LAHAINA - The final races of the 2013 Maui Interscholastic League canoe paddling season are on the horizon, and both the Lahainaluna High School and Maui Preparatory Academy teams are working to finish the season with a strong effort.
Veteran Lahainaluna coach Joey Tihada, assisted by Manny Portables, Courtney Asato and Bear Keahi, remains optimistic despite a depleted roster that has limited the Lunas to two MIL events - the varsity and junior varsity mixed races - at the regular season regattas.
"We've had a real shortage of paddlers this year," Coach Joey explained from the squad's Canoe Beach practice site last week.
Maui Preparatory Academy’s paddlers are rapidly improving.
"We'll try to get more day students (the current team is made up of mostly boarding students) to come out next year, and hopefully we'll be able to enter more crews. And, like in all sports in high school, grade deficiencies have played a factor. But Coach Manny has taken over for the most part and done a great job of getting the most out of what we have to work with."
Senior captain and four-year paddler Kanoe Delatori leads the way for the Lunas along with classmate Jenina Pascua. Juniors Levi Delos Reyes, Jared Purdy, Jonah Ragsdale, J.T. Kaleikini and Kalena Shim are joined by returning sophomores Nick Lee, Jazzlyn Bonds, Kalei Steele, Kaua Williams and Teva Medeiros, along with Edward Smith. Freshmen on the team roster are Eric Minihara and Jayden Shirota.
Due to limited numbers, the Maui Prep paddling team has been limited to two races as well, but the Pueo season has been highlighted nonetheless by the acquisition of a new Bradley Lightening racing canoe. Built by world-renowned canoe craftsman Sonnie Bradley, the new boat was made possible through donations to Maui Prep from the Muto family.
The Pueo team is coached by Barry Franks and Michael Rains. Senior captain Troy Otto returns along with classmates Xavier Damo, Hannah Freedman and Lyndon Wilfur; the lone junior on the roster is returnee Parker Robb.
The squad also includes sophomore lettermen Sabrina Bianchi, Alexander Muto and Cameron Pupunu, classmates Sydney Gilbert and Mollie Glass, and freshmen May Samari, Evan Frederiksen, Nick Head and Chantal Charbonnier.
"We've been entering just the mixed junior varsity and boys varsity races," said Pueo coach Rains. "What's been impressive is that these kids have been improving every day and noticeably so. Of course, we are very excited about having the new canoe to practice and race with."
Both the Lahainaluna and Maui Prep teams expressed their gratitude to Napili Canoe Club and Lahaina Canoe Club, respectively, for allowing the high school teams access to the equipment used for the MIL season.