The Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association High School Paddling league ended their season with a series of 3,200-meter distance and 1,000-meter sprint events Saturday at Matapang Beach Park. The final race concluded with the official award ceremony for the season champions of the Sotteru (male), Sottera (female), and Sottero (mixed) divisions.

The Okkodo High School’s Bulldogs secured the Sotteru championship title while the John F. Kennedy High School Islanders defended their Sottera and Sottero titles for the third year in a row.

3,200-meter distance 

In the 3,200-meter distance event, the Bulldogs secured first-place awards in the Sotteru division. The first-place awards for the Sottera and Sottero divisions were secured by the Islanders. 

In the Sotteru division, the top-scoring Okkodo Bulldogs were off to a great push off, leading the pack with the Islanders hot on their tail. After the Bulldogs pulled a near perfect turn at the halfway buoy, the top spot seemed to be within reach. 

Just behind them, the Islanders were battling the Father Duenas Memorial School Friars. Despite their staggered start, the Friars caught up to the Islanders, putting them neck and neck. With great pulls forward, they clocked a time of 16 minutes, 24 seconds – a full 17 seconds faster than the Bulldogs. The Friars, fast in the water, grabbed the first-place medals for the Sotteru division.

The Sottera division had their top-ranked team, the JFK Islanders, continuing the strong performance they’ve executed the entire season. Fired up under the sun and from the very beginning, they left the other teams in their wake. With perfect turns from their junior steersman, Shayla Paulino, the Islanders left no room for other teams to catch up. 

Although the Notre Dame High School Royals swiftly fought against the currents, the battle proved too difficult when the Islanders bested their time by a whopping 39 seconds. The results were clear: the Islanders deserved the Sottera division’s first-place medals. 

Eager to ride the winds of their Sottera victory, JFK’s Sottero team had a great start to their race. However, the other teams wouldn’t be shaken off so easily, and the boats pushed off to chase JFK. To the lay spectator, the outcome would be a mystery with the seemingly synchronous speeds of the boats. 

Though the distance didn’t seem to change between the boats, the Islanders secured the first place position with a nine-second lead on the Bulldogs. 

1,000-meter preliminaries 

In the first Sotteru heat, the Bulldogs battled fiercely against the Simon Sanchez High School Sharks. Both teams stayed within inches of one another. With seemingly matching turns, it came down to the last stretch to the finish line. By just the tip of their boat, the Bulldogs were pulled past the finish line, a mere 0.75 seconds faster than the Sharks. 

The second heat was dominated by the Islanders who seemed to have hit their groove with their turns. Despite leaving the other teams behind, they were seven seconds behind Sanchez in overall time. With both JFK and Okkodo placing first in their individual heats, they moved straight into finals. 

The Sottera division brought up interesting results when the Royals defeated the top-ranked Islanders. As if they were gliding with the current, ND glided past JFK by 10 seconds. 

Despite the results, the Islanders out-paddled the rest of the teams, securing their spot in the finals along with the Royals. 

Snatching up another spot, Okkodo’s Sottero team stole a one-way ticket to the finals from JFK, the division’s top-ranked team. Being bested by six seconds and the Bulldogs’ quick sprints, the Islanders were forced to face the repechage, or losers bracket, to enter the finals. 

In the second heat, Guam High School Panthers got the drop on the Sharks when they pulled ahead of the team, just centimeters from the finish line. With a time less than a second faster than Sanchez, Guam High secured their spot in the finals. 

1,000-meter finals

In the 1,000-meter finals, each division was shaved down to the top five teams from the preliminary rounds. 

In the Sotteru division, the Bulldogs started with the lead with the Friars closing fast. The Bulldogs, unshaken, pulled through the water and focused on nothing but the path ahead of them. 

On the other side of the race, the Islanders, after a slower-than-usual start, struggled to pick themselves back up. Their fatal first turn gave the Sharks the way to a comfortable third-place position for the rest of the race, and it left them to play catch-up with the Royals in the back. 

Holding their lead for the entire race, the Bulldogs delivered a flawless, first-place finish, beating the Friars by just 0.75 seconds. 

The Sottera division was just as exciting as the Sotteru when it seemed to be an all-out race between the Islanders and the Royals. Both exchanging lead positions throughout the laps, it was hard to tell who would pull ahead.

With JFK tight on their last turn, they gained the lead and beat the Royals with a two-second lead, bringing their event record to 2-0 with another first-place position. 

Despite five teams out on the waters, Okkodo’s junior steersman, Blaze Lawcock, made the Bulldogs’ boat a sight to see with his perfect turns and well-heard communications. Despite being in every race that Okkodo’s Sotteru and Sottero division participated in, Lawcock’s talent proved too essential for the steersman to be given a break. 

“The season was a pretty hard fight overall, but I continued to show up to every race and every practice ready to work and put in my all,” Lawcock said. 

With Lawcock’s unfettered determination, the Bulldogs pulled in for another first-place finish, giving the chasing teams no chance. 

Championship titles

After the medals were awarded, race director Nicole Murphy awarded the championship trophies for the Sottera and Sottero divisions to the Islanders and their head coach Berncie Lizama. Despite being in her first year as the head coach, Lizama, with the help of her team, remained motivated. 

“They have taught me just as much this season as I have taught them,” Lizama said. “While I taught them to be better paddlers, they taught me how to be a better coach.”  

The championship trophy for the Sotteru division was awarded to the Bulldogs. Their head coach, Mel Treltas, was overjoyed by the accomplishments her young team achieved. 

“Working with a team of 40 paddlers was a challenge, but I was blessed to be given the chance to work with 40 good paddlers whose commitment and consistency really paid up,” said Treltas. 

Treltas extended gratitude to her two assistant coaches, Kyle Palomo and Dave Palomo. She believes that their support and effort helped realize the team’s goals and she hopes to continue to work with them to build their growing team. 

“With all the great talent here, paddling is sure to grow even more, especially with the national team looking to recruit,” Murphy said.