Mid-Pacific puts its track and field success in Destiny's hands

Apr. 16—Some athletes need years to master the hurdles.

Destiny Look just thought it would be fun—and funny—to give it a try.

Some athletes need years to master the hurdles.

Destiny Look just thought it would be fun—and funny—to give it a try.

"I started doing the 300 (300-meter hurdles ) in eighth grade. Me and my friend, Noah (Eldredge ), said we should do hurdles for fun this season, " Look said. "I said, this is kind of fun."

She had no idea in 2022, Mid-Pacific track and field didn't really have anyone in the event. Longtime track and field head coach Rick Hendrix had seen Look place second in the ILH intermediate cross country championships a few months earlier.

"I asked her, are you going to do 800 or sprints for track ? She said, 'I want to do hurdles.' I just lost my hurdles coach. I've never coached it before, " Hendrix said.

He studied up on hurdles.

"I followed a really good program. Taught her the beginnings of it and she's a natural. The first week, she's three-stepping. Sixteen steps between hurdles. After the race she said, 'I was counting my steps. I want to know how many steps I'm taking, '" Hendrix said.

Eventually, Trey Oshiro became Hendrix's hurdles coach. Between Oshiro and Spartans Track Club coaches Mike Harvey and Mike Davis, Look has prospered. Last spring, she finished second in the event. This year, she is the heavy favorite to take the gold in the 300 hurdles at the state championships. She is currently almost three seconds ahead of the second-best time in the 300 hurdles in Hawaii. Nationally, her 43.48 time ranks 45th. All because she thought it would be fun.

"Everything happens for a reason. It's true. I feel like I've learned that. I still live by that, " Look said. "Last year, I was only able to compete in one event at states. I was kind of bummed about that. I lost. I've been training and it was hard to lose, but it was only my first year. That pushed me to work hard and I got a PR in 300 hurdles this season, so I think everything happens for a reason."

She also ran last year's state meet on a torn quadriceps muscle.

"I tried to convince my coach to let me do all my events, " she said.

That's the Look that coaches at Mid-Pacific have learned to embrace. Five sports as a freshman, starter on their state-title volleyball team. She would do more if possible. She started with gymnastics as a 3-year-old. Soccer began at 5 and stopped after she played for MPI's D-II league championship team as a freshman. She also did cross country and basketball for the Owls. Look has learned that even she has limits at some point.

Look's vision is simple and powerful. Don't waste a single iota of energy on the uncontrollables. She funnels her time, thoughts and effort into only what really matters.

Coming into last weekend's track and field meets across the state, Look had already posted the No. 1 times in the 100-meter hurdles (14.9 seconds ) and long jump (18 feet, .5 inches ) in addition to the 300 hurdles. Her high jump during this high school season is 5-2, but last summer, she topped out at 5-6. She has also had the third-best 400 dash time (58.44 ) and eighth-best 100 dash (12.59 ).

Competing in just two or three events at weekly meets, Look hasn't had a lot of opportunities to build up her numbers in some of them. The plan is to pace her work load, then unleash the 6-footer at the ILH championships and state championships, where an individual can do a maximum six events.

Track began when she was 6 and it came to her with great ease.

"I remember going to UH track, where we had most of our meets. I ran for the first time and I won. It was the 100, 200 and 400. I was surprised, " Look recalled.

Look is a rare combination of underdog mentality and killer instinct—a workaholic who has rarely been satisfied with a single performance.

Over the weekend, she posted a 44-second time in a 300 hurdles event at Mililani. Her timing wasn't right, and she took off with the opposite leg on the first hurdle. It was still just a fraction of a second off her PR, but Look was almost beside herself with displeasure.

Perfectionist. It can be a compliment. It can be a curse. This is the conundrum for an athlete who already has All-America status in three events thanks to a superior performance in the offseason on the mainland. The energy level, fiery passion and daily work ethic are crucial to Look's journey, the dream of competing in the heptathlon at the Olympics someday.

All of that, however, has to be contained like a flame.

It was two weeks before the 2023 HHSAA state track and field championships when Look suffered a torn quadriceps at the ILH championships.

"We had to carry her off. That's her weakness. She said, 'Coach, I'm OK.' She's just got to communicate better with us, " Hendrix said.

Look insisted on competing at states. She is still just a tiny bit frustrated that she couldn't talk her coaches into letting her compete in her usual load of events.

During the recent winter season, following a busy'23 calendar year that included five sports, her body gave out. Look suffered a torn PCL and a strained MCL. Her doctor's prognosis : six to nine months of rehab, rest and healing. That was three months ago. Her progress was so swift, her doctor kept making updates.

"The doctor said she's out. OK, that's the season for her, " Hendrix recalled. "She went to PT (physical therapy ) and worked on it. By February, he said, you can run straight (sprints ). A couple of weeks later, you can do curves (300 hurdles ). A couple more weeks later, you can do jumps. She just got cleared two weeks ago to run without restriction."

Look did the improbable. Perhaps, it was impossible, except in the eyes of her family, teammates and coaches.

Look calls mom her "strength coach." Michelle Look played volleyball at Punahou, then Loyola Marymount. She has enjoyed her daughter's feats on the volleyball court but ceded to track long ago as Destiny's most cherished sport. The work in the weight room began long before the injuries, and turned out to be a double blessing since.

"The weight room is like the psych ward, where you go when you're mad or sad. The injuries were unexpected, but that's what the weight room is. Trying to get through any kind of injury is very difficult, but having somewhere to channel your energy is very important, " Michelle Look said.

