Money restored for preps
Advertiser Staff Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle's decision to lift statewide budget restrictions yesterday was a small consolation to public high school cross country teams that were forced to withdraw from preseason races to save transportation costs.
Other fall sports such as bowling, air riflery and soft tennis were also affected by the budget restrictions with tighter scheduling, but none as much as cross country, according to athletic directors.
For example, the Mililani High cross country team missed one preseason race against the Interscholastic League of Honolulu earlier this month to save $150 on roundtrip bus transportation. Kalani High missed two races, including one it would have hosted.
"It was kind of hard when you have less meets to run in because you really don't know how good you are or where you stand skill-wise," said Kalani junior Reid Arakaki. "So it's kind of hard to judge how much harder you have to run."
Following a favorable economic report, Lingle yesterday eased restrictions that threatened to wipe out some public high school sports this season.
Public high school athletic officials earlier said they were poised to eliminate scores of coaching positions, and for the first time in more than 30 years drop several sports — including high-profile ones such as basketball — to meet statewide budget restrictions for the 2003-04 fiscal year.
Lingle's decision yesterday spared high school athletics, but came too late to save some cross country preseason meets.
"Normally we would like to run against the best competition, which is the Interscholastic League of Honolulu," said Mililani cross country co-coach Edwin Alfaro. "But if we can't get to those meets, we're going to have kids sitting around ... and the ILH is going to get better and better."
Arakaki said he was happy to hear that money would be restored for athletics and that other sports would not be jeopardized.
"I think it's pretty good that they don't have to cut any more games so that we can play more games in the different sports," said Arakaki, who also competes in soccer and track. "At least our seasons won't be shortened.
"I've been playing sports basically all my life," Arakaki continued. "It gives me something to do after school, something worthwhile and fun. It also allows me to meet other people that I maybe wouldn't have met normally at my school or other schools as well."
Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya called Lingle's decision to restore the athletic budget "great news."
"I'm sure our student-athletes will be excited to know that high school athletics will likely be spared from any cuts," Amemiya said.
"There was a tremendous amount of concern from the public about possible cuts to our sports, and if any cuts came to fruition such as the dropping of one or more sports, I know the public outcry would have been massive," said Amemiya, who is in Jackson, Wyo., attending a national high school conference along with other Hawai'i officials. "We appreciate the efforts of Gov. Lingle and others to see to it that the funds were restored. We also appreciate the public, who made it clear to our leaders that high school athletics is very important to the state."
The state's public high school athletic program offers 19 sports and has 22,862 participants, according to a 2002-03 school survey.
Lingle said she based her decision to lift the budget restrictions on projections by the Council on Revenues that economic conditions in Hawai'i would improve and be relatively favorable through fiscal years 2003-2005.
"While projected state revenues are expected to increase, they are still just projections, not money in the bank," Lingle said in a release. "Therefore, our administration will continue to exercise fiscal discipline when it comes to spending."
Lingle earlier said she requested that high school athletics be exempt from restrictions, but the Department of Education said it was forced to make restrictions on athletics to save other educational areas.
The DOE had been asked to reduce its budget from $32 million to $20 million.
Before Lingle's decision yesterday, the state released money to departments for only the first quarter of the 2003-04 fiscal year, prompting high school athletic programs to draw up contingency plans to adjust for an 18.5 percent restriction imposed by the DOE.
The first-quarter allocation for athletics was $1.13 million for 44 public high schools statewide.
Dwight Toyama, the O'ahu Interscholastic Association executive secretary who also oversees the state's high school athletic budget, could not be reached yesterday.
Earlier, he said the quarterly allotment of money caused problems for some schools trying to pay for transportation, supplies and equipment. Normally, schools receive the money in one lump sum, Toyama said.
McKinley athletic director Neal Takamori yesterday said the school usually buys equipment at the beginning of the school year, but has delayed payment to vendors until the school gets additional money.
In other contingency plans, Roosevelt athletic director Rodney Iwasaki said athletic directors chose to consolidate schedules to save transportation costs.
"Like bowling, instead of challenging one team at a time, you challenge two," said Iwasaki, who noted that the same applied to fall sports such as air riflery and soft tennis. "They took a good look at every sports schedule."
Reach Brandon Masuoka at firstname.lastname@example.org or 535-2458.
Mililani High School was reprimanded by the Oahu Interscholastic Association for participating in a cross country meet last week, according to Trojans coach Shane Akamine.
The Trojans and all other OIA schools were told by the league that they wouldn't be allowed to take part in any competitions other than the meets listed on the league schedule.
The OIA made that decision along with a decision to cut out two preseason meets as a way to address budget cuts, Pearl City cross country coach Nathan Aragaki said.
But Aragaki added that even though the proposed budget cuts were fully restored by Gov. Linda Lingle, the OIA athletic directors didn't put the two meets back on the schedule.
Nanakuli athletic director Hugh Taufaasau, who is also the OIA's cross country coordinator, stands by the league's decisions.
"Just because the funds have been restored doesn't mean we have them yet," he said. "By the time the money gets to us, the sport would have already started and that's a problem."
The official start of the season is Sept. 27 at the Kaiser Invitational at Central Oahu Regional Park.
Mililani ran in a meet hosted by Maryknoll of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu at Koko Head District Park last weekend. The Trojans didn't use their school name, uniforms or league transportation, but the school name was listed in the girls team results provided by scorekeepers and published by the Star-Bulletin.
The league doesn't want schools going to outside meets even if they provide their own transportation, in order to keep all teams on equal footing, Taufaasau said.
Akamine said Mililani's infraction is on file at the OIA and added that the penalty would be minor.
"We'll decide if we need to pursue the matter further," Taufaasau said.
Aragaki is disappointed that the kids are losing out.
"The OIA is doing a disservice if the athletes can't run," he said. "They don't know how important those meets are to us. Now the ILH is going to be so far ahead of us that they're going to kick our butts at the states."
The OIA has told its cross country teams not to compete in the ILH's Iolani Invitational this Saturday, a meet that a handful of league teams usually run in.
Two traveling matches have also been taken away from OIA bowling teams, according to Taufaasau.
The league avoided cutting contests for revenue sports such as football and volleyball.
Air riflery was affected, however. The league championship was cut from two days to one.