Thanks to a gift the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s cross-country program’s fall season is bound to wow. Carole Kai Charities, Inc., organizer of Kaiser Permanente Great Aloha Run (GAR), donated $25,000 to support the student runners and has helped UH Hilo Athletics reinstate the women’s team.
The turnaround comes shortly after Head Coach Jaime Guerpo learned that the cross-country and cheerleading programs were to be suspended for two years due to budget cuts. “We are so thankful to Carole…we may have had to hang up our shoes completely if not for the passion and generosity of one of Hawaii’s biggest health advocates.”
“I was touched by Jaime’s dedication to the program and with that kind of dedication, you know that the program is going to be strong and vibrant,” GAR President Carole Kai-Onouye said.
The Vulcan women will compete in a five-race season consisting of the UH Hilo Invitational, the PacWest Championship and races hosted by Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Chaminade University and Hawaii Pacific University.
UH Hilo Director of Athletics Dexter Irvin credits Coach Guerpo with the team’s reprieve. “He knows the situation the department is in and accepted the challenge to keep the program running despite the loss of operating and scholarship funds, as well as his salary,” said Irvin.
Guerpo enters his 13th season in 2011, coaching an entirely new team made up of six walk-ons – two from the Big Island and one each from Nevada and Nebraska.
UH Hilo launched cross-country in the 1980s. The program was suspended during the 1989 and 1990 seasons under similar fiscal conditions and re-instated in 1991. Since then, the Vulcans claimed three conference championships and were consistent participants of post-season races.
Guerpo was named PacWest Cross-Country Coach of the Year. He also coaches the men’s team.