NAPILI - It hasn't taken long for Maui Preparatory Academy student athletes to make an impact on the Valley Isle sports scene over their four years of participation in the Maui Interscholastic League.
The Na Pueo cross country team led the MIL going into the championship meet a few years back, but they were short-circuited by injuries to their top runner and finished second.
Despite similar circumstances, Maui Prep freshman swimmer Danielle Jeffries - who dealt with hip and shoulder problems throughout the season - broke through to new heights by winning the Napili independent school's first state title in any sport at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's championship meet at Kihei Aquatic Center earlier this year.
At the 2011 Maui Interscholastic League Sports Spotlight Program, Maui Preparatory Academy honored Cali Minami for volleyball and swimming. Minami — pictured with MPA Athletic Director Ryan Kirkham — was also honored with a Pueo Award by the school forleadership, sportsmanship and the pursuit of excellence in athletic endeavors.
Jeffries had qualified for seven events at the state meet, but those nagging injuries hampered her effort at the Kihei facility.
Still, the Maui Prep freshmen, under the guidance of coaches Mike Ritter and Heather O'Moore, posted a 57.81 in the 100-meter butterfly event to win her school's first state gold medal.
Jeffries also placed sixth in the 100 breaststroke and was named the MIL Girls Swimmer of the Year.
There have been several other Na Pueo teams and individual athletes joining Jeffries and the cross country team in bringing recognition to Maui Prep sports.
In particular, the canoe paddling and the boys tennis teams have taken the MIL by surprise to rise in the league standings.
"It has been a great year for our paddling program," stated Maui Prep Athletic Director Ryan Kirkham last week.
"We were competitive in every race this season and definitely turned some heads in the MIL. A big mahalo goes out to Lahaina Canoe Club for hosting us year after year, and to coaches Nabil and Michelle Vogele for the terrific job they've done in mentoring our athletes in the sport."
Senior Cali Minami and juniors Kawaiola Wendt and Troy Otto were the standout athletes in the canoes for Na Pueo.
Also making an impact on the MIL was the boys tennis team, as they finished second in the West Division in 2011 and look to improve upon that effort this season.
Under coaches Jean Okada, Kaz Yamanoha and Lee Killet, senior Byron Doan will lead the charge in the Maui Prep climb to a higher finish this year.
"Our gratitude goes out to the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch for their support of our program," added Kirkham.
Keenan Reader coaches the cross country team that has been in the rebuilding mode since their strong charge two years ago.
Junior Xavier Damo continues to excel for Na Pueo, qualifying for states for the second time in his running career.
Damo also leads the charge for the Maui Prep track and field team, running distance events along with teammate Otto, who competes in the high jump. The coaches are John Deal and Dennis Nakamura.
Kirkham also doubles as the Na Pueo volleyball coach and led the team to what he calls " an improvement over last year. We struggled again this season, but still got great efforts from Cali Minami and Gina Marzo, who is just a freshman.
"One thing I'm sorry about is losing the five seniors - Cali (Minami), Amanda Graham, Samantha Castillo, Abigail Sowers and McKenna Powers - who will graduate. We're sorry to see them go."