Soldiers, Leilehua ‘Rabbits’ Support Hale Kula’s Invitational

Special to Central Oahu Islander

Hale Kula Elementary School played host to neighboring elementary schools for its 10th annual Cross Country Invitational.

Taking part in the Sept. 25 meet were Leilehua Complex schools Hale Kula, Wheeler, Solomon, Helemano, Wahiawa, Ka’ala and Iliahi. It was the first time all seven elementary schools in the complex competed in the healthy living event.

Comprised of nearly 300 runners in grades 3-5, the meet’s focus is to introduce students to the sport of cross country, enhance physical fitness and develop good sportsmanship. The races were held at Watts Field on Schofield Barracks.

Assisting in the event were 28 Schofield Barracks soldiers, who served as course marshals, pacers and guides, while providing encouragement to the young runners.

In addition to the soldiers, Leilehua High’s varsity cross-country team did its part, speaking to the participants about leadership, humility and service.

Leilehua cross-country coach Arnold Abangan said his team’s involvement in the race reflected lessons the school tries to instill in its students.

“At school, we always preach about living the Leilehua way, which stands for leadership, humility and service,” he explained.

The teenage Mules served as “rabbits” for each race, leading the runners around the course while offering words of encouragement.

“I can tell it’s important to our students,” Abangan added. “They are smiling and they have younger students looking up to them.

His team has been participating in the Hale Kula Invitational for about seven years. “Also, some of the kids might not finish the race without our team encouraging them.”

Every finisher received a ribbon, and medals were handed out to the top three finishers in each race.