Luna swimmers heading to state championships this weekend
LAHAINA – Now into his 21st year at the helm of the Lahainaluna High School swim team, Tom Popdan still retains the vigor and vitality that is mirrored in his coaching staff and the Luna team members. Coach Tom is a positive-minded, goal-oriented mentor who has achieved a long and successful leadership run at Lahainaluna and also with the Lahaina Swim Club.
A physical education teacher at Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina, Popdan is assisted this year by an energetic staff that includes Jennifer Wiseman, Bradley Mason and Kaili Faust.
Together they have guided Lahainaluna to another successful season, with their collective sights set on a strong performance at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s State Swimming and Diving Championships that take place this weekend, Feb. 12-13, at the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii facility in Hilo.
At the Maui Interscholastic League championship meet two weeks ago at the Lahaina Aquatic Center, the shorthanded Luna boys team finished in fifth place with 12 points. Standout junior Jared Gaastra led the way, winning gold medals in both the 200- and 500-meter freestyle races to qualify for a top lane at the state meet. Senior Dean Omura and freshman Ken Lee also competed for Lahainaluna throughout the season.
The Lady Lunas piled up 37 points to finish fourth at the MIL meet. Junior Alicia Wintermeyer was the catalyst for the surging, youthful Lahainaluna wahine, as she qualified for states in the 200-meter individual medley, the 100 backstroke, as well as both the 200 and 400 relays. She will be joined in those relays by seniors Haleigh Berko and Geneva Leon, and also junior Sydney Wagner.
The rest of the girls team roster is made up of senior Haley Pante, juniors Sophia Marchesi and Ashley Dela Cruz, sophomores Bella Menz, Krystaleia Bettencourt, Lara Claydon, Kyra Franz, Eva Olson, Nikki Zamani, Maddie Brath and Nicole Slusser, and first-year competitor Isabella Omura.
“We have some good chances to get qualified for the finals at states,” noted Coach Tom last week from poolside at the sparkling LAC. “And next season, we should improve in the standings with our returning swimmers and a talented younger group moving up from eighth grade.”