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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mililani boys, girls capture OIA Western track crowns

 •  Kahuku boys, Kaiser girls run away with East titles

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Undermanned and facing its stiffest competition in years, the Mililani varsity boys track and field team sped forward undaunted to capture the O'ahu Interscholastic League Western Division Championship last night on its home field.

The Trojan varsity girls team had an easier title defense, dominating the competition to finish with 178 total points. Kapolei finished a distant second with 63, followed by Waipahu with 58.

In junior varsity competition, Radford took top honors in both boys and girls divisions.

"It's funny how things happen," said Mililani first-year boys head coach Marshall Ochi. "I don't know where we squeaked out those points, but we pulled it out."

As expected, the Mililani boys (120 total points) faced stiff competition from Leilehua (96) and Radford (77.5).

The Trojans were without several of their top runners, including their top two sprinters because of injuries.

"I just wanted to be cautious," Ochi said. "I don't want to risk having them here but then not being able to go in the OIA (finals) and States."

And so Ochi rallied the rest of his team, encouraging them to do their best for their team and let the results play themselves out.

The Trojan boys scored 70 of their 120 total points with first-place finishes in seven events, including the 4x400-meter relay.

"That was our C-level team out there," said a bemused Ochi.

Junior Ryan Nupen, who ran the anchor leg of the race, said he felt "a little more pressure" knowing that their top sprinters weren't available.

"The competition this year is definitely closer," he said. "Normally, we come in expecting to win, no problem. This year, we were worried."

D'Andre Benjamin helped lead the Trojans with victories in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

The depth of Mililani's girls team paid off in points in several events. The Trojans swept the top three positions in the 1,500-meter run and pole vault, and captured the top two places in the 3,000-meter run and triple jump.

In the 1,500-meter race, sopho-more Nicole Painter started strong and maintained a comfortable lead over teammates Kelli Ishihara and Kristin Ali Keith. She finished with an impressive 200-meter sprint to the finish, then collapsed on the track in exhaustion.

Painter credited her strong performance mostly to hard training and a little to songstress Avril Lavigne.

"I was thinking about all of those 200s we ran in practice, going all out when we were already tired," she said. "When I'm running, I also sing songs in my head. Today, I had 'Girlfriend' in my head because it was the last thing I listened to."

Keith, a freshman competing on the varsity level, turned in one of the day's most impressive performances, winning the 3,000-meter race by 20 seconds over senior teammate Ishihara.

"I wanted to break out at the start and keep getting faster," Keith said. "I'm a lot faster than when I started the season. Basically, all I had was endurance, but we did a lot of speed workouts and that helped a lot."

Leilehua junior Paul Williams also turned in a pair of dominating performances, notching convincing wins in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races. In both races, Williams ran alone, far ahead of the pack.

"I don't like to wait and play against (the pack)," Williams said. "It gets me nervous after awhile. I know I'm going to win, so I want to jump out ahead and push myself. There's not much competition until I get to States."

Leilehua had its own share of injury problems and, like Mililani, found heroes in unexpected places. In just his third track and field competition, Mustang defensive lineman Sean Kenigton cleared 6 feet to win the high jump.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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