Punahou Relays

Showcase Hawai‘i’s High-School Athletes

Department: Athletics

By Joey Ramirez

For the past 68 years, Hawai‘i’s finest young athletes have been running in the Punahou Relays – longer than any other track and field event in the state.

Since they were first held in 1946, the event has been one of the cornerstones of Hawai‘i’s high school track and field season, and athletes from across the state competed to leave their mark at the 2014 edition this April.

For event coordinator Doug Kilpatrick ’57, who also serves as a Punahou track and field jump coach, the Punahou Relays are a time to celebrate the sport and break records. No points are recorded and there is no overall champion.

“There’s no loser; there’s no winner. There’s no private school versus public school bias,” Kilpatrick says. “The goal is to take your best athletes and to put them up to running relay teams so they can go after records, which were set by real legends from the past.”

This year’s Relays were special for Punahou’s Sammy Marumoto ’14, who broke the meet record in the girls pole vault at 12 feet 7 inches before winning first place at the state championship meet in May. Her father, Dr. Jay Marumoto ’81, won the Relays’ boys pole vault at 12 feet 6 inches in 1981.

To make the Relays happen, a number of volunteers pitch in to help each year, including alumni, parents and members of the Punahou football, soccer and wrestling teams.

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With determination and speed, Kanani D’Angelo ’15 leaps into the air to clear a hurdle.

“From an organizational point of view, the 2014 Relays were excellent,” Kilpatrick says. “We had many, many people contributing at all levels. You’ve got the administrative side; you’ve got all of the officials; you’ve got the timers; you’ve got the people who run the concession stands. It takes a lot of people to make this thing come off, and this year was one of the best.”

A significant portion of those volunteers are from the Punahou O-Men, a charitable organization composed of dues-paying members devoted to “enhancing the Punahou students’ athletic experience.”

“There’s probably been a member of our family at this school since the beginning of its existence,” O-Men member Pal Eldredge ’64 says. “It’s a way of life for all of us. For no reason except we love the school, we come back and give back to the school that’s given us so much.”

“The goal is to take your best athletes and to put them up to running relay teams so they can go after records, which were set by real legends from the past.”

For Kilpatrick, the Punahou Relays also have a personal connection. In the 1957 Relays, he captured first in the high jump with a then-record 6 feet 3 ¾ inches.

“I have a sense of allegiance and loyalty to the O-Men because they’d been very helpful to me when I was a student,” Kilpatrick says. “That’s why I work so hard for the Punahou Relays: the O-Men gave me an opportunity to express myself.” The Relays are one of the O-Men’s biggest events of the year next to the Punahou Carnival. Proceeds from past Relays have contributed to the many School athletics activities, including assistance with team travel and obtaining equipment for the baseball, soccer, wrestling and paddling programs, among others.

This year’s Relays were truly special as they were held for the first time on Punahou’s newly renovated Alexander Field. The O-Men mobilized to gather more than $200,000 of the $1.5 million to support this capital project, which benefits many of Punahou’s athletic teams and student organizations, including the football and soccer programs, marching band and JROTC.

The refurbished facilities are especially meaningful to O-Men members who ran track during their time at Punahou, such as Steven Sofos ’71, John Kobayashi ’60 and Scott May ’56.

“The track was just dirt with oil on it to make it hard,” Sofos remembers. “If you tripped and fell, you had strawberries all over the whole front of your body.”

As Sofos and Kobayashi reminisced about the old pole vault padding that was made of sawdust, they expressed pride in the improved facilities for Punahou’s current athletes. For Kobayashi, whose father was part of the O-Men, it is rewarding “seeing our athletic program progress.”

May was also a great track athlete during his high-school years and has been a key leader of the O-Men for the past 50 years. His father, Gordon May ’23, was an original founder of both the O-Men and the Punahou Relays.

But as Kilpatrick notes, the Punahou Relays’ deeper value lies in bringing together diverse volunteer efforts for an event that benefits all of Hawai‘i’s track and field athletes – beyond Punahou’s own program. “It’s a success because a lot of people work very hard to do something for the sport of track and for the student-athletes.”

Joey Ramirez is a student at the University of Hawai‘i – Manoa’s School of Commnications, where he is sports editor of the university newspaper, “Ka Leo.”

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