Maui County has a realistic shot at sweeping the four divisions at Saturday's state canoe regatta in Hilo.
It's an exciting goal for the clubs that battle each other on the water all regular season, then come together as an island for the final race.
Hawaiian Canoe Club, which won a 25th straight Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association title this year, has 37 crews in the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association championship, most of the seven clubs in the AAAA Division. Hawaiian had a run of seven consecutive state titles stopped last year, and is seeking its ninth championship in 11 years.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Kihei Canoe Club, whose Amity Mason is shown after helping her crew win a mixed novice B race earlier this month, has 19 crews qualified for Saturday’s state regatta — second-most in the AAA Division.
Kihei Canoe Club is taking 19 crews, tied with Kaneohe for second in the five-club AAA Division, one behind Puna.
In the nine-club AA Division, Lae Ula Kai is one of six with the maximum 12 crews.
Kahana has six crews, tied for most in the A Division with five other clubs. Wailea is one of five clubs with five crews.
State qualifying crews
Kai Opua 36
Hui Nalu 22
Hui Lanakila 17
Lae Ula O Kai 12
Koa Kai 12
Waikiki Beach Boys 12
Kamehameha CC 10
Na Keiki O Ka Moi 9
New Hope 6
Kai Ehitu 6
Alapa Hoe 5
Manu O Ke Kai 5
Ka Mamalahoe 5
Leeward Kai 5
Tui Tonga 4
Na Waa Hanakahi 4
Waikiki Surf Club 3
Na Kai Ewalu 3
Keola O Ke Kai 3
Pukana O Ke Kai 3
North Shore 2
Honolulu Pearl 2
Hawaiian Outrigger 2
Puuloa Outrigger 1
Hui Waa O Waiakea 1
Kona Athletic Club 1
Maui County qualifying crews
Hawaiian (37)---Girls 12, boys 12, mixed 12, girls 13, boys 13, girls 14, boys 14, women's novice B, mixed novice B, men's novice B, girls 15, boys 15, girls 16, boys 16, girls 18, boys 18, women's novice A, men's novice A, freshman women, freshman men, sophomore women, sophomore men, junior women, junior men, senior women, senior men, women's 60, women's 55, women's 50, men's 50, women's open 4, men's open 4, mixed 55, mixed 40, mixed open, women's 40, men's 40.
Kihei Canoe Club (19)---Mixed novice B, men's novice B, girls 18, boys 18, women's novice A, junior women, junior men, senior men, women's 60, men's 60, women's 55, men's 55, women's 50, men's 50, mixed 55, mixed 40, mixed open, women's 40, men's 40.
Lae Ula O Kai (12)---Boys 14, girls 14, girls 15, women's novice A, freshman women, senior women, men's 60, women's 55, men's 55, women's 50, women's open 4, mixed 55.
Kahana (6)---Girls 12, boys 15, girls 16, boys 16, sophomore women, sophomore men.
Wailea (5)---Boys 14, women's novice B, freshman men, junior men, senior men.
Napili (4)---Boys 12, mixed 12, girls 13, boys 13.
Na Kai Ewalu (3)---Men's novice A, men's open 4, mixed open.
Lahaina (2)---Men's novice B, men's 40.
Molokai (2)---Men's 60, men's 50.
''Most of our master's division have good lanes from first seeds here on Maui and good chances of placing high,'' said Ricky Balidoy who shares the title of Lae Ula O Kai head coach with his wife, Sharon. ''Our 55 men have the fastest time in the state right now, so we're looking to take first in the event. We're excited.''
Napili is taking four crews, and coach Joey Tihada said the club's primary concern isn't finishing atop the A Division.
''Our focus is not really to go out there and win the (division) championship,'' he said. ''We just want to go out there and represent Maui as best as we can, paddle our best and have a good time.''
Kihei coach Kawika Williams remembers Maui's sweep of the three-division state regatta in 2004.
''The last time, the first and only time, after the regatta it was 7:30 or so and we were all feeling good,'' Williams said. ''We were all staying at the same hotel and everyone was out standing on the balcony chanting 'Maui, Maui.' It was unreal.''
Williams is excited about the possibility of another all-Maui championship.
''It's a pretty rare thing to do,'' he said. ''But the chance is definitely there. Hopefully we can pull it off again. We're all really excited at our chance to win the triple-A division. Puna's pretty tough to beat, but it will be fun. Super exciting.''
Williams said Hawaiian's success at the state level has challenged and subsequently improved all of Maui County's clubs.
''After competing against each other all season (we) all try to stay close at states,'' Williams said. ''For many, many years it was always the Oahu teams that would dominate the competition, but then Hawaiian started winning. Once that happened, the level of talent across Maui stepped up. Maybe it sounds kind of crazy, but all of our training and the caliber in which we train is a lot different now. Maui became a real competitor in the past seven, eight years. A lot of us have our own koa canoes to race when before we had to borrow Oahu teams' ones.
''With the canoes it makes a difference because we'd always get the second canoe. Now we have our own. There's a lot of things that have really changed and improved on Maui over the years and I think a lot of it has to do with the inspiration we all got when we saw Hawaiian win and are pushed by them throughout the season.''
Balidoy said the home-island clubs could be a factor.
''I'm not predicting anything,'' he said. ''A sweep would be pretty awesome. We'll see how it goes. The Big Island is tough and their crews are strong this year. Maui does have a lot of strong teams, though, and we're well represented across the board.''
Starr Begley is at email@example.com