Seabury makes history
It was history in a David-and-Goliath setting.
Seabury Hall’s crew of Kamaile Lee, Bela Hamilton, Lexi Smith, Mikaela McDaniel, Hiilei Aiwohi-Kolt, Kaile Aina Sutherland and Kaulu Luuwai became the first group from outside the Interscholastic League of Honolulu to win the First Hawaiian Bank Canoe Paddling State Championships girls crown in the 12-year history of the event on Friday at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu.
“It is pretty amazing considering how many girls we have to choose from and how many we have on our team as alternates,” said Luuwai, the senior steersman.
“We barely have a crew of seven to paddle. We have two first-year paddlers in the boat and we actually asked them to come out this year because we were short on girls and they helped us get to where we are.
“We are very proud to be from a small school like Sea-bury and perform like the way we did today.”
Seabury has 311 high school students. Runner-up Kamehameha Kapalama, a six-time girls state champion, has more than 1,800.
Aiwohi-Kolt and Sutherland are first-year paddlers and the alternates were Joy Balinbin,
Mapuana Andrade and Ashley Quenga. Luuwai and Hamilton are the only seniors.
Paul Luuwai, Kaulu’s uncle, became the first coach to guide crews from two schools to state titles – he led King Kekaulike to the mixed championship in 2004.
The Spartans, who went unbeaten in the Maui Interscholastic League regular season, finished in 4 minutes, 24.37 seconds – 2.03 seconds in front of Kamehameha.
“It’s awesome to be a part of,” Paul Luuwai said, choking up. “I’m so proud of my girls. My brother’s daughter, Kaulu, is the steersman and the captain of the team. She just had a great race and what a way to top her career. She won six MIL titles, she is the MIL Paddler of the Year two years in a row and she ends her career with a girls state championship. Unbelievable.”
Luuwai also was emotional when he talked about Steve Colflesh, the veteran Seabury athletic director who is retiring at the end of the school year.
“To bring a state championship back to Seabury and for Mr. Colflesh, just phenomenal,” Luuwai said.
The Spartans finished third in the mixed final. Lee, McDaniel, Hamilton and Kaulu Luuwai were joined by Alden Simmer, Mogul Luuwai and Adam Ferrier.
“Kaulu and Mogul almost became the first brother and sister to win a mixed state medal on the same crew. They almost pulled it off,” Paul Luuwai said.
The Seabury boys took seventh place.
Kamehameha Maui also had entrants in all three finals. The boys, who had a perfect MIL season, were fourth, the girls fifth and the mixed crew sixth.
“This isn’t Division II, either,” Paul Luuwai said. “Paddling is Division I across the board. So, that’s just amazing. Look at all the kids in Hawaii. Punahou, Kamehameha, they are freaking out how small our school is. I’m so proud of our school, so proud of the MIL.”
Kamehameha Maui coach Robert Brede expressed a similar sentiment.
“The MIL was very impressive,” he said. “Hats off to Seabury, I tell you, those girls, they earned that big-time. Whoa, those girls are tough.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com