Success off beaten track
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
On a track hardened by dirt and shortened by space, the possibilities would appear limited.
At first glance, Damien's track is unassuming, an oval-shaped ring that encircles an equally unassuming football field. Both are smaller than regulation size, confined by the borders of the small private school in Kalihi. The track is a sea of dirt in hues of brown and copper, some times toughened by the sun and other times softened by the rain.
The conditions may not be ideal, but Damien senior Jonathan Padron has taken off on it. Padron, the defending state champion in the 100-meter dash, is chasing a record that would put him in elite company.
At this past Saturday's meet at 'Iolani, Padron won the 100 in 10.80 seconds, matching the state-meet record time set by former St. Anthony sprinter and current Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino.
Before the season is over, Padron hopes to break the state-meet record, currently shared by Victorino (10.80, electronic time, 1999), Nānākuli's Clayton Mahuka (10.6 hand-timed, 1985) and Castle alum and Olympic gold-medal decathlete Bryan Clay (10.52, wind-aided, 1998).
"I think that would be a very good way to end the year," said Padron, who won last year's state meet in 10.97. "I'd break the record and I'll leave a little bit of me behind in high school."
TAILORING THE TRACK
To simulate the actual distances of a track meet, Damien coach Eddie Klaneski measures and marks his track, which is shorter than 400 meters. The track is tucked behind the campus, bordered by school buildings, palm trees and houses.
"The track is hard some times. When it rains, it gets soft and we can't run some times, but it serves its purpose," said Klaneski, a Damien alum and former University of Hawai'i defensive back. "We don't get to a lot of the regular runs because the size of the track is a little bit shorter, but I have all the distances marked out for what we need to run.
"It works well, it's just hard to transfer the distance over because it's different from running on a regular track."
Due to the surface, Damien's sprinters don't practice in their track spikes. Occasionally, they can use their spikes on the grass football field, which is only 80 yards long instead of 100. A corner of the field has since been converted into a baseball diamond.
"It's nothing like the actual track," Padron said. "The actual track is rubber and you can use spikes on it. ... The dirt, it's not level. It's hard, it's rough on the knees, you get shin splints. It's a challenge."
But success has not eluded Damien, which placed fourth in the team standings at last year's state championships. Padron finished second in the 200 and was on the third-place 4x100 relay team. The Monarchs also got a third and sixth in the discus.
The 4x100 relay team won its event in 44.30 seconds at Saturday's meet at 'Iolani. Breysen Lee won the high jump after clearing 5 feet 10. Brenan Furtado was third in the 100 in 11.45 and Kody Lilo was second in the discus and third in the shot put. Competing in his first long jump, Padron won with a modest distance of 18-5[0xa4].
Described by Klaneski as naturally gifted, Padron grew up playing a variety of sports — baseball, football, volleyball and golf. He started track in the fifth grade, did well when he came to Damien as a freshman, but didn't really hone his training until recently.
"He focused a little bit more," Klaneski said. "His freshman year, he was just faster than everybody ... didn't practice as hard his sophomore year — he was golfing and doing track at the same time and he was splitting time at that.
"He was still fast and won, but not until last year you could see his improvement with the longer distance in the 200. His freshman, sophomore years, he couldn't really run the 200. He was straight 100 meters. You could see his improvement last year in the 200."
THE CHOSEN FEW
Padron has already left an indelible mark on history. Last fall, he carried a relic of St. Damien down a 3.2-mile trail to Kalaupapa on Moloka'i. The procession was one of many events that celebrated the canonization of Father Damien, the 19th-century priest who cared for Hansen's disease patients and whom the school is named after.
"Four from Damien were chosen and only two ended up going down," Padron said. "Going down the trail and carrying the relic, I felt lucky and (it was) a big accomplishment because not everyone got to do that."
It's part of representing Damien, be it on the track or in the community. Padron, who has a 3.86 grade-point average and is a member of the school's National Honor Society, wants to continue running in college. Among the colleges he applied for is West Point, receiving a nomination from U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono.
"You have to show that Damien is a good school," said Padron, "show that even though you're the underdog, that you can bring a lot to the field."