LIHUE — Jim Rosa, a track coach for St. Catherine’s School, said Sunday during the Mayor’s Track Meet that the island needs more of these physical activities for middle school students.
“This is the healthiest sport there is,” said Rosa, who has been coaching for 34 years. “The students are out in the sun, wind and rain instead of being buried behind their phones. We need to focus more on the middle school students because they can go either way, and it’s so easy to lose them.”
Aaron Uyeda of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said there were nearly 1,000 elementary and middle school students participating over the two days the county hosted the annual track and field event at Vidinha Stadium.
Saturday’s event spanned the elementary grades starting at kindergarten with between 700 and 800 students participating, Uyeda said. The mayor’s meet wrapped up Sunday with close to 200 students from the middle schools.
“Track has been good,” said Theresa Lindsey, a St. Catherine’s athlete waiting on her final event. “I’ve been doing this since kindergarten and even won a few events. But this is my last one because I was accepted at a boarding school for next year.”
Lindsey said she’ll be going to Kamehameha Schools.
“This is my very first track meet and I’m excited,” said Dr. Kani Blackwell, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and founder of the Grow Our Own Teachers program. “My sons were in sports, but never in track and field.”
Kapaa Middle School had 13 students participating in the Sunday event.
“We only had one day of practice before the meet,” said Julie Washington, a Kapaa Middle School teacher who enlisted the aid of her husband Mark with the students. “We don’t have a coach so Mark came and worked with the students for one practice before the meet.”
The practice worked because their daughter Talia won the 50 meter run and placed second in the standing long jump.
“We need not only to have more events, we need volunteer coaches,” Rosa said. “Kapaa Middle School didn’t have a program, and it’s only because the husband of one of the teachers came forward, they have participants today.”
Coaches from the Kilauea Elementary School said they have a large contingent of track students, but since the Irons Brothers surf contest coincided with the track meet, a lot of the students went surfing.
“Coaching is fun,” said Tori Kagawa, the Waimea Canyon Middle School coach, and a former Waimea High School track and field participant. “But it’s a lot harder than it seems because of the time element. We practice during lunch period, and I want the students to have lunch, but still be able to practice.”
She said because of this time conflict, she has about five, or six students who make practice regularly. During the Sunday event, she had more than 20 students participating, including Makoa Vanaman, who was in contention for outstanding athlete.
“He’s never been to practice,” Kagawa said. “But he’s won three firsts of his four events.”
Blackwell and Rosa agreed there needs to be more physical activities for students, especially those in the middle school.
“Middle schools are needy,” Blackwell said. “We need to have these physical activities to keep them healthy.”