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Winter Warriors

A look at MHS’ upcoming sports season

Molokai High School (MHS) winter sports season has arrived and teams are already hitting the floor, field and sea in search of victory. Here is a preview of the wrestling, paddling and swimming programs. Check out next week’s Dispatch for a look at soccer and basketball.

Wrestling
Kicking off the highly anticipated wrestling season was an invitational for the girls’ side, held last Saturday on Oahu. Over 25 schools turned out for the Punahou Invitational, including eight Lady Famers.

“It should be pretty good gauge of what the girls are up against, especially for states,” said head coach Randy Manley. The meet will “show where they need to improve.”

The MHS wrestling team has 40 student athletes training this year, including a record 13 girls. Manley credits the program’s successes in the past for drawing more students.

“We’ve placing in the top five the past few years, that helps gives [our] program more credibility,” Manley said.

“Up until this point, girls were kind of tacked on,” he said. “The boys had a tournament, then [the school leagues added] the girls at same time…All of a sudden here’s a tournament just for girls.”

Returning this year are Maui Interscholastic League (MIL) champions and state qualifiers Charisse Manley, Kaulanarose Akaka and Mikayla Pico.

Manley has high hopes for the boys’ side too. Returning second-place MIL champions, Manley said he has a lot of returning wrestlers as well as some newbies, although not new to the sport.

Senior Jordan Hao moved to Molokai this year when his father, Stan, became principal of MHS. Manley said Hao placed at states last year and having him on board is “a big plus for us.”

“I’m expecting good things for him,” he added.

Joining Hao will be returning champs Kevin Dudoit, Simon Blair and Kailen Innoyou.

“I can’t guarantee they’ll win matches, but can guarantee they’ll be in the best shape they’ll ever be in.”

The next meet will be for both sides on Dec. 21-22 at Maui High.

Paddling
The girls’ paddling team is also in great shape with half of the state champion girls’ volleyball team competing this year. Head coach Tanya Kaholoaa said she also has a lot of returning paddlers, including those who paddled in the summer’s club competitions.

“My crew looks really, really good – a lot of experience in the boat,” she added.

The Lady Farmers will need to play a little catch-up. Their Maui competition often paddle year-round, even attending out-of-state competitions.

“I don’t know what Maui has…with Maui, never let your guard down,” Kaholoaa said.

The boys’ paddling team hit the water this year with a lot of new crew members and a new coach. Dave Gilliland has been coaching keiki with Kukui O Molokai but stepped up to the high school level this year.

“It’s a pretty novice crew. The focus now is on technique, getting the fundamentals down,” he said.

Many of MHS’ top paddlers left last year – “the graduation cycle” – leaving Gilliland with only three out of 12 boys with paddling experience. Still, he said, “they’re all committed. That’s really the foundation – kids interested and want[ing] to be there.”

The boys and girls paddling teams are in the water several days a week, prepping for their first competition on Dec. 18 at Ka Lae Pokahu.

“I’m excited…I wish [the race] was next week,” Kaholoaa said.

Swimming
The swim team has had a rough start this year, but even after a month of out-of-water training, the team and coach are committed to staying as a team.

“I’m very proud of them for sticking with all the dryland training,” said head coach Jess Ford.

The Cooke Memorial Pool has been closed since early October for construction, impeding on the Farmers’ season.

“I don’t know [at] what point to call the season off,” she said, noting that competition would be nearly impossible if the swimmers don’t start swimming soon. “No pool – no season.”

In the meantime, Ford has been running swimming-specific core workouts, weights and general conditioning to keep her team in shape. Several returnees make up the team, including last year’s MIL qualifier Lawaia Aalona.

“I know he can qualify for states, [but] I don’t know if we’ll have enough time in the water,” Ford said.

“They have great attitudes and I love working with them,” she added.

The first meet the Molokai swim team would attend is on Jan. 8 in Lahaina.

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