Kaupe earns gold medal at Hershey meet

Nawai Kaupe came for a record, but left with a continental title.

Kaupe, who starts her freshman year at Baldwin High School on Monday, won the girls 13-14 softball throw at the Hershey’s Track and Field Games North American Final on Saturday in Hershey, Pa.

The 14-year-old Kaupe won with a mark of 191 feet while throwing against a strong headwind.

After throwing 242 feet at the Maui County Kiwanis meet earlier this year and qualifying for a trip to Hershey with a 238-foot throw, she was aiming for the meet record of 244 feet set by Wisconsin’s Rachel Green in 1981.

“I was throwing against the wind, so it was really hard,” Kaupe said.

Nawai and her mother, Joy, will return home today after four days in Pennsylvania, which included a trip to Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World.

“I couldn’t eat chocolate because I didn’t want to lose my energy and stuff,” Kaupe said. “I’m going to have some chocolate now, though.”

Kaupe recently finished a stellar youth baseball career that included a state Little League title in 2011 and an appearance in the Hawaii Region Pony final last month.

She will play softball at Baldwin.

“To be honest I really miss baseball, that was my sport,” she said.

Kaupe practiced for the North American meet by going to softball fields. The goal was to hit the backstop from behind the outfield fence – something she did with regularity, according to her father.

“Softball is my career now, so I have got to train,” Nawai said. “I know that Baldwin has a lot of competition, so I have to step up my game. I trained in Wailuku, I trained in Kahului, I trained Upcountry. I tried my best.”

Her technique had to change in Saturday’s conditions.

“On Maui, we never throw against the wind and if we do, we would switch to the other side,” she said. “Throwing against the wind, it was really hard. I found out after my second one I can’t throw it high anymore, I have to throw it level. That worked good.”

Kaupe was also the flagbearer for Hawaii in the opening ceremony.

“It’s great, it’s a great experience,” she said. “I would like to see everybody on Maui to do this, too. I was the only one from Maui and I want everybody to know that they should try this. It’s really intense. Everybody here, they have sportsmanship.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com