The program was slated for a two-year suspension, along with men’s cross country and cheerleading, due to budget reductions.
Instead, the Vulcan women will compete in a five-race season consisting of the UHH Invitational, the PacWest Championship and races hosted by Brigham Young University–Hawaiʻi, Chaminade University and Hawaiʻi Pacific University.
“We may have had to hang up our shoes completely if not for the passion and generosity of one of Hawaiʻi’s biggest health advocates,” says Head Coach Jaime Guerpo. The charity donated $25,000 to support the student runners.
UH Hilo Athletics Director Dexter Irvin credits Guerpo for accepting the challenge to keep the program running despite the loss of operating and scholarship funds as well as his salary.
“I was touched by Jaime’s dedication to the program. With that kind of dedication, you know that the program is going to be strong and vibrant,” says Great Aloha Run President Carole Kai-Onouye.
Guerpo enters his 13th season in 2011, coaching an entirely new team made up of walk-ons, including two from the Big Island and one each from Nevada and Nebraska.
Hilo launched cross country in the 1980s. The program was suspended during the 1989 and 1990 seasons under similar fiscal conditions and reinstated in 1991.
Since then, the Vulcans have consistently competed in post-season races, claiming three conference championships, and Guerpo was named 2007 PacWest Cross Country Coach of the Year. He also coaches the men’s team.