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Hill of a race

Ryan Perez had two goals in Saturday’s Haena to Hanalei 8 Mile Run: Finish in the top five and break 50 minutes.

The 2012 Island School graduate achieved both, plus a bonus: He won.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting it,” he said after the race as he relaxed with friends.

Perez broke away from Derrick Ledesma at Lumihi Hill, a little more than four miles into the race.

“We were working together when we came to Luhimi. That’s when I tried to distance myself and take the lead,” he said.

Ledesman tried to hang on, but fell back.

“That’s when he left me,” Ledesman said. “That’s where it all went down, was at that hill.”

Perez maintained his lead to the end, crossing the finish line near the Hanalei Pier in 46 minutes and 40 seconds. Ledesma was second in 47:56, while Nic Clark was third in 48:55.

“It feels good to win,” Perez said of taking first in the 34th Haena to Hanalei.

It was a good day of running in the event put on the Hanalei Canoe Club. A 5K had 94 finishers, the one-mile kids run had 66 finishers and the eight-mile walk attracted 143 finishers. 

Cool, cloudy conditions and a little rain provided a bit of relief for the 371 finishers in the eight miler as they made their way along Kuhio Highway, dodging traffic at times, climbing hills, crossing bridges, all while enjoying some nice ocean views.

Chelsea Smith-Wishard topped the women’s field, finishing in 50:08, while Mary Castelanilli was second in 51:49.

Smith-Wishard, a Kauai High School graduate and today a KHS running coach, called it “probably” her best race of the year. She went out fast, attacked the hills and charged home on the flat final miles. While hoping to win, she wasn’t sure she could and came in a bit nervous.

“I still feel I’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said.

It was her first try at Haena to Hanalei, which she considers one of Kauai’s bigger races, so she was motivated to run hard from the start. She had been warned to watch out for the hills on the course, but dispatched them with a smooth stride.

“I like going up hill better than downhills,” she said.

Basil Scott, who finished seventh in 50:11, tried to catch Smith-Wishard but came up three seconds short.

“It was like a greyhound and a rabbit,” he said, laughing. “I was chasing and chasing her, but could not run her down. She was great.”

Runners and walkers enjoyed the scenic course.

Mike Ong of Eldorado Hills, Calif., finished in 59:49 to break an hour, despite taking a fall where water crossed the road near Haena Beach. He ended up with a bloodied knee and elbow but was still smiling later on.

“I loved the scenery. It was a beautiful run,” he said.

Brooke Hemingway of Kilauea was all smiles, too, as she finished.

“It was a great day,” she said. “The rain felt good about halfway through and gave me the energy to go to the very end.”

Some two-legged runners were joined by four-legged companions.

Lulu Streltzer of Kilauea and Nala, her Hawaiin Poi dog, finished in 1:01:58. She and 15-pound Nala trained together, but this was their first race.

“I think we did OK,” Streltzer said. “We ran the first half pretty slow, we booked the second half.”

The race was without three-time defending champion, Pierce Murphy. The Island School graduate and University of Colorado runner was recovering after competing in regional 10K and 5K for the Buffaloes, but did ride his bike on the course and chatted with runners before and after the race.

“When I saw that Pierce wasn’t racing, I thought it’s up in the air, anyone can win,” said Ledesman, who ran a personal best and was delighted to have beaten Clark.

“Finally, I got him,” he said.

Mark Goodman won the men’s walking division for the eighth straight year, completing the eight miles in 1:34:55

“I didn’t expect it,” the 57-year-old said. “I was just happy to be able to do it.”

Despite not training as hard as he has in years past, Goodman cruised on Saturday.

“Today was easy,” he said.

Kaeo Kruse was the first male finisher in the 5k at 17:15. Janet Snyder was the first female 5k finisher at 22:35.

In the women’s walking division, Los Angeles resident Yvette LaVigne led the women, finishing in 1:37:37 to make it her fourth straight victory here.

“I felt great,” the 74-year-old said. “The miles just went so quickly. I never felt tired.”

LaVigne said she enjoys the race, the camaraderie and the breakfast, too.

“People remember me and I remember them,” she said. “I feel like I’m coming home here.”

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