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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2002

DeLaura helps make UH athletes fitter

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

 •  Rich Miano's Speed and Quickness Clinic

SESSIONS: Ages 9-12: 8:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Saturday or Sunday. Ages 13-older: 1:45 p.m.-5:15, Saturday or Sunday.

WHERE: St. Louis School field.

COST: $25.

INSTRUCTORS: UH assistant coach Rich Miano, UH assistant strength coach Mel deLaura, former Kamehameha Schools track coach Marshall Marumoto, UH volleyball player Margaret Vakasausau, UH football player Houston Ala, UH basketball player Natasja Allen, and former UH basketball player Nani Cockett.

DETAILS: Call 621-2220.

Even with a 35-inch vertical jump, University of Hawai'i volleyball player Tony Ching, at 6 feet 2, was an undersized outside hitter.

But after working three months with UH's "Dr. Fitness" — Mel deLaura — Ching increased his vertical jump to 42 inches. Ching, with the ability to soar over blocks, was instrumental in the Warriors winning the national championship this month.

"He's a great teacher, a great motivator," Ching said of deLaura, UH's strength coach. "He does the same workouts with you. You can't tell him, 'No,' if he's doing them, too."

DeLaura helped football player Vince Manuwai increase his maximum bench press to 500 pounds, convert Jonathan Kauka from a 230-pound offensive lineman into a 209-pound running back, and keep UH football coach June Jones in shape.

"He's so strong and fast, you think he's in his 20s," UH linebacker Chris Brown said.

In fact, deLaura is 49, although he acts youthful and it appears his body is outgrowing his skin. DeLaura can bench press a maximum 420 pounds, as well as bench 225 pounds 35 times.

"He reps (a heavy weight) like it's a piece of cake," Brown said. "It's like, 'No problem,' while he keeps smiling. You think, 'If this old man can do it, I can do it, too.' "

DeLaura and Jones were teammates at UH, Portland State and, for the 1977 training camp, with the Atlanta Falcons. But injuries short-circuited deLaura's pro hopes as a wide receiver, and he eventually moved back to Oregon, where he coached at a high school and worked as a personal trainer.

DeLaura and Jones remained in contact, and when Jones was hired as UH's coach in December 1998, he offered a job to deLaura.

While a former receiver working as an assistant strength coach is as unlikely as a basketball point guard teaching a big man's camp, deLaura brought unique qualifications. As a 185-pound UH receiver, he could bench press 450 pounds and run 40 yards in 4.35 seconds.

Through the years, he has learned different training techniques, such as plyometrics — aerobic exercises that improve jumping and quickness.

"I don't have a magic formula or magic potion," deLaura said. "I know what it takes to get where you need to go in terms of running and weight lifting. Most of all, it's a matter of showing up and doing what you need to do."

For instance, deLaura said, Brown "was not a naturally strong guy. But he was a real hard worker." Brown now can bench press 500 pounds.

"He pushes me to my limits," Brown said. "He'll make me jump on plyometric boxes until I can't jump anymore."

DeLaura said his favorite pupil is Kauka, who joined the UH football team as a walk-on. Kauka was an undersized lineman who ran 40 yards in 5.5 seconds. After being prescribed a daily workout schedule, Kauka eventually lost 21 pounds and lowered his 40-yard time to 4.8 seconds.

"He's 10 times the guy he was," deLaura said. "The improvements make this job worthwhile."