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Samoana Sharks want to carve name on Fautasi Cup

Samoa News Sports coverage of the 2012 Flag Day fautasi race is brought to you by the good people at GHC Reid and the cool refreshing and super cold as the Rockies blue mountain beer, Coors Light. 

There are 11 fautasi in the 2012 Flag Day tu’uga va’a.  They are: Fetu Ole Afiafi (2) from Faga’alu, Matasaua from the District of Manu’a, Nu’uuli from Nu’uuli, the Sharks from Samoana High School, Ise’ula from Fagatogo, Aeto from Pago Pago, Fealofani Samoa lll from Fagasa, Fua’o from Vatia, Paepae O Ulupo’o from Aua, and the Tolotolo O Tama Uli from Salelologa Savai’i.

Faga’alu’s late entry, the Fa’asaulala will race on the April 16 final for fautasi that do not qualify for the championship faigamea ile tai on April 18.

The Shark Fautasi from Samoana High School in Utulei

Despite their excellent performance in last year’s Flag Day tu’uga va’a, where captain Meatua Mageo and his young Samoan High School crew took second place, they are still belittled as ‘kamaiki” by some captains and their auva’a.

“We hear this often during our rowing practices. ‘O ese ma ka’aloga a kagaka makukua. O oukou o kamaiki (Stay out of the adults’ sports. You’re just kids)’. I calm my crew down and remind them of our motto, stay humble and hungry. It was not long ago when the same people were laughing at us. 

“However, we’ve proven ourselves that we can compete with any boat. I hope this week and next the Good Lord will be smiling down on us as we become the first High School to carve our name on the imaginary Cup,” captain Meauta Mageo tells this correspondent.

The 2nd year kapiteni from Pago Pago defied all odds in last year’s faigamea ile tai as the Shark took off from the starting blocks five miles from the tigi and never looked back.

The two high tech boats, Aeto from Pago Pago and the Matasaua from the Manu’a Islands could not even catch the Shark. Mageo and his high school rowers demonstrated that with a fit crew and the right approach, any fautasi can topple the very luxurious high tech long boats from its zenith.

“The high tech boats are expensive and are built for speed. They are very fast. However, a fautasi can’t row itself. The crew is its engine. We’re flattered by our accomplishment last year. Can we do it again? I can only say this: the Samoan High School Shark crew is at this point as prepared as it can be. Everybody is antsy,” kapiteni Mageo testifies.

Mageo has about 30 percent of the old crew from last year in his camp. The rest of his crewmen are new to fautasi tu’uga va’a. “We started our road work in January and rowing practice in early February. There were 80 students that turned up during our first training runs but that number has gone down to 56,” Mageo says.

The youngest rower in the camp is 14 years old, while some senior students are 18. All are competing for a seat on the Shark fautasi.

“We will pick the final crew of 45 rowers on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, I will take the selected crew out for our last rowing practice before we lift our boat off the water to dry and get it ready for the Saturday heat,” Mageo comments.

One advantage of Mageo’s oarsmen is their youthful physique. They can easily be shaped into rowing machines in little time. “They are athletes and that makes the transition from other sports to fautasi rowing much easier,” Mageo says.

Skipper Mageo, who is a member of the Samoana High School faculty, says their goal on Saturday’s race is to make the top six fautasi that will advance to the championship fautasi final on Wednesday April 18 next week.

“We have the youngest, but a very determined crew in this year’s race. We have a strong fautasi and a good lane (#7). We aim to qualify for the main championship race.”

Two weeks ago, the Shark was damaged when Mageo miscalculated the distance between his fautasi and the submerged block of cement that is near the Rainmaker Hotel red buoy. The fautasi bottom brushed the cement, damaging it.

“The damage wasn’t as bad as we thought. We only missed a couple of days of rowing practice while it was fixed,” Mageo remarks.

Boat builder, Leoititi Maselino Ioane repaired it. “I call Maselino the boat doctor. He worked his magic on our fautasi. He has been a tremendous help to us. He always makes time to lend us a hand when we need him. We give him a big fa’amalo. The Samoana High School is Maselino’s heart and soul,” Mageo comments.

Loititi built the Shark fautasi out of the donated kapu ka’ele boat from the village of Nu’uuli five years ago. His oldest daughter, Anastasia Ioane was Samoana High School’s 2010 Valedictorian. She is attending the United States Naval Academy in Indianapolis.

Does the Shark have a committee to oversee its affairs? “You’re looking at it. I’m the El Capitan as well as the Maintenance Man. All village fautasi have several committees to supervise and organize their activities. However, I rely on my family, especially my wife Sharmain, and sisters-in-law to do the cooking and tidy up the place where we sleep, eat and exercise (SH hall in Utulei). It’s a huge undertaking on the part of my family.

“My biggest supporter is my wife, Sharmain. This job takes up a lot of my time away from my family. I am committed to see this through with the young students who are also away from their families many times. It’s tough on our family, but my wife and kids are always there to help and support our High School cause. This is an experience of a lifetime and it’s a blessing having this fellowship with the young students. We’ve sacrificed a lot but it’s a great service to our school.”

Mageo wants to thank the Samoana High School PTA and alumni for their help and support. “PTA secretary Ruta is always a phone call away. When we wanted materials to repair the boat, Ruta immediately went into action and got them for us. We’re very grateful for their assistance.”

Skipper Mageo also gives his fa’afetai to Tala Fisher, a math teacher and the Samoana High School fautasi crew’s insanity instructor. “Tala has been our aerobics insanity instructor and has contributed a lot to the physical condition of the crew. She is also our camera girl who films our rowing practices. We owe a lot to her.”

Mageo likes the idea of having one preliminary heat to pick the top six fautasi that will advance to the championship final next week on Wednesday April 18.

“Which ever way you slice or look at it, it is the only fair way to do it. Every fautasi has a chance to qualify for the top six spots. Our aim is to make the championship final next week,” the Shark kapiteni says.

As for the 2012 Flag Day main final next week, Mageo aspires to be the one that will win and lift the Cup. “No captain goes into the race to take any other position but the #1. Saturday’s heat is just a dress rehearsal for the championship final. Our crew is ready for the competition. With God’s blessing, we hope to be the #1 fautasi this year.”

Mageo wishes all fautasi captains and their crews a happy tu’uga va’a. “My primary concern in this year’s race is the safety of my crew. I wish the same to all fautasi that are taking part in this year’s Flag Day race,” the skipper concludes.