LIHUE — For Kalani Vierra, the Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau supervisor, life has been a whirlwind, and it is not over, yet.
“I’m in the water, again Saturday morning for Na Pali Challenge,” Vierra, one of the Kauai Junior Lifeguard coaches and chaperone, said Friday when the group of 22 Junior Lifeguards and five coaches and chaperones returned home from the National Junior Lifeguard competition in Hermosa Beach, California. “Everything is still whirling around. I hope I can get the breakdowns after Na Pali Challenge. There were numerous divisions and awards to break down.”
Vierra had earlier teamed with Krystl Apeles to finish second in a tandem surf competition in Nice, France where the couple went to defend their world title.
“It’s all been a blur,” Vierra said. “As soon as we returned, it was time to take the Junior Lifeguards to the state competition on Maui. Then, it was off to California for the national competition.”
The Kauai contingent finished with numerous awards and medals, but that paled to Kelta O’Rourke being named to the USA team for the International Junior Lifeguard competition that is scheduled for early September in the Netherlands.
“I have all the breakdowns for both the state where we finished second to Oahu, and the awards from the national competition,” Vierra said. “But I have to work on that after Na Pali. Kelta being named to the USA team is fantastic. There’re only 12 kids on the team, and she is one of six girls. She’s going to start working out with Eugene Ancheta right away.”
Dr. Monty Downs of the Kauai Lifeguard Association said he, and the association, are proud of what the young people have accomplished.
“Although our competition team — 30 for states, 20 for nationals — is of course a big part of our Junior Lifeguard program, we are equally proud of the 380 program participants who don’t make it onto the competition team,” Downs said. “They learn not only skills that will help them be safe on our beaches, they also learn about keeping an eye on our beachgoers, and in this way become true Junior Lifeguards and Force Multipliers — speaking with beachgoers and warning them when appropriate, and on occasion, full-on rescuing them.”
Downs said although Kauai finished second in the state, they still won.
“Yes, we got knocked off our 12-in-a-row state champion pedestal,” Downs said. “But there were, and are, still a number of huge positives that we can be proud of — not the least is that our standard-bearing program forced the other counties to dig deep and try and figure out how to beat us. This, in turn, has led to a statewide upgrade in this terrific ‘Force Multiplier’ program — a win-win if there ever was one.”
O’Rourke, an 11th grade student, felt she performed well at Hermosa Beach.
“I think I did really good,” she said. “I finished second in Beach Flags, second in Paddleboard, and third in the Run. I don’t know how I was chosen. I guess they were looking at my performances and spoke with Kalani. I have a lot of training in the next several weeks. I’ll be working with Eugene Ancheta in trying to perfect my techniques.”
Vierra said O’Rourke has already been approved for the trip by the coaches and her parents.
“We had a candidate for the International team during the last appearance at the nationals,” Vierra said. “But things didn’t work out. This time, Kelta’s going. This is better than finishing second.”
Team members to the national competition include Hikari Obermann, La‘i Viernes, Jack Machorek, James Pratt, Jacob Herr, Keanu Brown, Dutch Fairbanks, Kellen O’Rourke, Coleman Langstaff, Henry Scherer, Abishai Christensen, Bing Pellin, Zachary Safford, Juliana Tampus, Malia Splittstoesser, Victoria Hennessy, Kelta O’Rourke, Sadie Stearns, Kaira Ka‘aihue, Honey Chandler, Asha McGinnis.
The team was coached by Vierra, Ancheta, Randall Oriz, David Duncan, and Abi Stearns.