Spartans start off season with abundance of athletes

Defending state champions boast talented roster of 19 at first MIL meet

Baldwin High School’s Shawn Silva clears 13 feet to win the boys pole vault Friday during the first Maui Interscholastic League meet of the season at Yamamoto Track & Field Facility. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

WAILUKU — Seabury Hall’s Darby Mulligan prepared for the track and field season without thinking much about how many girls would try out for the team.

While the defending state champions are used to competing with about a dozen athletes, Mulligan was joined by 19 other teammates to kick off the Maui Interscholastic League season Friday night at the Yamamoto Track & Field Facility.

“This is our biggest team in a while,” she said with a smile. “Everybody came back from their winter sports and one day everyone was just here. It was so crazy and really great to have everyone. I didn’t think that many were going to come out. It’s nice to have a big team.”

Mulligan captured the Spartans’ first gold of the season with a win in the 1,500 meters, crossing in a time of 5 minutes, 31.99 seconds. She and two-time state cross country champ Veronica Winham return to the squad as the only individual point scorers from last year’s state championship team.

“It’s a little different without Ava (Shipman),” Mulligan said of the Seabury alum who won three golds on the Big Island last year. “But we still have the same high-energy, positivity and work ethic. I think all of the seniors are pretty much leaders, so it’s really nice to set an example for the younger kids.”

Seabury Hall’s Darby Mulligan wins the 1,500 meters in 5 minutes, 31.99 seconds. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Spartans coach Bobby Grossman joked that his girls might only have to do three events this year rather than four thanks to the increased turnout, especially in field events.

“We look really good as an MIL team right now,” Grossman said.

“We fill in all the spots. We got like three high jumpers, five triple jumpers. We never have any of that, it’s usually one of each or two if we’re lucky.”

It’s not just anyone who joined the team too. Among the athletes are MIL Player of the Year honorees Erica Pilotin (Division II volleyball) and Taysia Pimentel (paddling).

“The better you do, the more people that want to come out,” Grossman said. “Now the best athletes at the school are on the track team.”

Mia Daly of King Kekaulike wins the 100-meter hurdles in 17.85 seconds. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Grossman said the biggest issue now is finding coaches to teach the new squad.

“As of the other day, I’m the only coach for girls,” he said. “We have a boys coach who helps me a little bit, and we just got a hurdle coach so that’s good. I need a thrower coach, though, that’s a big deal because Taysia is going to be strong.”

As for the small Olinda school’s chances of repeating as state champs, the team believes it has outside chance with improvement.

“I hope so,” Mulligan said. “It’s too early to tell, but I think we’ll work our way there again.”

Baldwin High School appears to again be the favorites on the boys side. Leading the Bears, who have won 12 straight MIL team titles, are senior pole vaulters Shawn Silva and Edward Omine. The two squared off Friday night, with Silva clearing 13 feet to win the first meet.

Baldwin’s Edward Omine clears 12 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

“It felt great to break the ice a little bit for the youngins,” Silva said. “It was fun coming out on top, but I felt bad that my friend had an injury on his finger.”

A blister between Omine’s fingers burst during his first vault, which made it difficult for him to grip the pole. Omine tried to use a liquid bandage to reduce the pain, but eventually failed to clear 13 feet.

“What my previous coach told me is, ‘Whatever, it happens,’ “ he said. “It’s something I can heal up. I just got to take care of it.”

The two pole vaulters have been training together since freshman year and said they push each other every day at practice.

“He’s really brave,” Omine said. “He’s not scared of anything and has no fear. He’s a great person.”

While both have dreams of winning the MIL and state titles, they plan to continue trying to make the other person better.

“We always cheer each other on and hope the other clears the next height,” Silva said. “At the end of the day, we’re still best friends.”

* Chris Sugidono is at