Year of the Champion
In 2013, as is true almost every year, Maui County hosted and produced champions at various levels – in youth, high school, college and professional ranks. Once again, too, titles were earned just about everywhere – on land, in the water and through the air.
What many of the last 12 months’ accomplishments had in common, however, was that they were part of a year that delivered victories of unprecedented proportion.
One of the most noteworthy champions was Shane Victorino. In October, his dramatic grand slam sent the Boston Red Sox to the American League pennant, and the team then won the World Series, making the St. Anthony High School graduate a two-time champion – no other major leaguer from Hawaii has more than one title.
Dakota Grossman of Seabury Hall won a fourth cross country title that same month, becoming the first to accomplish the feat in three-mile races. The victory gave her eight state gold medals, breaking the Maui Interscholastic League record.
Grossman’s run into history was an exceptional part of a year brimming with singular Seabury success.
In February, Renny Richmond won his fourth state title in the 100-yard butterfly, giving him six individual championships altogether to match the record for MIL boys swimmers, and the Spartans won a girls state canoe paddlng title – no team from outside the Interscholastic League of Honolulu had ever done that before.
Seabury also remained undefeated in the Maui Interscholastic League’s two-season history of eight-player football, completing another 6-0 season in October. The Lahainaluna football team, meanwhile, recorded the program’s first 10-0 regular season.
Perfection wasn’t limited to the football field. Syracuse won the EA Sports Maui Invitational in November in what coach Jim Boeheim said would be the Orange’s last appearance in the event under his watch. If that’s the case, he will retire with a perfect Maui mark – Syracuse is 9-0 in three trips to the Lahaina Civic Center, all under Boeheim.
In May, Baldwin became the first Neighbor Island school to win back-to-back track and field team titles, claiming the boys crown. In girls competition, the Bears’ Amber Kozaki set a state pole vault record by clearing 13 feet.
Last month, Kamehameha Maui became the first MIL school to win a state cheerleading title.
Not far removed from his high school days, Kai Lenny of Spreckelsville dominated the professional stand-up paddling circuit, winning a third World Tour season championship and second World Series crown, in addition to his first Battle of the Paddle victory.
Lenny also reached the championship heat of the Cabrinha Kite Surf Pro Maui in November – Keahi De Aboitiz of Australia won the men’s title for the second year in a row, and Moona Whyte of Oahu repeated as the women’s champion.
Levi Siver of Haiku won the JP Aloha Classic at Hookipa Beach Park last month, and Marcilio Browne of Brazil claimed the season title.
While a bit of wind was a welcome part of the events on the water, it caused some trouble at Maui’s signature event to begin the year. Dustin Johnson won January’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, shortened to 54 holes for the first time because of gusty conditions at the Kapalua Plantation Course.
The year as a whole was a breeze for many of Maui’s history-making champions, and some of them have a chance to further establish their place in the record books.
Victorino no doubt has his eyes on another ring, and Lenny on continued success in seemingly whatever water sport he tries.
Grossman can add to her title tally in one more state track and field meet, and she is part of an array of MIL athletes and teams that enter 2014 as reigning champions.
Most of what the next 365 days has in store is anyone’s guess, but if the past calendar is any indication, one thing appears all but certain – when the new year has become old, and its sporting achievements are recalled, the chronicle will include another list of Maui achievements.
* Brad Sherman is at email@example.com