In the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” the main character, Eric Liddell, asks a group of men gathered after a community race, “Where does the power come from to see the race to its end—his answer, ‘from within.’”
If you are up and out of bed at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and happen to drop by the Kīhei Charter School, “you will see Maui students and community members answering the question that Liddell asks,” according to organizers.
Cassie Kepler leads the program along with a team of dedicated colleagues. She has been coaching the runners of the Kīhei Tiger Sharks for nine years. The summer program is for runners ages 12-18, with no requirement to attend, except the love of running.
The formal Tiger Sharks team has a record to be proud of with the girls’ team winning the overall 2022 MIL Cross Country Championship, and the boys team placing third overall.
Kepler stresses that the race is not about winning. “The race is about the journey, not about the destination,” she tells her students. “It’s how you grow along the way. Go for your goal, even if you fail. It’s OK to be vulnerable.”
Junior, Layla James, 15, loves to surf, and has plans of potentially going to California for college. She said she always expects to have running in her life. James joined the team with her sister, and runs in the 1500-meter race and the long distance 5K. She incorporates the team’s mission statement in her running philosophy: “Respect for all, pursuit of excellence.”
Aidan Javier, 18, started at the Kīhei Charter School in his freshman year. He runs in the 400-meter race and sees running as “making me a better person, the best version of myself.” He hopes to go to art school and study architecture and music. When he speaks of running, he says it teaches him sportsmanship and to enjoy the pursuit of excellence to “become the best version of himself.”
Byron Ellis is 17 and has been running his whole life. To him it is important for developing friendships and building a sense of community. His answer to Liddell’s question is: “To see people and do something better.”
Fifteen-year-old Maddox DelleFave who is going into his junior year at the school said he runs because “it levels me out.” For DelleFave, it helps build ownership and accountability, values he believes it would be good to have more of in the world. He said he runs “because of the people.”
“Eric Liddell would have been proud of the runners of the Kīhei Tiger Sharks. They have found the answer within and that is what makes them champions and the future leaders we will need even more in the days ahead,” organizers said.