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Hawaii track team gets some home cooking

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University of Hawaii track and field athletes will experience something new and different tomorrow. Or maybe it is what the Rainbow Wahine will not have to experience.

For the first time in their careers they will host a collegiate meet. The WAC Outdoor Championships, for women and men, run through Friday at UH’s Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex.

No midnight flight, no baggage claim, no hotel, no navigation. Life is good for the most well-traveled collegiate team on the track planet.

"Hopefully, because we don’t have to deal with all the things that go along with travel, we can focus on preparation," UH coach Carmyn James says. "It’s also final exams, but those who have been there before have done that on the road, so this is a lot less stress. Hopefully they can perform."

For seniors Anika Borden, Careena Onosai, Jessica Forrester and Mariana Monasi, and junior Mallory Ramsey (graduating with a year of eligibility remaining), this could be their last meet.

Hawaii’s best outdoor finish is fifth, the past two years. Winning this year is a long shot, particularly with reigning NCAA high jump champion Amber Kaufman sitting out the season because of injuries suffered in a car accident last October.

But a handful of Wahine have a good shot at NCAA regionals. They are led by high jumpers Samantha Balentine and Sarah Saddleton and triple-jumper Madara Apine, who all rank top 20 nationally.

Throwers TeRina Keenan and Emma MacCorquodale rank top 48 nationally, the cutoff for regionals, and top five in the WAC.

Ashley Aitken is among the top five WAC runners in the 800 and 1,500 meters and Balentine fifth in heptathlon.

That means she starts today and tomorrow with all the other multi-event athletes, and any spectators anxious to get in for free. Field events, and an admission charge, start at 2 p.m. Thursday. Track events are 2 hours later, with most of the finals scheduled Friday night.

James calls the meet a "circus" without a big top. Last time Hawaii hosted, in 2006, it was organized mayhem complete with play-by-play. There will be more mayhem and organization this time, with two announcers and a more sophisticated setting.

Forrester runs her final 10,000 meters Thursday and gets her chemistry degree two days later.

"When I get done," says Forrester, whose 39:00.44 ranks ninth in the WAC, "I want to be able to walk away knowing I’ve done something. I can look back on my last college race and I’m happy with it."

She calls the mauka bleachers the best seat in the quarry because of the proximity to the finish line and long and triple jump pits. High jump is on the right and pole vault, hammer and shot put to the left. Discus and javelin are over the left shoulder.

Forrester recommends "just watching the Hawaii girls" and pushing them to top-eight finishes, which translate into points.

James advises mobility.

"Don’t feel you’re stuck in one place because there is so much going on," the coach says. "You can’t go across the track, but you can go down by the high jumpers or pole vaulters, or across the street to watch the long throws."

Hawaii was projected to score 37 points at the WAC Indoors and finished with 48.5. Its current WAC rankings would be good for 68 points outdoors, which this year could include tradewinds, Manoa mist and rainbows.

The Wahine will take all the help they can get.

NOTES

» UH’s most outstanding athletes for track and field and cross country were Samantha Balentine and Ashley Aitken. Pearl City graduate Anika Borden was track’s top scholar-athlete and most improved. Rachelle Wilson was most inspirational, Kellsey Trimble most sportsmanlike and Joanna Franke-Kuhn freshman of the year. Cross country’s other major awards went to Kamehameha graduate Ashlee Jiminez (most improved and sportsmanlike), Kevyn Murphy (freshman), Aitken (inspirational) and Liisa Cushing (scholar).

» Former Wahine Annett Wichmann Fleming, a seven-time WAC champion, set a personal record at last month’s Mt. SAC Relays Heptathlon, scoring 5,760 points.

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