The baton is passed

LIHU’E — Marlo Louis-Medeiros was in the third grade when she first heard about the Vidinha Stadium track.

Today, Louis-Medeiros is the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, Kawehi Louis-Diamond, an aspiring runner in her own right.

“We were there Saturday,” Louis-Medeiros said. “We just got through with one of Kawehi’s soccer games, and we got to see the whole thing from beyond the fence. It was perfect.”

Before an audience of several hundred people, the rubberized track at Vidinha Stadium was dedicated by a group of dignitaries that included former Waimea High School trackster Travis Fernandez, Waimea High School track coach Dave Walker, Gov. Linda Lingle, Kaua’i Mayor Bryan Baptiste and Mel Nishihara, head of the county’s Parks Division, as well as coaches and athletic directors from the island’s high school track programs.

Jimmy Tokioka, vice chairman of the county council, said Fernandez was the sparkplug that pushed the track forward.

“We had adults in tears,” Tokioka said after learning that Fernandez, suffering from a grave illness, had requested funds from the Make-A-Wish Foundation for rubberizing the track’s high jump area for future track participants.

“Travis is the son of Miriam and Albert Fernandez,” Walker told the audience. “They raised a wonderful son whose selfless act through the Make-A-Wish Foundation helped push the track to where we are today. Everyone should have children like Travis.”

Mel Miyamoto, speaking on behalf of Hawaiian Dredging, the general contractor for the project, said that while other projects have financial penalties for not making the deadline, for the Vidinha Stadium track project there was no need to explain the importance of finishing on time.

The dedication comes in time for the Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation (KIF) track season that will open at 4 p.m. Friday at the new facility.

County engineer Donald Fujimoto pointed out the specifications for the new track, noting that the new track is quick-draining and capable of hosting state meets.

Baptiste acknowledged the many hands involved in Saturday’s dedication, calling Nishihara from the stands to join the dignitaries, as well as Maxine Correa, a former councilwoman whose children were track competitors.

The county worked with KIF to reschedule the use of Vidinha Stadium so work could progress on the track to coincide with the opening of the track season. That meant the entire soccer season was relocated to Hanapepe Stadium.

The AJA baseball season, as well as preliminary workouts for the Kaua’i High School baseball team, took place amid containers and rolls of supplies with a security guard keeping tabs on the stadium activity.

“It’s good,” Waimea High School trackster Kolin Morikawa said following an inaugural relay where Fernandez took the opening leg, passing the baton to Special Olympics Athlete of the Year Amara Coon, whose nervousness at the event was quickly dispelled by the encouragement of Kaua’i coordinator Jocelyn Barriga.

Coon passed the special koa baton to Walker, who passed it to the high school track representatives, Waimea High School’s Kenny Estes doing the anchor leg honors by returning the baton to Baptiste.

The baton was presented to Fernandez for his inspiration in getting the track completed.

Kaua’i High School runner Lauren Riley, a 10th grader, will be enjoying her season on the new facility. She said her “toes felt kinda funny running on something other than gravel. It’s going to take some getting used to, but it’s going to be good.”

Louis-Diamond, who holds the record for the 100-yard dash set in 1986 as a Waimea High School runner, said she’ll be there when the running starts this Friday.

“I wonder if the records will fall this year,” she said with a laugh. “We should have had this when we were in school. It would’ve saved all those fund-raisers just so we could run on tracks at Punahou and Kaiser.”

In the meantime, she has her track shoes ready, and is anxious to try out the new facility — while knowing that her daughter will have an up-to-date surface to run on when she gets to high school.

KIF Track & Field

Sport coordinator: Waimea

Mar. 10 Qualifying Meet 4 p.m.

Mar. 17 County of Kauai 4 p.m.

Mar. 24 Velasco Invitational*

Mar. 25 Mililani (Yamamoto Invit)*

Mar. 31 Mililani Practice Meet*

Mar. 31 Maui Invitational*

Apr. 7 KIF Relays 4 p.m.

Apr. 13 West Kauai Rotary 4 p.m.

Apr. 21 Qualifying Meet 4 p.m.

Apr. 27-28 KIF Trials/Finals 4 p.m.

May 12-13 HHSAA Track & Field Championships

* denotes off-island event

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