Farmers First Look, Part 2
With many athletes and coaches going straight from winter sport championships to spring sport practices, there is little rest for Molokai High Farmers. The athletic department takes on its largest season of the school year with seven different sports this spring: volleyball, golf, tennis, baseball, track and field, softball and this year’s newest addition of judo. In the second of a two-part series, the Dispatch takes an early look at three sports on the cusp of their Maui Interscholastic League (MIL) seasons.
While Molokai High School is offering judo for the first time ever, its coaches are anything but novices. Cousins and coaches Eli “Lihau” Maioho and Kalei Kawaa both won individual judo titles in 2005 while competing for Kamehameha-Kapalama.
None of the 18 athletes on Molokai’s inaugural team have any judo background, but they’re catching on quickly.
“Their learning curve was way faster than mine,” said girls’ coach Kawaa. “They’re just so hungry for the new techniques.”
Kawaa attributes their fast learning to having wrestlers on the team, as some wrestling training translates to judo. However, judo is different in the way points are earned. It’s also different from many martial arts in that “there is no striking,” said Maioho.
“Judo means ‘the graceful way,’” he said. “The object of judo is to throw the person on their back perfectly. When that’s done it doesn’t hurt at all.”
Kawaa said the first thing they’ve been focusing on is teaching athletes the proper falling techniques, which, while encouraging safety, also help athletes understand how to throw better.
Last year, former athletic director Hoku Haliniak found room to write judo into the budget, said Maioho. Students had previously showed interest, and one had even based his senior project on jumpstarting the judo program.
Kawaa said coaching judo is unique because it’s a sport as well as a cultural practice.
“The biggest goal was to really instill that discipline in the judoka, the students,” said Kawaa. “Just instill that reverence. … It’s not like other sports where you’re [just] chasing after championships. It’s a practice and a way of life.”
Molokai’s first meet is on April 3 on Maui.
The Lady Farmers are the defending MIL champions in softball, and this season they return with a team that has the looks of a repeat contender. Head Coach Coco Augustiro said they have 19 players, and along with the advantage of a deep bench comes the fact that all of the players have softball backgrounds.
“The good thing about it is everybody played softball before,” she said. “Everybody is familiar with the game. Now it’s up to the girls to make grade and play.”
Even her two freshmen, said Augustiro, have been playing teeball and summer league well before they joined the team.
Instead of playing in Kaunakakai, Molokai will make its debut on its new softball field on the high school property, for which the Farmers held a blessing last Saturday. The first home game will take place April 17.
With all the talent, the biggest challenge this season will be “finding the right combination” of players to put on the field, said Augustiro. The team is anchored by a strong junior class; out of nine juniors, four are starters.
“We just gotta work on our game strategies,” said Augustiro, mentioning bunting as one of those areas. “If they can put all their skills and everything they learned in the last weeks together on the field … we can be more than MIL champs.”
Track and Field
This season’s track and field roster is full of football players, wrestlers, cross country runners and swimmers. Track and field is complementary to many sports, said Head Coach Jessie Ford, who is seeing a high interest this season with 13 boys and 12 girls on the roster.
“We have a really good core of consistent kids,” said Ford, who added the ones coming off of winter sports are “burnt out” but already in great shape.
Since finances will restrict them to a few meets, starting on March 27 on Maui, they’ll have to make the most of their opportunities.
“One of the challenges we have is translating from the gravel track to the rubber surface and being injury free after a meet,” she said. “It’s just a way different type of stress on the legs.”
MIL competition takes place on a rubber track, but Molokai trains on cinder and gravel facilities. Because of this, they’ll probably be better in the mid-distance and longer races, said Ford, as events like short-distance high hurdles are “hard to train for and replicate without the rubber surface.”
To prevent injury in a high impact sport like track, they’re lifting weights more and incorporating yoga into their training.
Assistant Coach Micah Buchanan, who’s been volunteering for the past few years, is stepping into a new role as throwing coach. The Farmers will compete in shot put and discus.
“Expect the throwers to do really good because they’re working really hard right now,” said Ford.
Ford hopes to see a track and field athlete qualify for states, which Molokai hasn’t done since 2010.