‘AUS’-SOME: Hunter, Nanaeto excel Down Under Seniors hoop, run against international competition

Ignacio High School’s Jonas Nanaeto leads the pack over an obstacle during steeplechase action at the 2019 Down Under Games in Queensland State, Australia. Making his first-ever attempt at running the unique distance race, Nanaeto captured first place.
Ignacio's Ocean Hunter (40) and his teammates receive instructions in a huddle during the 2019 Down Under Games' Hoops Classic in Queensland State, Australia. Hunter and the all-U.S. 'Hawks' would place second after two long days of competition.
Ignacio's Ocean Hunter (40) and his teammates go through a handshake line after a game at the 2019 Down Under Games' Hoops Classic in Queensland State, Australia. Hunter and the all-U.S. 'Hawks' placed second after two long days of competition.
courtesy Down Under Sports
courtesy Down Under Sports
courtesy Down Under Sports

Admittedly fatigued from what was essentially a 48-hour endurance test of game after game, with minimal rest in between and just one night’s sleep to recuperate, Ocean Hunter recalled that recent on-court efforts at Down Under Sports’ 23rd Hoops Classic came down to teammates relying upon each other to survive.

“I was kind of, like, tired from the other games and so were my other teammates,” he said. “We were all exhausted.”

“The first day we played, like, five games, and the second day…eight or nine,” noted the Ignacio High senior post presence. “It was a bit of a grind, yeah, and some teammates stepped up when others were down and that allowed us to keep going throughout the tournament.”

The 2019 edition of the Down Under Games’ Classic was scheduled to begin with travel to Queensland State, Australia, on July 14, and conclude with players departing for home on the 23rd. Practice days were to be held on the 17th and 18th, with the two-day international tournament commencing on the 20th, shortly after the opening ceremony.

“Some…were definitely on higher levels but, overall, they were pretty much shooters,” said Hunter, assessing his own nine-member, all-U.S. squad dubbed the Hawks. “But all had different play styles. We actually bonded quite quickly, within…I’d say, a day. We bonded pretty well.”

Well enough to ultimately depart Carrara Indoor Sports Stadium and the city of Gold Coast with silver medals in hand and an experience, Hunter—who couldn’t quite recall the championship game’s final margin, leaving the Hawks ranking second out of a reported 20—stated that it would only help himself perform when the Bobcats’ 2019-20 CHSAA season begins.

“Yeah, it’ll definitely help me for this upcoming season,” he said. “The exposure that I got definitely improved me.”

“You get to meet new people, play against new competition. And you get to be on the Gold Coast, which is pretty fun,” he continued, speaking on the Classic as a week-long whole. “I had a lot of fun, and…it’s definitely worth it.”

Also priming himself for his senior year, Jonas Nanaeto’s experience at the DUG couldn’t have been much better.

“It was good overall,” he said after re-acclimating to life this side of the International Date Line. “Something new, especially to be out on my own.”

Competing in the U-20 age group in the Games’ ‘Track & Field 1’ session (July 6-15), the IHS standout torched the Griffith University Sports Centre track with a fifth-place result in the 800-meter run, plus a third in the 1,500. Being as though he’d qualified for the CHSAA Class 3A State Cross-Country Championships (representing Bayfield) last fall, and later the 2A State Track & Field Championships barely two months ago, such results came as little surprise.

“I was a little happy,” he said. “I thought I could have done a little better in the 8, but….”

But his best effort at the site in the Gold Coast suburb of Southport, however, was definitely surprising; the event in which he recorded it doesn’t exist—yet—in Colorado high-school competition, and even offered Nanaeto something of an opportunity to show his cross-country skills.

“A little bit,” he laughed.

Helping commemorate well the 30-year anniversary of Down Under Sports’ 1989 founding (T&F was added in 2000), Nanaeto earned first place in the steeplechase—which he wasn’t slated to run; the 3,200m or a 4×400 relay leg were more likely.

“It was something new…about 2,000 (meters),” he recalled, of the event featuring hurdles and a water hazard. “I kind of switched from the two-mile to do that one, but even though it was my first time it was actually pretty fun!”

Requests made to Down Under Sports for exact times/results—for both Nanaeto and Hunter—had still not been answered as of press time.

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