Anonymous donor covers travel tab for Lanai fitness team

‘We got a good chance at this,’ coach says

Steven Hanog thought he was being pranked when an anonymous man called to donate $10,000 to the Lana’i Physical Fitness team to pay for its trip to the national championships in Pennsylvania.

“He asked if that was enough to cover everything, and I replied, ‘If you do that, we’ll be really close to our goal,’ “ said Hanog, the team coach, Thursday. “He called back about a week later and asked if we were still short, and I said ‘yes,’ and he said ‘I’ll just give you $1,500, so you don’t have to worry.’ “

Thanks to the donor and other supporters, the team of eight girls and seven boys raised more than $18,000 to reach the Marine Youth Physical Fitness National High School Physical Fitness Championships. The team is competing today against thousands of youths across the country in fitness events such as abdominal crunches, pushups and pullups.

“They’re pretty stoked,” Hanog said of his team from their hotel room. “They’re really excited. They look good, feel good and should be doing their best.”

The Lanai team initially worried about being able to afford the cross-country trip after the championships had been held in San Diego the past three years. The team appealed to the public for additional funds, and a story was published March 17 about their efforts in The Maui News.

Hanog said the donor, who is a part-time resident of Maui and lives in Seattle, reached out after reading the story in the newspaper.

“He read it on the front page and said ‘It sounds like a really good cause, and I really want to support you guys. I wanted you guys not to worry,’ “ Hanog said.

Additional donations that came later helped the team raise about $6,000 more than it needed, some of which Hanog used to buy the squad new uniforms, sweatsuits and shoes.

“Every year, we’re short. This is the first time we’re actually ahead,” he said. “They’re happy to be wearing all the same sweatsuits and uniforms. They feel like one team now.”

Lanai High School seniors and twin sisters Keona and Jasmine Conroy-Humphrey were particularly excited after missing last years’ trip due to a lack of girls needed to qualify. The sisters have been on the team since their freshman year.

“It was really disappointing missing last year’s because we worked hard our first two years and kept improving and had a real chance,” Jasmine said. “We had to work really hard to get support, and I’m really grateful to everyone who supported us because it’s not just the trip, it’s the experience. Our team is really close and to be able to travel with them is amazing.”

The program established by teacher Frank Chester in 1976 has captured six national titles and 27 state titles over the years. The program went on hiatus in 2004 and was restarted by Hanog in 2015.

Training at 5 a.m. before school every day has remained a cornerstone of the program, which only ramps up in the spring with a second afternoon practice. The twins, however, endured a separate tennis practice in between the fitness training.

The sisters led their school to its first runner-up finish in the Maui Interscholastic League girls tennis championship.

“Waking up in the morning never got easier,” Keona said. “Waking up when the sun’s not up and it won’t come up in a while is tough. I took a lot of naps. It was tough trying to balance school work, college applications and practice, and all the senior obligations on top of that.”

The seniors, who will head to West Point on July 2 for basic training, will help lead the girls fitness team after each claimed individual bronze medals in 2016. Hanog said he expects the boys team to compete for a couple of individual medals as well.

“The girls have good chance to get at least third, but they can get first if they’re really on that day,” Hanog said. “I’ve got four 9th-graders, and they strong. For 9th-grade girls, they can really jam. You look at them, and they’re all dainty but they can do 50 pushups and 12 pullups, and they run 300 yards in under one minute.

“We got a good chance at this,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.