It was the perfect ending to a perfect season for two canoe paddlers and childhood friends.
Ka'ulupono Lu'uwai of Seabury Hall and Maleko Lorenzo of Kamehameha Maui have been named Maui Interscholastic League Paddlers of the Year for 2013 by the league's coaches.
"It's overwhelming," Lu'uwai said of her second such award, and her team's victory at the state regatta in February. "My crew and I still think about it."
Maleko Lorenzo and Ka‘ulupono Lu‘uwai were part of unbeaten Maui Interscholastic League crews this season — Lorenzo with the Kamehameha Schools Maui boys, and Lu‘uwai with the Seabury Hall girls, who went on to claim a state title.
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
The senior steerswoman led the girls team to an undefeated MIL season and the first girls state championship from a group outside the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. The Spartans also won the league mixed title.
"After all that time and work, it actually paid off," Lu'uwai said.
Lorenzo, also a senior, helped the Warriors to a perfect season in MIL boys races.
"It's like the icing on the cake," he said of the award.
The rest of the girls first team comprises Seabury's Alexis Smith, Mikeala McDaniel and Kamaile Lee, Kamehameha's Hi'ilei Casco and Mehana Fisher, Molokai's Kel-sie Tanabe and Heather Place, King Kekaulike's Ho'oleia Kaeo and Lanai's Tiana Bala.
Kamehameha had three other boys first-teamers - Bryce Takabayashi, Kauanoe Vanderpoel and Kupa'a Luat-Hueu. Seabury's Adam Ferrier and Mogul Lu'uwai, Maui High's Kory Garanganza and John Paul Corpuz, Maui Prep's Troy Otto and Baldwin's Kellen Bean were also selected.
The two top individual honorees are close friends and calabash cousins. Growing up together in Waiohuli, Lu showed Lorenzo the sport at about 10 years old, he said.
"We were down at the beach and the family was over and she said to come to the Hawaiian Canoe Club," he said. "I showed up and fell in love with the sport."
Lorenzo continued to improve his paddling, but when he reached high school he served primarily as a steersman for the junior varsity team.
Warriors coach Robert Brede, who was named boys coach of the year, said he was going to continue grooming Lorenzo as a steersman for the varsity team, until he "exploded into paddling" his junior year.
Lorenzo said he started taking paddling seriously when he participated in single-person outrigger canoeing.
"It's a harder workout because you're only pulling your weight," he said. "I used it to improve on technique and endurance."
Brede noticed the improvement and quickly made Lorenzo into a paddler.
"He was working out and made paddling his priority his improvement was phenomenal," he said. "As a crew, it doesn't take only one paddler to qualify for states. But with him being a part of it, it helped the crew be very successful."
Lu'uwai helped this year's Seabury team find similar passion and desire.
On the first day of school, she and fellow senior Bela Hamilton "bumped up the intensity," Lu'uwai said, and started training every day.
"All the younger kids saw how committed (Hamilton and I) were and started to join, and I think that brought us to a whole other level," she said.
"Because we were in shape, we didn't have to worry about conditioning. We were able to concentrate on technique and timing, and just getting more comfortable in the boat."
Spartans coach Paul Lu'uwai, who was named girls coach of the year, said Kaulupono improved every year and became a leader on the team.
"She was the captain," he said of his paddler and niece. "She didn't lead with her mouth, but by example I'm really sad to see her graduate, because you don't get those kinds of kids every year."
Steve Colflesh, long-time Seabury Hall athletic director, agreed with coach Lu'uwai, calling her a "very special young lady."
"The combination of her and a coach like Lu'uwai is very difficult to keep and we were very fortunate to have them at one time," he said.
Kaulupono said she would like to paddle or row in college, and is waiting to hear from schools in April.
Lorenzo recently started paddling for Team Primo, a team that he said "all us paddlers, in the MIL and club, dream to paddle for."
*Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.