LAHAINA - It should be a sweet Valentine's Day weekend for the Lahainaluna High School swim teams coming up this Feb. 14-15, as the young Luna girls and boys compete in the 2014 Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Swimming and Diving Championships in Hilo on the Big Island.
Paced by a fleet of underclassmen on both the girls' and boys' rosters, veteran coach Tom Popdan - assisted this year by Jennifer Wiseman and Bradley Mason - sees the high level of state competition as a most valuable learning experience for his youthful charges.
"These are very young teams (the Lady Luna 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams that won gold medals at the Maui Interscholastic League Championships two weeks ago are made up of freshmen and sophomores) that are just now finding out how good they are. They will develop even more with the experience of competing in the state meet. They surprised themselves with the relay wins at the MIL championships," said Coach Popdan from the pool deck at the Lahaina Aquatic Center last week.
The Lunas will compete at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Swimming and Diving Championships in Hilo this weekend.
The young Luna girls are led by freshman sensation Sydney Wagner, who anchored both gold medal-winning relay lineups, stood at the top of the podium with a first place finish in the 100 free, then finished the day with a silver medal as the runner-up in the 200 free event.
Wagner was joined by freshmen teammates Julia Bianco and Alicia Wintermeyer, and sophomores Paris Sargent, Ava McCrea and Geneva Leon on those winning relay teams. Sargent (200 individual medley, 500 free) and Wintermeyer (100 backstroke, 100 butterfly) won medals, while Bianco, Leon, McCrea and Haleigh Berko all placed within the top eight in their events to earn valuable points for Lahainaluna.
Senior team captain Amanda Mayers was handicapped by illness at the end of the season and was not able to compete in the MIL event. The remainder of the deep Lady Luna roster was made up of Katya Brodie, Jesse Emmerich, Miranda Green, Zoe Hirschson, Addison Johnson, Jenna Kekumu, Haley Pante and Kaile Stockham.
As a team, the Luna girls finished in third place behind MIL champ Baldwin and only one point away from second place Seabury Hall.
Meanwhile, the Lahainaluna boys, although not as deep as the girls' roster, also made an impressive effort at the league championships, finishing in fourth place behind Baldwin, Maui Prep and Kamehameha Maui.
The Luna boys were led by Rhett Wiseman and Jared Gaastra, who won gold medals in the 100 free and 500 free events, respectively, and both swam legs on the third place 200 free relay team.
Also placing at the MIL event were Nalu Laurel and Kainoa Altier. Lucas Bell, Joseph Chism and Kainoa Reponte filled out the Lahainaluna roster this season.
"This year, the team has benefited from a dry land training program led by Scott Fleck, and these workouts were a big help for the kids and a lot of fun at the same time," said Popdan.
"We've also gained success through our youth program, as almost all of the Lahainaluna team has come up through the Lahaina Swim Club - many of them since they were six years old."
The LSC made an impressive showing at December's Hawaii State Short Course Championships held at Kona. Competing against the behemoths at this level - including Punahou Aquatics and Hawaii Swim Club - the Lahaina club finished in seventh place overall and crowned two youth overall winners.