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Luna paddling team on the rise in the MIL

By Staff | Jan 21, 2016

Many members of the Lahainaluna High School paddling team have experience competing with Kahana and Napili Canoe Club.

LAHAINA – The overall finish for the Lahainaluna High School paddling team in the Maui Interscholastic League standings in the 2015 season was a disappointing one to say the least. But given the grand slam coaching foursome of Joey Tihada, Manny Portabes, Steven “da Bear” Keahi and Courtney Mae Asato leading a resurgent roster of 27 made up of mostly underclassmen, the Lunas are on the rise in the current campaign.

Coach Portabes, the veteran paddling mentor who seems to make Canoe Beach (Hanakao’o Beach Park) his second home throughout the year, points to the discipline and conditioning expertise brought in by Coach Keahi over the last two seasons as a major influence on the Lunas’ rising tide into the top three of the boys, girls, and mixed MIL races.

“Coach Bear really emphasizes discipline and brings more conditioning to the program,” explained Portabes last week. “The kids are responding well to the training – we needed the discipline and conditioning technique, and now we have a good chance to qualify for states.”

The MIL is allotted two lanes in the state championship regatta that this year will take place on Feb. 6 at Keehi Lagoon in Honolulu. Lahainaluna thus needs work to gain the second seed in each of the boys, girls and mixed standings to make it to states, as Seabury Hall, the perennial MIL and state champion, has a lock on the top slots.

“We’ve got some good leadership from our older kids, so I think we have a good chance to make it,” said Coach Manny.

Leading the way for the Lunas – most of whom with experience with Kahana and Napili Canoe Club – are junior returnees Kelsi Badua, Iwalouise Bryan, Abriana Lukela Kobatake, Kamauliola Medeiros, Kealohalani Nolan Criste, Shaun Rabino and Justice Tihada, and sophomore letter-winners Victoria Decoite Wilsey and Brandon Gama Bonnette.

The remainder of the roster is made up of juniors Kaonokiakala Hamakua and Riley Smith; sophomores Nate Beard, Leah Campos, Dalton Lins, Elizabeth Saia and Tai-Li Tangatailoa; and first-year paddlers Aaron Berbiglia, Marley Calapini, Dakota Delos Reyes, Stacia Eng, Ofeinalelotu Filikitonga, Kauanoe Keahi, Megan Miller, Lexa Ora-a, Ikaika Viela, Mai-Lei Wagner and Brooke Whitehead.