The Punahou Track Team Two-Step (1901)

By Catherine Black ’94

In 1901, a student by the name of Lot Kaulukou made the gift of an original composition, “The Punahou Track and Field Two-Step.” A talented singer, Kaulukou was described in a “Hawaiian Annual” review of Bizet’s Carmen at the Hawaiian Opera House as “a young native Hawaiian possessing an excellent baritone, much natural dramatic talent and a pleasing appearance. Under Mrs. Turner’s able coaching, he sang the Toreador’s role in vigorous, pleasing style and has since gone forth for further study, before seeking fame and fortune in the career of a professional opera singer.”

The Mrs. Turner mentioned above was Mrs. Annis Montague-Turner, born Mary Annis Cooke. She was the fourth child of Amos Starr and Juliette Montague Cooke, who were among the eighth company from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to sail from Boston to Hawai‘i in 1837. In addition to running the Chiefs’ Children’s School, founded by Kamehameha III, Amos would eventually co-found Castle & Cooke, which became one of Hawai‘i’s “Big Five” companies and a pillar of the Island economy for more than a century. Annis, who pursued a musical career, was known as “the Hawaiian Nightingale” and would become one of 19th-century Hawai‘i’s most influential musicians, together with Henry Berger, the conductor of the Royal Hawaiian Band.

Her student Kaulukou would have graduated with the Oahu College class of 1904 had he not left the Islands to seek his fortune as an opera singer in Europe under the stage name of Carlos Sebastian. Luckily, he left the School with a memento of his talent through his gift to its inaugural track and field team, of which he was a member.

The Evolution of Track and Field at Punahou

Punahou was competing in interscholastic track and field events as early as 1901, but the School began to host regular meets in 1909, once Alexander Field was completed. For many years Punahou had the only certified regulation track on the Island, which helped to produce the School’s staggering number of ILH and state championships.

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A moment of victory for the O-Men at a Punahou track meet in the early 1900s. Photo: Punahou Archives.

Alexander Field and Atherton Track are a testament to the evolution of track and field sports over decades. “The track itself was a dirt and cinder surface which got an annual coating of used motor oil each February, and the high jump and pole vault landing areas were pits filled with sawdust from City Mill,” remembers Thomas Conger ’57. The addition of an all-weather surface in 1983 was made possible by the Atherton Family Foundation.

Punahou track and field coach Doug Kilpatrick ’57 remembers being swept away by the electrifying atmosphere of track meets on Alexander Field in the ’40s. “When I was a little kid, we’d climb up the basketball backboards and sit on the rings to watch. It was the heyday of sports; you had the old ILH before the OIA split off – it was before television – and athletics were a major source of public entertainment. You can’t imagine the crowds that would show up for a Punahou-Roosevelt meet; it was beyond thrilling.”

The Punahou Relays, founded in 1946, is the sport’s longest-running prep event in Hawai‘i. Each year, the meet brings together the largest group of high-school athletes in the state to break records and showcase the sport. No points are recorded and instead of an overall champion, there are only event winners.

Kilpatrick recalls the memorable Punahou Relays of 1997: “Kaione Crabb ’97 and Mike Souza ’97 of Punahou, and Ed Ta‘amu of ‘Iolani, competed in the boys discus. These three were ranked in the top 25 discus throwers in the entire country; that day, they were pounding out monster throws on a regular basis. The problem was that they were all right-handed and, given the optimal wind conditions, the discuses were landing on the pole vault runway and then skipping full-speed across the track in one or two bounces and smashing into the rock wall. It was scary and very dangerous; no temporary barriers could withstand the onslaught. Needless to say, we had to interrupt the pole vault and the running races continuously so we could get their throws in safely. The next year, the discus event was moved earlier in the day to avoid these problems, but the great throwers had all graduated and unfortunately, we’ve never had this problem again.”

Few people know that the original wooden bleachers on Alexander Field were built by students. In 1923, a tradition known as Campus Day was started, in which the entire student body worked on campus improvements – from digging ditches and painting walls to polishing trophies until they shined. Construction of the bleachers began with the first Campus Day; in his Oral History, Ernest Hara ’28 remembered how Academy boys were required to put in time on Saturday mornings, under the direction of a foreman. A renowned architect, Hara helped to design the extensive overhaul to Alexander Field and Atherton Track in 1983 with Coach Al Rowan and then-Athletic Director Ralph Martinson. This included the construction of new lava rock, concrete and grass stands, which Martinson had seen on a rugby trip to New Zealand. “It turned out to be a lot cooler to sit on than the aluminum bleachers that the committee was thinking of getting,” says Martinson, “not to mention better looking.”

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