WEST MAUI - It's been a breakthrough year for West Side long distance runners, as Maui Preparatory Academy and Lahainaluna High School each recorded Maui Interscholastic League cross country championships this month.
First, the Maui Prep junior varsity girls - led by freshman sensation Sophia Johnston's stirring, come-from-behind first place finish - won the first-ever MIL championship for the independent school in the foothills of Napili at the MIL Junior Varsity Championship held on the Kamehameha Schools Maui campus.
Pueo coach Keenan Reader reported that ninth-grader Johnston erased a 22-second deficit in the final mile of the race to lead the team to the historic title in only its fourth year of MIL competition and set a school record with her 21:00 time.
The Lahainaluna High School boys ran away from the field to win the school’s first MIL boys varsity cross country title since 1990.
"We are extremely proud of the JV girls for making school history by winning our first-ever championship in any sport," beamed Coach Reader, who was assisted this season by Dennis Nakamura and Becky Hirsch.
"They are a very young team and quickly bought into the training program, proving that hard work and commitment pays off."
The Maui Prep girls recorded 27 points to easily outdistance runner-up Maui High (45 points) and third place finisher King Kekaulike (67 points).
Jessica Kingwell finished in fifth place, followed by teammates Alexa Narayan in sixth, Ember Hirsch in tenth, Jamie Advincula in 14th and Sarah Wilhelm.
"Jamie and Ember both ran through injuries late in the season to help the team achieve their goal of a team title. The girls worked very hard during the season - but had fun doing it. They're really a fun group of kids," added Reader.
The following week on Molokai, the Lahainaluna boys ran away from the field to win the school's first MIL boys varsity cross country championship since 1990.
The Lunas scored 23 points to win the team title over runner-up Seabury Hall with 59 points and Maui High with 94 in third place.
Coach Dan Skousen's team blazed to the win led by the dynamic duo of Willem Thorbecke and Korban Kaikkonen, who traded wins throughout the season to lead the Lahainaluna team to the championship.
They were backed up by teammates Wyatt Chism in fifth place, Kevin Lammer in seventh, Nicholas Vierra in eighth and Kyle Shultz in ninth.
Skousen was assisted by Chad Ferguson during the season and by George Watson during the summer practices.
"We encouraged the team to put in all the running they can, and we told them that's what it takes to get to the top," said Coach Dan.
"So, some of the kids were putting in 50-60 miles a week, getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get their training in. They learned to really push each other to become champions."