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New wave of Luna swimmers rising to the top of the MIL

By Staff | Feb 19, 2015

Lahainaluna High School swimmers improved dramatically throughout the season and achieved top finishes at the Maui Interscholastic League championships.

LAHAINA – For Lahainaluna High School swimming, the tradition, indeed, continues.

Add swim coach Tom Popdan to the long list of Luna coaches/mentors that carry on the positive action leadership and guidance of the student athletes in their charge. For decades, Popdan has continued to raise the bar of the youth competitive swimmers in the Lahainaluna and Lahaina Swim Club programs.

Coach Tom, along with assistants Jen Wiseman and Bradley Mason, guided the Luna girls and boys teams to top finishes at the Maui Interscholastic League championships two weeks ago at the Kihei Aquatic Center, and now they are preparing them for the state meet this weekend on Oahu.

Using cutting-edge technology bolstered by a time-tested, goal-oriented work ethic, the Luna coaching staff did a flip turn sprint into the 2015 season to once again challenge for MIL supremacy. Despite losing a list of national junior qualifiers to graduation, the current Lahainaluna team made continuous improvement throughout the year in both the high school and club seasons to climb back up the ladder to challenge perennial nemesis Baldwin for the league championships.

At the MIL meet, the Lady Lunas took it to the Baldwin girls and, into the final events of the day, and needing a reversal on a disqualification of a Lady Bears relay team, Lahainaluna finished second with 56 points to Baldwin’s 74.

Seniors are honored after their final MIL swim meet.

Leading the charge for the Lady Lunas were Sydney Wagner with gold medals in the 100-meter and 200 freestyle events; Haleigh Berko, who finished second in the 100 and 200 free races; and Alicia Wintermeyer, who took second in the 100 backstroke and 500 free events. Wagner, Berko, Wintermeyer, Geneva Leon and Julia Bianco formed medal-winning performances in the 200 medley relay, and the 200 and 400 free relays.

The Lady Luna roster included Addie Johnson, Kaile Stockham, Katya Brody, Kyra Franz, Eva Olson, Nikki Zamani, Lara Claydon, Zoe Hirschson, Kieran Groh and May Samari.

The Lahainaluna boys team was thin to say the least, but they made up for their small numbers with big performances in the pool to finish with 42 points behind Seabury Hall and MIL champ Baldwin.

Senior Kainoa Altier led the surge of the Luna “fabulous four” with a gold medal school record in the 50 free and second place finish in the 200 free, and also sophomore Jared Gaastra, who placed first in the 500 free and second in the 200 free events.

Seniors Kerek Franz (third in the 50 free, and fifth in the 100 free) and Cooper Carroll (eighth in the 50 free) added to the team point total. They all teamed up to win a gold medal in the 200 free relay and a bronze in the 400 free relay.

“The entire boys team and some of the girls were off the charts with their improvement over the season for us,” stated Coach Popdan at poolside at the Lahaina Aquatic Center last week.

“This is a new wave of great kids that have come up through the club program as youngsters and developed into really terrific athletes. We had our best junior nationals effort last year, and we’re looking forward to more of the same with this group.”