Lakewood harrier recounts teams trip to Hawaii

Chelsea Sowards runs the homestretch at the Sept. 29 Mt. Baker Invitational. -
Chelsea Sowards runs the homestretch at the Sept. 29 Mt. Baker Invitational.
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by Chelsea Sowards
for The Marysville Globe

From Sept. 20 - 24, I had the privilege to travel to Honolulu, Hawaii to compete in the Iolani Cross Country Invitational.
Our team consisted of seven girls and seven boys to represent Lakewood High School. Our long journey began back in the winter when traveling to Hawaii was only an idea and through the year we slowly watched it became a reality. The team held car washes, a dinner with an auction, and sent out sponsorship letters. Finally, after many months of planning and hard work, we were packed and prepared to race.
On our first day in Hawaii, we visited Pearl Harbor. There, we listened as the events of Dec. 7, 1941 were retold. The stories and number of lives lost that day shocked all of us. We knew about Pearl Harbor, but never understood how much damage was done until we saw the results of it in the harbor.
Particularly emotional was the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. This Remembrance Exhibit sits over the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona and is a resting place for the 1,177 men still trapped in her hull. In the back of the memorial is a shrine that holds all the names of those who died while serving on board. One thing I will never forget from our trip was what I saw when I looked over the railing and into the water. Sixty-six years later, oil continues to bubble up from the remains of the ship.
The night before the race, Iolani High School held a spaghetti feed for all the athletes. As we entered, we were all given shell leis and warmly welcomed. The night turned out to be extravagant with over 20 teams attending and dance performances from seven different groups. Matt Tegenkamp, 4th place finisher in the 5,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships, made a guest appearance and gave an inspirational speech about following your dreams.
On Saturday, we participated in the Iolani Invitational. The conditions of the course were different from what we normally race in. Even being a relatively flat course, we had to overcome strong head wind and hot, humid weather. Despite the conditions, both the boys and girls rose to the challenge and performed well.
Although our main purpose was to race, Sunday became our Hawaiian adventure. We began the day by traveling to Hanauma Bay. This beautiful bay is the home to many species of fish, coral and turtles. One of the highlights for everyone on the team was when we snorkeled in the ocean. The crystal clear water made it possible to see the amazing marine life.
As the day wrapped up, we visited the International Market place, where every souvenir imaginable can be purchased, and shopped in the stores that ran along the sandy beach in Waikiki.
Overall, the Lakewood Cross Country Teams trip to Hawaii was incredible. Walking on the beach, eating ice cream and riding in the car are some of the simplest things, but our team made them memorable because we were all together. This experience not only gave our team a chance to compete, it also brought us closer.
We would especially like to thank all of our parents, coaches and supporters who helped to make our trip possible. Thank you for all your love and support.

Chelsea Sowards is a member of the Lakewood Cross Country team.

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