Mustang Boys Paddling Hard Toward Another League Title

Should the Kalaheo boys canoe paddling team make its now-customary post-season run in coming weeks, it surely will look back on the ultra-competitive practices as a huge factor.

“They definitely train as hard as any team in the state,” said head paddling coach Chelsea Kahalepauole-Bizik. “I’ve never seen anyone train as hard as this group. They’re doing it for each other. They train for each other.”

As in past years, there is much to train for. The Mustangs, lest anyone forget, are the two-time defending OIA champions entering this Saturday’s 2013 OIA overall team championships. On the heels of those finals, Kalaheo also will move on to the state paddling championships.

To date, the Mustangs appear to be poised for another title run, having won all but one race entering last weekend. The lone defeat came two weeks ago in an East meet, but was because of a false start. “It was good for us because now they want it more than ever, having lost a race,” Kahalepauole-Bizik said. “We should be on schedule. The main thing is that they all work hard. Their (boys) coach Alika Guillaume has a good training program for them.”

With the Mustangs looking to finalize their lineup for the OIA and state finals, she said the intensity level at practice has remained relentless. “It is crunch time for a lot of the kids. We have our five spots that look set, so we have only one spot that’s open for four or five kids. Everyone has been pushing themselves, and everyone wants to be a part of the crew.”

As in most years, veterans and talented underclassmen balance out the roster, led by senior Zac Vollert, who was part of both of Kalaheo’s OIA title teams the past two years. “He has some strokes – he can go for miles and miles and he keeps going,” she said.

Junior Vincenvio KahalepauoleBizik, sophomore Talus Carpenter, and seniors Lokahi Barbieto and Michael Mitchell also have had solid seasons in 2013 so far. “(Vincenvio) is a team captain and our motor – he’s the strongest one in the boat, for sure. Talus is strong as well. He just wants to race. He’s very competitive when he gets in the boat.

“Lokahi may be the best steers-man in the state right now,” she added of Barbieto. “Michael is another motor – when you put him in the boat, he makes a big difference.”

The coach also praised senior Marcus Espinoza, junior Boas Diestel, and brothers Cristian and Makena Johnston. “Boas is very strong, and Cristian and Makena push themselves hard. They are amazing football players and real assets to our team. Marcus loves training as well. He’s another who can go on and on.”

The Mustangs boys team last won a state title in 2008 and figures to be in the mix again if they can take care of business at the OIA finals.

“Now, it’s more about fine-tuning,” Kahalepauole-Bizik said.