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Get in shape with Valley Isle Masters Swimmers

By Staff | Nov 18, 2010

Coach Mike “Tex” Ritter works with Valley Isle Masters Swimming members at Lahaina Aquatic Center. Photo by Walter Chihara.

LAHAINA — Working on and earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Visual Arts from SUNY New Paltz in New York, Mike Ritter gained an acute vision for his future.

As a member of the school’s NCAA swim team for those four years, that vision included a focus on the virtues of aquatic athletics.

After his college graduation in 1985, Ritter spent some 20 years on the beach at Long Island as a lifeguard. He stayed involved in swimming throughout those years, and at a national swim meet in 2002, he met Janet Renner, the leader of Valley Isle Masters Swimmers here on Maui.

“Janet said that there was a need for a masters swim coach on Maui,” explained Ritter from the pool deck at the Lahaina Aquatic Center last week.

“So, I decided to come over here to Maui and see what I could do on the West Side. I started lifeguarding with Maui County Ocean Safety at Canoe Beach and at D.T. Fleming (Beach Park) and working with Valley Isle Masters Swimmers at the Lahaina Aquatic Center,” he continued.

“Janet formed the Lahaina club as part of Valley Isle Swimmers under the United States Masters Swimming (USMS) organization. Now, we have upwards of 50 active swimmers participating in our workouts.”

He noted that the Lahaina sessions take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 5:30 to 7 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. All sessions are open to the public.

One-time drop-in workouts are $6, five-time workouts are $25 and 20-time sessions are $80.

“For improving technique, getting into shape, cross training, preparing for the armed services, rehabilitation or getting competition ready, Master Swimming here in Lahaina is here for you. Visitors to Maui and Lahaina are also welcome to come out and join us at the Lahaina Aquatic Center,” Ritter said.

“The controlled environment of the pool is a good place to practice and then take it to the ocean. Being that we live on an island, swimming is a necessary skill and helps people gain a healthy lifestyle.”

Longtime Lahaina resident Clifton Akiyama, a U.S. Navy veteran and VIMS active member, added that, “This program is a great insurance policy — one of the best I can imagine. My fitness level has definitely improved with this training, and it can really help young people that are about to go into the armed services.”

Coach Ritter, who also mentors the Maui Preparatory Academy swim team, expressed his gratitude to Renner for giving him the opportunity to come to Maui.

“She was the one who got me out here. And I thank Coach Tom (Popdan) for his assistance and leadership throughout the years. Now I hope I can help him as much as he helped me,” he said.

“I really love Maui, and it was so good to come out here post-9/11 and just relax. After all, it is much better relaxing under a coconut tree than it is sitting and waiting at a subway station. It’s better riding waves than riding subways — any day!”

For further information regarding Valley Isle Masters Swimming, call (808) 298-1743 or e-mail coachtex@mastersswimmingmaui.org.