Spartans hope to stay strong

HONOLULU – Dakota Grossman calls it how she sees it: Repeating as the state track and field champion will be a tall order for Seabury Hall with the departure of her and fellow senior Alyssa Bettendorf.

“They lose me and Alyssa next year so that’s going to be a big loss, I’m not going to lie,” Grossman said after helping lead the Spartans to the girls team title in the Island Movers State Championships on Friday and Saturday at Kamehameha Kapalama.

Grossman won the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, and finished third in the 800. Bettendorf took gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400, to go along with a bronze in the long jump. The two combined for 62 points in individual events – 24 more than second-place Hilo scored as a team.

“Next year this definitely sets a high standard for them,” Bettendorf said. “You know, ‘I want to do it again and again and again.’ Hopefully this makes the whole team and entire school want to try out for track and do the same thing.”

Among the returnees for the Spartans is sophomore Amy Ozee, who won the high jump. Two juniors, Christy Fell and Kiana Smith, joined Grossman and Bettendorf on the sixth-place 1,600 relay team. Fell finished eighth in the high jump and Smith was eighth in the 800.

“Next year I’m mainly focusing on triple jump because I’m really just learning my form,” Fell said. “My coaches were saying they don’t know how I got as far as I have with what I had so hopefully I’ll be better.”

Ally Smith, a sophomore, was seventh in the 1,500 and 3,000. Ava Shipman, a freshman, was 10th in the 1,500 and 12th in the 3,000.

“It’s hard to think that next year I’ll be losing both of my best friends,” Kiana Smith said of Grossman and Bettendorf. “But, I mean, I still have Christy and the rest of the girls. We worked hard for this, too, so no matter what happens we’re going to be there together.”

Seabury coach Bobby Grossman, Dakota’s father, said he will return next year.

“It’s a lot of work and it’s going to be hard for me to come back and say, ‘Oh, I’ve got do all that again,’ ” he said. “If people saw some of our practices they would be amazed. (We’re) without a track, on a field and it’s raining on us and it’s pouring and we’re running through that. I’m hoping that other people at our school will get inspired and want to do it.

“To beat a great team like Punahou, who wins 25 out of 30 years, is amazing for us and a school of about 150 girls.”

Other returning champions include long jump winner Kaitlin Smith of Baldwin – the only freshman to earn an individual state title this year.

“It’s pretty exciting knowing that I’m the first Baldwin girl to win this event,” Smith said. “Being a freshman, it gives me so much more time to prepare for senior year because I want to break the record.”

Lahainaluna’s Emerson Liburd, a junior, won the 110 hurdles.

“My plan is to be better in the 300 and the 110 too,” he said.

King Kekaulike junior Jake Jacobs won the 800 a year after taking the 400 title, which this year went to Seabury senior Daniel Pietsch.

“If I didn’t have my teammates, my mom, my coaches and my dad, I’d be no one,” Jacobs said. “I wanted this and I had Daniel Pietsch working me back on Maui and pushing me in my race.”

Pietsch captured his first state title after joining the track team last year.

“I didn’t really expect anything,” he said. “I just wanted to come and try it out and see how it went. To be here more than a year later really feels good.”

* Chris Sugidono is at