Maile Lawson, Team Hawaii heading to Oceania Championships in Fiji
By Rick Winters - West Hawaii Today
Eight high school aged Hawaii swimmers will head to the Oceania Championships held from June 21-26 at the Damodar National Aquatic Centre in Fiji where they will compete against some of the best swimmers, including former Olympians and other near-Olympic caliber talents, that the South Pacific has to offer.
Maile Lawson, who just wrapped up her freshman year at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, was the lone Big Islander selected to Team Hawaii. She will meet up with her seven Oahu teammates and the group will leave on Thursday for a 10-day excursion to the South Pacific country.
Lawson is the youngest member of the four girls and four boys chosen. The eight selections were picked out of approximately 3,000 swimmers in the state, according to Team Hawaii head coach Steve Borowski, who also coaches Kona Aquatics.
“Each swimmer had their two best events put into a computerized format and were ranked nationally and a percentage was given,” Borowski added. “Maile’s best two events were the 100 and 200-breaststroke and she ended up being ranked No. 1 overall in the state for the girls.”
Lawson is the 13-14 year old age group state recorded holder in the 200. With a time of 2 minutes and 17.06 seconds, she shattered a 30-year-old record at the Hawaii Short Course Age Group Championships in December at the Kona Community Aquatic Center. The previous record was 2:20:98, set by Nadine Takai in 1985.
“I am very excited and honored that I was chosen to go,” Lawson said. “I can’t wait to meet my teammates and also see the competition. I have never had the opportunity to compete against someone outside of Hawaii, and to have the chance to compete with Olympic level swimmers is intimidating, humbling and exciting all a the same time.”
The seven other swimmer chosen for Team Hawaii are Cagla Brennan, Albert Meng Lee, Sung Je Lee (Iolani High School), Tyler Kawakami, Nohea Lileikis (Punahou), Michael Petrides (Mid-Pac) and LeGrand Pound (Sacred Hearts Academy).
The Oceania Championships, held every two years, is sponsored by FINA, the international governing body of swimming. diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and open water swimming, and is typically dominated by the two biggest nations in the competition, Australia and New Zealand.
In the last event held in 2014, Australia and New Zealand combined for 105 of the 123 total medals awarded. Hawaii, which usually sends high schoolers to the event, finished third in the medal count with 10.
However, winning is not the most important thing for Borowski. He sees the opportunity as a chance for his swimmers to learn and grow as a competitor and as a person.
“These kids will get to meet other swimmers from other counties, eat together and compete. It is quite a learning experience,” Borowski said. “Everyone has been working hard and getting prepared to go.”
The trip will not be an easy one. Hawaii northern-most team invited to attend the meet and the participants will have a nine-hour flight down to Fiji and then a four-hour bus ride to the capital city of Suva.
Also sending teams to the event are Northern Mariana Islands, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tonga, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Guam, Samoa, American Samoa, FS Micronesia, Solomon and Vanuatu.
“This is a pretty prestigious thing,” Borowski said. “It should be a lot of good fun and exposure for the swimmers.”