out states because they would be badly overmatched and unable to compete?

Hard to believe, especially if you followed any of the state championships played out over these past few days, a whirlwind week given an exclamation point by the final event, last night's girls basketball title game.

A school year that almost became notable as the first without islands-wide championships — territorial or state — since 1956 will be remembered for the triumph of competition not only being held but flourishing in the face of considerable odds.

Instead of the enduring pall that would have been cast by cancellation of the championships and the athletes who would have been denied career opportunities, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride that they went on and succeeded. All without compromising the educational mission.

There should be thanks, too, for the many helping hands who jumped in at a time of need to help make it all possible. Imagine, for example, two golf courses, Kapalua's Village and Ka'anapali's South, closing down on a Saturday so the tournaments could be played. All in all, a coming together the depth of which would be hard to repeat very often.

Perhaps this triumph of purpose shouldn't be so surprising. Maybe, amid all the foot dragging and ages-old OIA (public school) vs. ILH (private school) politics that initially threatened to scuttle the championships, an obvious lesson was nearly overlooked: That sport teaches us time and again about remarkable things happening when people give their all toward a common goal.

Witness the Kailua High baseball team, poster players on the subject. The Surfriders rallied from a six-run deficit to defeat Mid-Pacific Institute in one of the more memorable championships in years.

To look at the Surfriders in baseball and Kalaheo and 'Aiea in girls basketball among others and believe that the public schools would not be competitive was to sell short a lot of determined athletes and coaches who would rise to the occasion.

Indeed, four of the eight team titles in these spring championships and a lot of memorable individual performances — witness Kahuku's Natasha Kai in track — were won by public schools.

Hard to believe that, at one point, these were in danger of becoming the state championships that weren't.