Chargers Overcome Injuries And Close Calls To Win States

After narrowly missing out on a state championship in 2011, the Pearl City girls judo team couldn’t help but take an “all or nothing” mindset into 2012. Nothing less than a state title would do, after all.

“It seemed that way, with the way they practiced and performed – that was always the main goal,” said head coach Robin Puahala.

The Chargers met their expectations recently when they edged Punahou to win the state judo championships, thus sending their ultra-talented 10-member senior class out the right way.

Among those who completed their eligibility was Sanoe Spencer, who captured her third straight individual state title in the 220-pound weight class.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the senior leadership of Sanoe,” Puahala said. “As I’ve said, she trained every day as if it was a championship match. She’s been with us now since the eighth grade. She had no prior training. She’s come a long way.

“She said that she’d trade in her individual titles to win one for the team,” he added. “She wanted to do it for her teammates, and they wanted to do it for her. She’ll self-sacrifice for the team every day.”

Spencer’s obvious contributions aside, it was team depth that pushed the Chargers across the finish line at the state finals.

Indeed, Spencer’s opponent in the finals of her weight class was teammate Dora Matsushima, showing the strength of the Chargers. It was the first time in the girls division that two teammates squared off for the title.

The senior class also includes Toni Uyehara, Taylor Vidad, Taylor Hayamoto, Brittne Fuimaono, Mylinda Jefferson, Serinah Gomez, Devra Lefotu and Sharen Garperio.

In all, 16 qualified for the state tournament – eight seniors and eight underclassmen.

Eight finished in the top five in their respective weight classes: Kacie Awa (5th/172-pound weight class), Ariana Fernandez (3rd/154), Trudi Eltagonde (4th/139), Sharese Ader (3rd/122), Taylor Castro (3rd/98), Breanne Takaesu (4th/103), Jefferson (4th/154) and Vidad (3rd/98).

Castro, along with Spencer, has been a captain since her sophomore year and will assume the duties of team leader, exclusively, next season, according to Puahala.

“Leadership of the team will be passed to her,” he said.

Before the girls could complete their state tournament run, however, they had to get healthy first.

“We were plagued by the injury bug all year,” said Puahala, whose coaching staff also includes Evan Yoshimura, Andy Toyama, Kekoa Ramelb, Dereck Ishikawa and Steven Nohara.

“Finally, we got everyone healthy. We peaked at the right time – at the OIA (team finals) – exactly when you want to. And when we got to the top (of their potential), we had to just maintain it for another week.

“It was a good year.” Email Jack Danilewicz at