All of the circumstances—while maintaining a cumulative 3.6 grade-point average—could have overwhelmed most student-athletes. Look just won't give in. There wasn't and still isn't the slightest doubt about overcoming any odds. Her brain isn't wired to even discuss injuries. She mentions the quad injury because of the limitations placed on her at states. She never mentions the knee injury at all. Ever.

"Des won't talk about it because she doesn't want to make an excuse for her performance, " Michelle Look said. "It's been a learning experience. She has more grit and heart. Her brain and mental toughness are incredible."

Look's role model among heptathletes is Anna Hall, who suffered a PCL injury one week after Look's PCL tear.

"She's the No. 1 track heptathlete. That's definitely for me. I did a heptathlon in Oregon last summer at the Junior Olympics. That's seven events. I actually liked it. It's all the events I usually do, " she said.

Michelle Look saw the added fuel her daughter gained by following Hall's comeback. Hall required surgery on her PCL. Look's PCL healed over time.

Look was cleared to compete within a few months after her PCL injury. Gradually, she was given more latitude. Two weeks ago, she got to go-ahead to do all her events.

"It's hard to hold her down, but she shouldn't do four, five events, " he said of the regular season. "The main goal is state, then in the summer, it's nationals."

He sees a similarity between Look and former Kaiser standout Kristen O'Handley.

"(O'Handley ) almost won states by herself for Kaiser. She went on to run the heptathlon—first at Portland State, then she went to Tulane, " Hendrix said.

O'Handley finished seventh in the heptathlon at last year's NCAA Track and Field Championships.

"That's who I compare her to. The difference is (O'Handley ) pole-vaulted and Destiny high-jumps, " he noted.

Time is precious to a scholar-athlete. Look spends her fragments of free time doing what matters most on the track—giving back.

"We never had more than two hurdlers from seventh to 12th grade, " Hendrix said. "This year, eight seventh-graders show up. They want to do hurdles. How come ? They say, 'We saw Destiny doing it on social media and TV, so we want to try it.'"

Look embraced the young, first-time tracksters.

"It's really cute. It's awesome, " Michelle Look said. "She loves to coach. It's an awesome thing, the camaraderie, to see the effect she has on people. You look up to other people, but I don't think she knew people were looking up to her. She loves the kids. Teaching is something she loves."

Look is in the midst of achieving what few other sophomores have in track and field history. Staying healthy is the essential ingredient to her summer plans—another dip into the world of the heptathlon.

"I could see it because she's an athlete who could do all the events. She could even probably do the 1, 500 and 3, 000 if she wanted to. The heptathlon is her goal to continue on in college, " Hendrix said.

"I first recall seeing Destiny during the 2022 track season, which was her eighth-grade year. I remember turning to my assistant coach at the time and told him, she's going to be a problem to us for a long time, " Hanalani coach Jeremy Honold said. "She's top 10 in the state in seven events and she's only a sophomore. She's one of the kindest girls in the sport and will never say it, but I'll say it for her. Track and field is her world for the next three years. No one will stop her."

DESTINY LOOK Mid-Pacific track —Sophomore —track and field, volleyball Q &A—Top 3 movies /shows 1. "Vampire Diaries "

2. "White Chicks "

3. "The Hunger Games "

"I've seen 'Vampire Diaries' three or four times."—Top 3 foods /drinks 1. Acai bowl (Down to Earth )

2. #2 Udon with beef and egg (Udon Yama, Waikiki )

3. Chicken burrito (Bowles Burritos )—Top 3 homemade food 1. Grandma's steak 2. Grandma's garlic chicken 3. Grandma's chicken katsu "I don't usually know what she's cooking until I come home from practice. My grandma (Sarah Look ) loves looking online for new recipes. I think I can make the steak."—Top 3 music artists 1. Drake—"A Little Bit "

2. Kanye West—"Runaway "

3. Maoli—"Mercy "—Favorite athlete : Anna Hall (heptathlete )—Funniest teammate : Trey Bonilla and Kekai Hackworth "They're like one person combined.

Whenever one says a joke, they say the same thing at the same time. Whenever they're not together and one is across the field, one is always waving to the other."—Smartest teammate : Danielle Cunningham "I know her a lot better than some of my other teammates. She has a lot of knowledge of life and school. She was also my volleyball teammate."—GPA : 3.6 "I try and do what I can in school, but if I have all my hard classes in one day, I don't have enough time to do homework in class."—Favorite teacher : Mr. (Ryan ) Darnell "He's my U.S. History teacher this year.

He's just so funny. Me and my friend joke with him a lot."—Favorite class : U.S. History—Favorite motto : Everything happens for a reason.—Hidden talent : Painting acrylic nails "I just do my own. I'm starting to get good at it."—New life skill : Learning to drive—Bucket list : "Travel to Italy, Greece, France, Bora Bora, Japan. I want to compete in the Olympics. Buy a farm probably in Waimanalo area."—Time machine : "I would want to go back to the 1500s during the art renaissance. All when the big painters were still alive and doing art. I'd go to their art studio and watch them paint. I'd also go back to when dinosaurs were around."—Youth sports : "I did gymnastics when I was 3. I did it for four years. I miss it sometimes. My first main sport was soccer. I was about 5. I played until I was 13."—Shout-outs : "Coach Rick Hendrix.

Michael and Joanne Wood. They're the reason why I'm able to go to Mid-Pacific and do any of this. Coach Trey (Oshiro ) and Coach Michael Harve and Coach KJ Davis (Spartans Track Club ).

My strength coach is my mom (Michelle Look )."