HONOLULU — Running down the home stretch to victory at the Island Movers/HHSAA Athletics Championships in front of a roaring crowd will be a moment Kaylee Volner will always remember.
After another second-place finish in her decorated career earlier on Saturday at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, the Seabury Hall senior blew away the field in the 3,000 meters to finally claim her first-ever state title.
“I am so grateful. I don’t think it’s hit me yet, but my win is everyone’s win in my opinion – all of my community that helped me get to this point – and it’s the win for my teammates, the my parents’ win, my family’s win, they’re my coaches’, that’s Maui’s win if I’m being honest. It’s just amazing,” Volner said after setting a personal best with a time of 10 minutes, 17.93 seconds. “I don’t know 90% of these people, but I could hear everyone cheering and I just crossed the finish line with a smile on my face because it was just an emotional and memorable moment for me.”
She’s always dreamed of being a gold medalist since joining the Spartans, and after losing two full track seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 3000 suddenly became her last chance after finishing second in the 1,500 earlier on Saturday.
“In the 1500m, I didn’t have the best start,” said Volner, also a two-time state runner-up in cross country. “I got stuck behind some people so I made sure I was in front and kind of took that with me and once I got to that last 1000 I tried to give it my all because, you know, he was my last 1,000 and I had to do my best.
Seabury coach Bobby Grossman said watching Volner’s final run in high school was “probably the most emotional win I’ve had since winning my daughters.”
“I had emotional ones, but this one was very important for her to finish with a medal this year,” said Grosman. “She’s had a lot of second-place finishes, so that’s something Kaylee needed and something I wanted to see her get and something her family needed. I’m very proud of her.
Volner was one of four Maui Interscholastic League runners to win gold medals on Saturday, joining Maui High senior Kaimana Cantere, Baldwin senior Justin Kahalewai and Bears junior Joseph Randolph.
After winning bronze in the men’s 1500m with a personal best 4:13.59, Cantère took a win from behind in the 800m less than 30 minutes later, again clocking a personal best 1:59.92 – it is the first time a Maui High runner has broken 2 minutes in this event, according to Sabers coaches.
“Crossing the finish line, you know, bringing home a medal for Maui High and maybe a school record, but right now all I can feel is relief, I’m proud and I’m really grateful”, he said.
Cantere, who mentioned his Achilles tendon was sore and tightening after his first event, sat about six in with just 200 meters to go in the two-lap race before making his move.
“Today everything fell into place and I was able to kick it at the end when I was already feeling tired and stuff. I just had to go,” said Cantere, the defending state cross country champion. “It was all worth it. … I just kept pushing through the pain and I was like, ‘I can rest after this, but now it’s time to go.’ “
The Sabers won another bronze medal in the women’s shot put thanks to Amber Donnelly’s 32-foot-11 throw. Donnelly left Oahu with two bronze medals — she also placed third in the discus on Friday night.
Saturday night started off with a bang as Kahalewai battled her way to her first state championship title in the 110 hurdles with a personal best time of 15.59 seconds.
“It’s been a long road to get here – lots of running, lots of hard work and our coaches are pushing us,” said the senior after stepping down from the podium. “It was fun, a good experience to come here and represent my school and my family, and yes, a very good experience.”
Kahalewai took control of the field from around 50 yards out and barely held off eventual runner-up Joshua Sanders from Moanalua (15.65). The Bears hurdler hopes his performance will inspire the rest of his team and “make them better” for the next year.
Randolph, in particular, was fired up after seeing Kahalewai’s victory as he prepared on the field for the boys’ 100, which he won in 10.97 seconds.
“That got me excited” Randolph said. “I had to follow him – he set the tone.”
And as he has done all year, the MIL 100 meter champion led from start to finish.
“There are great competitors here, so it pushed (the race) really well”, said the 6-foot-3 junior sprinter. “It’s good. I have so much support here and also back home on Maui. Just to do this for them and hopefully make them proud is just a blessing, and I hope to have achieved it.
Randolph then anchored the Bears’ 400 relay team, which also included Kelvyn Saito, Landen Ambrocio and Ryan Padron. Randolph moved the Bears from fifth to third down the stretch with a time of 43.55, finishing behind Saint Louis and Punahou.
Despite being the top qualifier in the 200m, Randolph canceled the event due to lingering hip pain after Friday’s practice.
Led by wins from Kahalewai and Randolph, the Bears placed fourth in the boys team standings with 35 points. Punahou won their fourth consecutive tag team title with 73 points. Saint Louis (49) was second and Kapolei (38.5) third.
The Buffanblu walked away with their third straight girls’ title, collecting 105 points. King Kekaulike was the top women’s team in MIL, tied for seventh with 22 points. Na Alii was led by second-place Heather Pease in the discus on Friday and a third-place finish by their 400 relay team of Natalie Wright, Lola Richardson, Satori Israel and Ja’lyn Deichert on Saturday.
Baldwin’s head coach, Derek Dahilig, said after the encounter that he was “nothing but pride” performances he saw from his team on Saturday night.
“We are proud of them. A lot of them come out of all that pent-up energy and we didn’t know how it was going to turn out, especially in the biggest stage of the state competition, so we’re proud. said Dahilig. “Everything we achieved today is because of the athletes who put in the effort. They came to train, they did what we asked them to do and it shows, not just the medal winners, but everyone who competed that we brought, and we saw it in them.
Ezra Laga and Selena Castro also won medals for the Bears, silver in the boys’ discus and bronze in the girls’ 400, respectively. Laga threw a 150-5 and Castro clocked a personal best time of 59.20.
“We basically lost all of our voices to the screaming. Like, I almost went over the fence when Justin won because he wasn’t the favorite to finish, so that was great, especially for our seniors like Ezra and John Bacos, and obviously Justin . said Dahilig. “That they come out the way they did and with that kind of effort is all we can ask for and hope for them.”
* Dakota Grossman is at email@example.com.