Records were smashed in dramatic fashion at yesterday’s 55th annual Punahou Invitational cross country meet.
Kamehameha senior Jordan Thibodeau dominated the boys field to break the course record by more than 10 seconds, while the two top finishers in the girls race were separated by a little more than half a second as they both swept away the course mark by more than 15 seconds.
There was also an added twist to the close victory by Gunn (Calif.) High senior Erin Robinson (19:15.21) over Seabury Hall freshman Dakota Grossman (19:15:55). Grossman’s participation in the 3-mile race was threatened when the flight she, a coach and three other runners were on was canceled for mechanical reasons.
Organizers delayed the start by 10 minutes, which allowed Grossman to get to the course before the gun went off. But she had to run without warming up and without being able to check out the course route and its condition, which had gotten sloppy in a couple of places because of overnight rain.
"I got tight at the 2-mile mark," she acknowledged.
But Grossman declined to speculate if she could have been the victor. She instead praised Robinson, adding that the high-level of competition will help prepare her for the state cross country championships Oct. 28.
"The trip over to Hawaii was a big deal, and winning the race was an extra bonus," Robinson said after besting the field of 179 other runners representing about 20 private and public schools on Oahu.
In the boys race, runner-up Ryan Hobson of Mid-Pacific said Thibodeau broke away from the lead pack at around the three-quarter mile mark.
"He’s got heart. He’s got legs," Hobson said of Thibodeau. "I take my hat off for him."
Thibodeau’s record time was 16:18.52, breaking the 16:29 mark set by Bryce Jenkins of Leilehua in 2007. Hobson finished at 16:50.42.
Thibodeau said his strategy was simple: "Just run all out … the entire thing. I also wanted a strong finish.
"I was challenged at the last hill. I was just thinking, ‘I’m almost done.’ I had to keep pushing."
Thibodeau, who averaged 5:26.2 a mile, also led Kamehameha to the boys team title. There were 170 runners in the boys competition.
The Punahou girls won the team title despite not placing any runners in the top five.