Kaua‘i Well-represented At States

A week before the longdistance Na Pali Challenge hit the water Aug. 13, it was preceded by the 2011 Hawaii Canoe Racing Association

State Championships Aug. 6 at Lahaina, Maui.

Three Kaua’i clubs sent crews over to the 60th annual sprint racing title event.

Hanalei Canoe Club had a great showing, entering eight teams and returning home hauling four medals.

The island’s lone gold medal was won by Hanalei’s Girls 18 & Under crew of Elle Blair, Celeste Makarewicz, Marj Milbrand, Amber Vernola, Ginger Zietz and Sarah Zietz. Their time of 4 minutes, 32.73 seconds on the half-mile course was good enough to top the 14team field.

“It was a big surprise,” says Sarah Zietz, 18, of the team’s first-place finish. “We weren’t expecting it at all.”

They reached the finish line just before Hawaiian Canoe Club (4:34.35), and Zietz says she got a good view of their competitors.

“It was really gnarly,” she says. “It was really close. We were in lane two and the girls in lane one and lane three were right behind us. But once we came out of the turn and nobody else was out of the turn yet, I kind of peeked; you’re not supposed to, but I did. We then just hammered it all the way.” Niumalu Canoe Club picked up a bronze medal with its Girls 12 & Under team, the best result from its eight-team contingent. Kawaikini Canoe Club also had one crew compete in the Mixed Novice “B” division.

Hanalei’s additional hardware included a silver medal in Mixed Open and bronzes in both Girls 16 & Under and Men Golden Masters (55).

Zietz says she and teammate/sister Ginger, 16, have each been paddling about four years and go to states each season. They made a weekend of it this time around, getting to Maui Friday morning and seeing the Ulalena show, then staying on the Valley Isle until Sunday night before heading home.

The weather cooperated, though it was dicey on Friday as teams arrived to get their tents set up and ready to go.

“It was super windy,”

Zietz says. “So we were just hoping the wind died off.” It did Saturday, allowing good conditions for racers to attack the short courses.

Not immune to the current economy, funding proved to be an issue this year. Some of the older Hanalei paddlers who qualified opted not to make the trip, as they would have had to pay their own way to and from the event. But it was still a boisterous group on hand to cheer for their Kaua’i teammates along the crowded Hanakaoo Beach Park shoreline.