Lahainaluna swimmers could be finalists at state championships
LAHAINA — Lahainaluna High School swimming coach Tom Popdan is a happy man. For although his Luna charges on both the girls’ and boys’ sides of the pool at their Lahaina Aquatic Center practice facility lack the depth to challenge Maui Interscholastic League opponents for the team title, there are several top-tier athletes on the 2011 squad that will shine at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state competition on Feb. 11-12 on Oahu.
Now into his 16th year as the mentor of both the Lahainaluna and Lahaina Swim Club programs, Coach Tom has consistently guided his teams to overall team successes, but this season the standout swimmers on the West Side squads have him thrilled as never before.
“I am really excited about what is happening with these kids this year,” he said last week from the computer lab at Sacred Hearts School, where he is a teacher. “This is, I think, the most top-line swimmers we’ve ever had that will be finalists at the state meet.”
What has Popdan — who is assisted by Jen Wiseman this year — pumped is the performances of senior Koral Gill and Jesselee Chapman from the Lady Lunas team and Joshua Gaastra from the boys roster.
Gill is the youngest of the trio from her family that have had outstanding academic and athletic success at Lahainaluna. Following in the championship lanes of older sisters Mariah and Hailey, both of whom were honor students and helped the Lahainaluna swimming and water polo teams to gold medal seasons, Koral is taking similar strokes in her senior year at Lahainaluna.
She was honored as the MIL’s Girl Swimmer of the Year in 2010 and brought home a silver and a bronze medal from last season’s state meet. Gill has already qualified for this year’s state competition, along with sophomore teammate Chapman, and these two are the girls team co-captains.
Boys team captain Gaastra has also already qualified and, according to Coach Tom, stands a good chance to be a finalist.
Gaastra is joined by classmates Elliot Smith, Jack Mora, and Leo Walsh, and freshmen Johnny McCrea, Nalu Laureal and Rhett Wiseman on the boys squad.
Gill and Chapman lead the Lady Lunas lineup along with fellow seniors Malia Moore, Jessye Acker and Dezi Acker; juniors Caitlin Faust, Bela Pinto, Tauley Montez and Lindsey Quam; sophomores Naomi Tsuda, Hannalore Rolfing and Serena Motelewski; and freshman Amanda Mayers.
Coach Tom noted that several swimmers from both the girls and boys rosters have qualified for the MIL meet at the Kihei Aquatic Center on Jan. 28-29, and they could achieve times that will earn them tickets to the state event.