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More than 80 keiki practicing with Lahaina Swim Club

By Staff | Sep 3, 2020

Swim teams may compete in virtual meets at their home pools — Lahaina Aquatic Center for the Lunas.

LAHAINA – The wall of honor at the entry hallway at the Lahaina Aquatic Center is rapidly filling up as the age group youth swimming accomplishments and accolades continue to mount.

The community-backed facility opened some 28 years ago and has since become a recreational fast lane for swimmers of all ages and abilities.

Lahaina Swim Club was organized in those early years and has since maintained a high level of youth competitive energy across the state with the sparkling facility as its home base.

Leading the way for the LSC is Tom Popdan, who has earned a reputation as one of the state’s top coaches with a no-nonsense, positive and goal-oriented mentorship of the youth program and the Lahainaluna High School team.

He has been assisted for many of those years by Jen Wiseman, and more recently by Erica Gaastra and Jack Pope.

The parent support board of directors – so vital in nonprofit organizations such as this – is led by Paula Pope, Gina Iverson, Kari Alexander, JD Sheveland, Dave Wintermeyer, Gabby Lindblad and Bob Anderson.

“The board of directors does a tremendous job of all the organizational needs of the club. Dave Wintermeyer works so hard with the registration part of the program,” said Coach Jen last week.

She went on to explain that the Age Group Long Course season had started in March but was shut down by the pandemic. “The kids were making headway and were revved up with staying power, but then the stoppage happened, so no meets or long course championships that usually happen in July,” she explained.

Over 80 kids, ages 5-18 years old, are registered with LSC and today struggle with the limited availability of the county facility in Lahaina.

They are allowed eight hours of pool time per week with 12 swimmers -one per lane – and one coach on deck while adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols at all times.

As with the public school system, the county youth swimming program continues to adjust within the pandemic guidelines.

Currently, the teams are setting standards for virtual meets, where all clubs will swim at their home pools. This system started on Oahu and looks to prepare the clubs for the short course season that usually begins at the end of September.

For now, Coach Jen and her cohorts will continue to roll with the waves of 2020 to provide a quality experience for the kids.

“I really feel for all the kids. We’ve tried to keep things going with some beach practices, ocean swims and lap training at some friend’s pools.”

Wiseman credited Popdan with the intuitive drive that has manifested in the success of the West Side program.

“It is a holistic coaching approach that is sometimes firey, but always in a positive way with absolutely no negative talk. The emphasis is always positive in a constructive way,” she said.