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Fifth-Graders at Kona Pacific Charter School Tackle 5K Race in Virtual Run Series

By Tiffany DeMasters
September 23, 2021, 9:30 AM HST
* Updated September 23, 8:39 AM
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Nearly two dozen fifth-graders from a Kealakekua charter school channeled their inner kukini (swift runner) to participate in the schoolʻs first virtual 5K race.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, 21 students from Kona Pacific Public Charter School ran 10 laps around Clarence Lum Won Park off Nape Street as part of Aloha Sports Kona’s Legends of Hawaiʻi Virtual Run Series. All participating keiki finished the race in just under an hour.

Aloha Sports Kona sponsored four running events islandwide, each highlighting a different story in Hawaiian folklore. The final race was in honor of the legend of Makoa, a kukini from Kaʻū, who ran from Kawaihae to Hilo and back in one day to get a fish for King Kamehameha the Great.

“We wanted to do something that brought place-based education to the children,” said David Duke, the schoolʻs movement and games teacher. “Obviously with COVID itʻs been challenging.”

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Duke helped train the kids in the weeks leading up to the race.

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“We try to embody that spirit of Makoa, the kukini, the foot racers,” Duke said after their run. “The kids are awesome. Iʻm super impressed. Theyʻre all smiling and sweating and getting some exercise.”

Ten-year-old Franz Hillert knew Makoa’s story by heart. He was the first student to complete the 5K.

“I really like running and I think running is a good way to keep yourself fit and keep going,” Franz said. “I like to push myself and when you push yourself you get better at running. Itʻs just a fun sport.”

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Participating in the race tied into the students’ Hawaiian studies education they completed in fourth grade.

“Today we all get to practice being swift runners,” said part-time fifth-grade teacher Monica Heiser.

The run, Heiser added, was an example of how to endure and push yourself further.

“It’s always beautiful to see your students do something that they thought they couldnʻt do,” the teacher said. “Just seeing their faces as they finished this was amazing. It also gives us a chance to be off of campus. We feel like we’re a part of something bigger than our ʻohana bubble.”

Coupled with participating in the 5K, Kona Pacific is holding a strength and courage festival this month. Tying into Hawaiian studies of today,  part-time fifth-grade teacher Mariaya Ben-Joseph said the festival talks about the inner feelings a person sometimes has, “that can sometimes take over and feel like they’re insurmountable.”

“During this festival, we really give the children the strength to be able to overcome their fears, overcome their doubts, overcome things they feel like they can’t do that they really can do,” Ben-Joseph said.

Heiser said Wednesday’s run was an example of how students could push themselves and make themselves stronger.

The Kona Pacific students were sponsored by Aloha Sports Kona, Lava Kids and Bike Works to run in the virtual race.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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