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New Coach, Same Goals for Cross Country

Last week, Molokai High Cross Country Coach Mahina Hou Ross departed on board the Hokule`a. Now Molokai’s cross country runners, under the direction of interim coach Manu Adolpho, have dreams of a shorter but meaningful journey of their own: traveling to Oahu for the state cross country championships.

“We have been training hard as a team and putting in the miles needed to get us to where we want,” said senior Luke Kikukawa, who placed seventh overall in the Farmers’ Sept. 20 meet. “…We’re expecting, if not our entire boys’ team, some to qualify for the state meet on Oahu.”

Race statistics back the boys’ hopes, as Molokai has turned in multiple top three finishes in this season’s meets, with Keaoalono Ross and Markis-Grayson Aldridge joining Kikukawa as top 20 finishers. In addition to the boys, some of Molokai’s girls have landed in the top third of Maui Interscholastic League (MIL) meets and could also contend for places at state, said Adolpho. With four runners, the Lady Farmers fall just short of the five-runner team minimum but still compete as individuals.

With these goals in mind, Molokai’s runners are already making plans to raise funds for a possible trip to Oahu.

But before they can turn their attention to states, the Farmers must confront the mid-October MIL Championships with its thick field of competitors—over 100 vying for top spot in the three-mile race.

“Maui has a lot of competition, and we’re preparing [to] the best of our ability,” said junior Kori DeRouin, who’s been running for MHS since her freshman year.

For the Molokai High runners, preparing isn’t just limited to the numerous hill runs, sprints and weekly time trials typical of cross country practices.

“A lot of people think running is just that. It’s just running,” said Adolpho. “But there’s actually a lot of different strategies in the way you attack the course that you’re running.”

Adolpho, with his background in high school cross country and college track and field, has picked up various strategies throughout the years for shaving seconds off a runner’s time. On hills, many runners try to go faster and end up using much of their energy to reach the top. The key, Adolpho explained, is to hold a smooth, steady pace, conserving energy for the moment when most of the other runners are recovering from their uphill sprint.

For flat ground, another technique is known as “surging,” when runners speed up for a certain amount of time or distance. Because many runners naturally slow down as the race wears on, surging allows them to match or get closer to their initial pace. Molokai’s newest coach is tasked with ingraining these strategies and more in his runners’ minds over the coming few weeks.

“It’s really late in the season…so it’s more honing down their strengths than it is improving on weaknesses,” said Adolpho of his pre-MIL Championships game plan.

Fortunately for the Farmers, the Keopuolani Pit, which is the venue for the MIL Championships, is a mostly flat course with a lot of pavement, according to Adolpho. The Pit, he said, is “a good course to run a fast time.”

Provided all goes well, Molokai’s runners can add another event to their calendars: the Oct. 31 State Championships.

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