Tigers now paddle happy
• Photo gallery: McKinley canoes
By Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
The movement in the water has never been smoother, the turns have never been easier and the black and gold trim of McKinley's new canoes can be seen from ashore.
As the paddlers cut through the water stroke for stroke in their brand-new Bradley Lighting outrigger canoes, they are thankful and proud to represent their school with the canoes painted with 'McKinley High School' on the side and tiger-striped ama secured next to them.
The school's paddling program received three new canoes and paddles this season, valued at $35,000, as a result of a grant aimed at targeting physical education and health in area schools. Only a few of the state's paddling teams own outrigger canoes and nearly every team borrows canoes from local paddling clubs for practices and competitions during the winter season.
"Paddling your own boat feels more different because we're together with the boat," said senior Ralph Manuel. "You can call it your own."
The canoes happen to come at a time when public school budgets are tight. Athletic teams have been asked to cut back on expenses from transportation, equipment and coaching positions.
But funding from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program allowed for the three Bradley Lightning canoes, the same type used in winning the Moloka'i Channel races. McKinley used to borrow canoes from coach Joven Asuncion's Healani Canoe Club, and still uses one for practices.
"It's easier and lighter than the last couple years," senior Tawnzyna Spencer said of the difference between the canoes. "As a steersman, it's more controlling for me because I have to control the boat.
"The turns are easier ... when I do my turns, the boat goes around the buoy."
The $1.5 million grant was awarded to schools in the McKinley complex, which includes nearby elementary and middle schools. Now in its third and final year, the grant has provided funding for health and PE teachers at the elementary level. Heart rate monitors and body fat analyzers were purchased to teach students about health and fitness at all levels. The high school received weight training equipment.
Denise Darval-Chang, the Healthy Hawai'i Initiative health and PE resource teacher for the Honolulu district, is one of the co-directors who oversee the grant's implementation. In the initial stages, she met Mary Matayoshi, founder of the Volunteer Resource Center of Hawaii, who played a key role in the grant. Darval-Chang said Matayoshi saw the grant as an opportunity to work with the community and educating the whole student. Matayoshi got community groups involved in the grant and also found the grant writer in Texas.
"We all told her thank you," said senior Moses Smythe, who met Matayoshi during the canoes' blessing. "I really felt special that we got it this year. It's really awesome to meet someone who does that for students."
Part of the grant references sustainability and culture, and the future is promising. McKinley's junior varsity mixed crew won its race at Saturday's regatta.
"I hope they take care of the boats because it's a really great honor to have them," said senior Ashlen Hanaoka. "Nobody else has them. Hopefully they take care of it, go to states with it and win championships with it."