Putting on the masks

KAPAA — Kehela Ventura and Cienna Caires, both 10th grade students and soccer players at Kauai High School, said they get funny looks and second-takes, sometimes.

“But, we just look at each other and keep running,” Ventura said.

Ventura and Caires were invited to play on the Hawaii RUSH 01 girls team that has qualified to compete in the US Club National Cup XV finals in Aurora, Colorado, July 22-25.

“They have been training four days a week on the soccer field, and they’re also working out on their own,” said Kevin Devitt, coach of the Kauai RUSH team in the Kauai Soccer Association. “Since they will be playing at high altitude, both girls have been using a training mask that simulates the thin air at high altitudes.”

He explained that the masks can be dialed in to various altitudes and cuts the flow of oxygen, accordingly.

“We’re going to be playing at 6,000 feet,” Caires said. “But for training, we’re dialed in at 9,000 feet. All of the girls on the team have the masks and have the same dial-ins. It’s just that we are the only two from Kauai, and when we use the masks while running 1.5 miles, we do get some strange looks.”

Devitt said during practices, he has the girls don the masks for at least 15 minutes on each session.

“It’s not easy,” Devitt said. “I once ran a clinic at the Koke‘e meadows, and at 4,000 feet above sea level, it was hard. During practice, I try and run exercises where the girls do strenuous drills like small side so they get accustomed to the lack of oxygen.”

Once the masks come off, both girls agreed that practice, and running becomes much easier.

Ventura led the Kauai JV team in scoring during its 2016 season.

“I’m excited for the opportunity and to be able to play with the Oahu team for the national championships,” she said. “This opportunity allows me to play with other players and learn different skills.”

Both young ladies have a desire to play beyond high school and are keeping their academics in order, Devitt said.

“The exposure to the high level of competition they will be facing will be a good test of the playing ability of both girls in their age group from around the United States,” the coach said. “During the high school season, both girls were impact players for the Red Raiders on both the JV and Varsity levels.”

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