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Paddling Top 8 in State

The Molokai girls’ paddling crew capped off their season in the state finals on Saturday, finishing seventh out of 16 teams in Kahului. In their preliminary race, Molokai finished sixth in four minutes and 54.13 seconds, qualifying for the semifinals. The Farmers chopped 15 seconds off of their preliminary time and took first in the semifinals with 4:39.90, launching them into the finals.

“In the semifinals … only the top two could move on to the finals,” said senior paddler Waipuna Paleka-Kelly. “It was really intense again because it was a lot on our shoulders.”

The state championship featured 16 boys’ crews, 16 girls’ crews and 16 mixed.

Molokai and second-place Castle High competed in the final race, where the Farmers came in seventh at 4:48.16. Fellow MIL schools King Kekaulike and Seabury Hall also made the third and final race. Seabury Hall came in second overall, right behind champion Punahou. King Kekaulike finished fifth.

“We had beautiful turns all three races,” said senior paddler Kelsie Espiritu-Tanabe. “The wind and waves were in our favor.”

Paleka-Kelly said she’s proud that the Farmers ranked within the top eight teams in the state, especially in a sport where there are no divisions, allowing Molokai to compete against much larger schools. Espiritu-Tanabe admitted that while it was a little intimidating facing bigger schools, they entered the final race confident after their strong showing in the previous two races.

“Already being in the top eight felt good,” she said. “We mixed well and strategized well. The first two races felt as perfect as we could get.”

She and Paleka-Kelly, along with fellow senior paddlers Kiana Simmons and Kaylie Tanaka, all bid farewell to the team last week. Both Espiritu-Tanabe and Paleka-Kelly felt the team has progressed well this season, learning to mesh with a new coach and several new and underclassmen paddlers. After a fourth-place finish in their first regatta, the Farmers went on to finish second and third multiple times in the remainder of their races.

“I like that we could be honest with each other [this season],” said Paleka-Kelly. “ … Through ups and downs we only came closer at the end. I feel like I can trust them with anything.”

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