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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:56 a.m., Sunday, October 21, 2007

Preps: Kekaulike, Seabury win MIL cross country titles

By Mary Beth Bishop
The Maui News

KAPALUA, Maui — There was little doubt which two runners at the Maui Interscholastic League boys cross country championship were the ones to keep an eye on.

King Kekaulike High School's Reid Hunter and Lahainaluna's Dillon Soldwisch, the season's dominant competitors, stayed neck-and-neck the first two miles yesterday at the Kapalua Village Course, but in the end it was Hunter who made quite a statement.

Hunter pulled away in the final third of the race and finished in 17 minutes, 10 seconds, not only earning the individual championship but also leading Na Ali'i to their first MIL team title.

The Seabury Hall girls, led by defending champion Hailey Grossman, took the girls title.

"We figured sometime last year that we wanted to win the first team title,'' King Kekaulike coach James Alger, whose team has just one senior, said to The Maui News. "They needed to prove to themselves that they could run with the best and they went out there and stepped it up.''

Soldwisch finished in 18:02.

"I give many props to Dillon — he pushed the first two miles really hard, kept up with me there and did really well,'' said Hunter, who had the season's previous fastest time — 17:18.

Soldwisch battled cramps on the last mile, but still completed the course 31 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Alvin Ringor of Moloka'i.

"I was trying to win, obviously, trying to stay with Reid, but I just couldn't do it after a while,'' Soldwisch said. "That second mile, I started going up the hill and started cramping up.

"I've just got to try and recover and listen to the coach and do what he says.''

Hunter and Soldwisch each won two regular-season races, and didn't encounter each other too often. Hunter won the only previous time they met on the same course this year.

Hunter took a different approach with his training this season, not only to lower the risk of burning out before the state meet, scheduled for Nov. 2 at the Village Course, but also to compensate for a calf problem.

"I got in the pool and aqua-ran, did some biking — different kinds of stuff,'' he said. "(Today) it felt really nice — it's pretty much back. I'm a little winded but I'll be ready for state.''

Said Alger: "It's just tight, he loves running hills. It's hard to find an athlete who wants to go and do hills.''

Though limiting his competition in meets was hard for Hunter, he didn't lack motivation.

"Yeah, (it was tough), but you know what, you've just got to train harder than you race, so you don't have to feel too bad,'' he said.

After seeing the course earlier in the season at the Lahainaluna Invitational, Alger and Hunter trained accordingly, but yesterday's setup was a little different.

"Most of his work this whole season has been hills, lots and lots of hills, which we thought was going to be to our advantage,'' Alger said, noting that a final climb used in the Lahainaluna Invitational was not part of yesterday's race.

"So we'll have to readjust over the next two weeks. But just like the rest of the team, he's to peak at states and we'll take our best chances then.''

Na Ali'i finished with a team score of 47, followed by Seabury Hall (72). The top two teams, and a total of 33 MIL runners, will advance to the state meet.

Na Ali'i's other scoring runners were Eli Smith (fifth in 18:49), Niko Sena (10th in 19:13), Wendel Marques (11th in 19:22) and Zadok Shim (24th in 20:17).

Hunter, like the rest of the state qualifiers, will be looking to improve upon last season's performances, and his coach thinks he's ready to show what he can do.

"Last year, he bombed, he didn't survive the race, he went out too fast and ran out of gas, and this year, he needs to survive and put his name in the rankings for the state title,'' Alger said.

Meanwhile, Seabury Hall sophomore Grossman repeated as the MIL champion.

Grossman finished in 20 minutes, 21 seconds, helping the Spartans take the team title by a wide margin.

King Kekaulike's Bailey Massenburg followed with a time of 20:44 and the Spartans' Lea Lundblad (21:12) was third.

Grossman had won just one other MIL race this season.

"At the Seabury race (I won), it was great because everyone was going, 'Hailey' but then this race, with Bailey-Hailey, they kind of sound the same, so I was just pretending they were cheering for me,'' the Spartans' leader said with a laugh.

Seabury's Jade Silver (21:56), Libby Matthews (21:59) and Kailea Tracy-Visintainer (22:21) took sixth through eighth places, and the team totaled 25 points, 54 better than runner-up Baldwin.

All of the Spartans' scoring runners completed the course ahead of the top finisher for the Bears — Ayesha Pladera, who was ninth in 22:38.

Grossman's win this year wasn't about sheer athleticism, but was a mental victory as well, according to Seabury coach Tom Rehrer.

"Hailey ran really smart,'' Rehrer said. "At two miles, it's about 500 meters and she was behind Bailey by maybe, I would say, 30 to 40 meters and she knew that's where she had to go. She caught her.''

Said Grossman: "You know what, it's way harder to run with a runner right next to you or right ahead of you. We were just switching back and forth and it was a battle.

"It was definitely different than last year, because last year there was, like, no one with me — I just kind of ran my race — but this year, I felt pushed a little bit more because I had (Bailey) next to me.''

The top two teams earned spots in the state meet, and a total of 32 runners will represent the MIL in two weeks, back at Kapalua.

"Well, they all tried really hard and they gave it their best,'' Rehrer said of his team. "They probably felt pressure because everyone expected them to win and there's nothing harder than that — winning when you're expected to win. They certainly showed everybody that they're a really good team.''

Even in tight situations like yesterday's race, Grossman, who has the league's fastest time this season at 19:24, feels the competitiveness between the girls doesn't overshadow their friendship on and off the course.

"We're all kind of buddies — I think we're buddies — but I just hope we (keep it that way) because we've been friends for a while now,'' she said. "That was the first time I ever was in front of Bailey because ever since I came in the 6th grade, she's been ahead of me and I've always tried to get her.''

Massenburg, who had been sick in the week leading up to the race, still led her team to a third-place finish.

"The girls haven't been all too healthy but you know, that's the luck of the draw,'' said King Kekaulike coach Alger. "It's whoever's healthiest come gameday.

"Bailey and our top runners, they're designed to peak at state, so they kind of crumbled today but in two weeks, they'll come back and redeem themselves.''

Competing at the Village Course on yesterday may give the runners who qualified for the state meet an advantage.

"It helps because you just know what to expect, which is a lot better than going to Oahu and walking it once with your team and then being like, 'OK, let's go,' '' Grossman said. "So this was a lot better.''

Said Rehrer: "We're looking forward to 13 days from now.''

For more Maui news, click here.

Maui Interscholastic League

Cross country championships


Team scores—1. Seabury Hall 25, 2. Baldwin 79, 3. King Kekaulike 83, 4. Maui 92, 5. Moloka'i 124, 6. Kamehameha-Maui 136, 7. St. Anthony 179.

Top individuals—1. Hailey Grossman, Seabury Hall, 20:21; 2. Bailey Massenburg, King Kekaulike, 20:44; 3. Lea Lunblad, Seabury Hall, 21:12; 4. Caronne Rozet, Kamehameha-Maui, 21:15; 5. Kalei Adolpho, Moloka'i, 21:15.


Team scores—1. King Kekaulike 47, 2. Seabury Hall 72, 3. Moloka'i 95, 4. Lahainaluna 99, 5. Baldwin 125, 6. Lana'i 140, 7. St. Anthony 146, 8. Maui 152.

Top individuals—1. Reid Hunter, King Kekaulike, 17:10; 2. Dillon Soldwisch, Lahainaluna, 18:02; 3. Alvin Ringor, Moloka'i, 18:33; 4. Danny Watson, Lahainaluna, 18:44; 5. Eli Smith, King Kekaulike, 18:49.