LAHAINA - Lahaina Swim Club took one of the smallest teams to the Hawaii Age Group Swimming State Long Course Championships but returned with one of the biggest finishes.
With but nine competitors on the LSC roster for the annual summer event this year held at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in West Oahu, the West Side team earned 200 points to challenge such state powerhouses as Punahou Aquatics and Hawaii Swim Club and finish in tenth place overall.
In years gone by, LSC had dominated the small club division at the state competitions, but those categories have been eliminated. Nevertheless, the Maui West Siders have still managed to thrive and compete among the behemoths of the HAGS clubs.
At last month's event, the LSC team included Isabela Omura (age ten), Sydney Wagner (12), Destin Altman (14), Paris Sargent (14), Sabrina Altman (16), Jared Gaastra (13), Renny Richmond (17), Josh Gaastra (17) and Alex Armstrong (18).
An outstanding performance was turned in by Richmond, who had just returned from the Olympic Trials on the Mainland, where he was the top Hawaii finisher there. At the HAGS Long Course Championships, Richmond won all seven events he entered, setting state records in the 100-meter freestyle and the 100 butterfly races.
Also shining for LSC were Sargent with gold medals in the 400 individual medley, 200 IM and 200 backstroke events, and Wagner with first place finishes in the 500 back, 200 free, 100 free and 200 IM.
"These kids have set really high goals due to the success that Renny (Richmond) has had," said Jack Pope, the interim LSC coach and former Lahainaluna High School and state record-setter. Pope, a Maui Interscholastic League Athlete of the Year, won a four-year athletic scholarship in 2008 to the University of Pacific, recently graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English.
"The goal-oriented coaching technique of Coach Tom (Popdan, who is on his annual summer sabbatical as a lifeguard at Cape May, New Jersey) will always bring high levels of success. He has always done this as he has coached at the highest levels, and this brings a very bright future on the horizon for the kids here on both the club and high school teams," Pope added.
"I've really enjoyed coming back here each summer and helping coach the kids with Coach Tom and with Coach Ericka Gaastra. It's a great environment for the kids, and the parents' support group of Candace Faust, Priscilla Sargent, Paula Pope, Fred Gaastra, Uli Omura and Iigi Omura deserves much credit for the success Lahaina Swim Club has had and will continue to have."