Lahaina Swim Club star Jack Pope returns to coach kids
LAHAINA — Today, he has the strapping, athletic physique of a high level collegiate swimmer and, when need be, he possesses the fierce inner fire of a true competitor. But deep down, Jack Pope is still the easy going Lahaina boy that we have known throughout his years growing up here on the West Side.
The younger of Paula and John Pope’s two children — sister Laura is now at the University of San Diego and an outstanding swimmer in her own right — young Jack found his swimming niche at the age of six with the arrival of Lahaina Swim Club coach Tom Popdan.
Under Popdan’s tutelage, the gangly youth meandered from the Little League Baseball field to the pool at Lahaina Aquatic Center across the street to become the Aquaman of age group and high school swimming across the State of Hawaii.
Jack, now 19 and a scholarship sophomore at the University of Pacific at Stockton, California, has dominated the 200-meter and 500 freestyle events of the Hawaii Age Group Swimming Championships over the last six years and was twice named the event’s Outstanding Competitor.
During his high school years at Lahainaluna, the reign continued as Pope garnered dual state championships in the 200- and 500-meter freestyle events during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Graduating from Lahainaluna with a 3.5 grade point average and twice named the Lunas’ Outstanding Male Athlete, Pope was then honored as one of the recipients of the inaugural Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation Ambassador of Aloha Scholarship awards. As a result, he will receive $10,000 per school year for five years.
“We’re doing all right as a team at Pacific in the Big West Conference and I am adjusting to the coach there,” said Jack last week. “We have 21 new freshmen coming in to the team, so it will be a challenge to get things organized. I’m just trying to focus on the upcoming season that begins in early October and runs through February.”
Jack doesn’t hesitate to praise his mom and dad, as well as Coach Tom, for his success.
“My parents have always been there to support my sister and me,” he explained. “They’re always there to keep Lahaina Swim Club going and working as timers at the meets, and organizing the club going to the state events.”
“Coach Tom is just a great mentor,” Jack continued. “He is focused with long-term goals set and knows how to take you to the top levels in swimming. He has a plethora of knowledge in all levels of swimming that not too many coaches possess. I know I would not have been able to attain the success I have if not for his influence on me.”
And young Jack knows how to pay it forward and give back to the sport that has given so much in his life.
This summer, he took over for Popdan — who leaves each summer to work his lifeguard chair at his hometown New Jersey beach — in the coach’s chair at pool side for Lahaina Swim Club.
Pope led LSC through the Age Group Long Course season and into the state competition held at Kihei Aquatic Center July 16-19.
“This was one of the hardest experiences I’ve had in swimming, but very rewarding to be in this position. The kids told me I was tougher on them than Coach Tom is, but I told them that’s how you learn to swim faster,” Jack said.
At the state competition, LSC finished in seventh place overall as a team. Coach Jack and club President Paula Pope noted the outstanding performances of the following Lahaina Swim Club athletes: Koral Gill, Kaili Faust, Sydney Wagner, Nalu Laurel, Jesselee Chapman, Paris Sargent, Mikiala Holley, Teak McAfee, Julia Bianco, Renny Richmond, Jared Gaastra, Joshua Gaastra, Rhett Wiseman and Kawika Kinimaka.