In coming within one point of a first-ever sweep of the team titles at the state championship, Maui Interscholastic League track and field competitors produced some the year's most impressive performances - no one more so than Seabury Hall's Dakota Grossman and Baldwin's Amber Kozaki and Keelan Ewaliko.
Their array of historic accomplishments, in a season that culminated with the league taking 10 state golds, earned the trio MIL Athlete of the Year recognition in the sport, with Grossman and Kozaki sharing the girls honor and Ewaliko claiming the boys award.
Ewaliko was instrumental in helping the Bears repeat as the state team champions by winning the 100 and 200 meters and anchoring the first-place 400 relay squad in his final high school meet.
Keelan Ewaliko earned three gold medals at this year’s state championship, helping Baldwin High School take a second straight boys team crown.
CINDY CAMPBELL photo
Dakota Grossman claimed a seventh state individual title, tying the Maui Interscholastic League record, as Seabury Hall finished as the runner-up in the girls team competition.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Baldwin’s Amber Kozaki broke the state meet record in the girls pole vault by clearing 13 feet.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Kozaki finished her high school career with a state-meet record in the pole vault, clearing 13 feet.
Grossman, a senior-to-be, won the 3,000 state championship - giving her seven individual gold medals, which ties an MIL record - as Seabury placed second in the team standings, a point behind Punahou.
"Looking back at it I think it was a very positive experience," said Grossman, who won MIL titles in the 800, 1,500 and 3,000. "I think a lot of girls stepped up this year."
With another season to go, Grossman is increasingly involved in college plans and visits across the country, and has her eye on one of the sport's elite programs.
"I've been looking at colleges in Oregon right now and I think it would be awesome if I could go to the University of Oregon because they have a really good track program," she said. "But I'm not sure yet. I have to get a little faster to go there."
Kozaki and Ewaliko already have their destinations lined up - both are heading to the University of Hawaii. Only Kozaki will be competing in track and field, however, as UH does not have a men's team.
"I feel accomplished," said Kozaki, who won this year's MIL titles in the pole vault and long jump. "It's taken me four years to build everything up and I'm just happy I stuck through it all and I didn't get injured."
Last year, Kozaki sprained her left ankle on an awkward landing after a vault. Although the injury put her out for only a week, she said things went "downhill from there."
"It was just a sprain, but it was really bad so I just rested it the whole summer and it got better," she said. "This year I was praying I wouldn't get injured."
Even while resting her ankle, Kozaki was in the weight room for much of the summer, lifting at least five days a week and working on her technique. She's doing much of the same this summer and is anxious to head to Oahu.
"It's exciting," she said. "I'm nervous, though, because I'm going to be the little dog, and not top dog anymore."
Ewaliko, who on Thursday was named the Gatorade Hawaii Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, won MIL titles in the 100 and 200.
This year was only the second in track for Ewaliko, who has a football scholarship at UH.
"I was kind of bummed because I would like to run track in college too," he said. "But right now I'm solely concentrated on football."
The other members of the boys All-Star team, which comprises the MIL individual champions, are Baldwin's Tyler Feiteira (300 hurdles and pole vault), Miki Fangatua (discus and shot put) and Abraham Reinhardt (110 hurdles), King Kekaulike's Jansen Agapay (triple jump and long jump), Jake Jacobs (400) and Keegan Gregg (800), Lahainaluna's Corban Kaikkonen (1,500 and 3,000) and Maui High's Vincent Keomoungkhoune (high jump).
Seabury won eight MIL girls individual championships this year, with Alyssa Bettendorf (100, 200 and 400), and Christy Fell (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles) also making the All-Star team, along with Maui High's Christina Lotulelei (discus and shot put) and Kamehameha Maui's Raven Poepoe (high jump).
* Chris Sugidono is at firstname.lastname@example.org