KONA AQUATICS SENDING 29 TO STATE LONG COURSE CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Rick Winters - West Hawaii Today
KAILUA-KONA — Kona Aquatics will send 29 swimmers to the 2016 Hawaii Age Group Long Course Championships, which starts today at 2 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Waipahu, Oahu.
The Long Course Championships is one of the two biggest swimming events in Hawaii every year, with the other being the Hawaii Age Group Short Course Championships, which was held at the Kona Community Aquatics Center in December.
Familiar faces will be attending the meet including two of the state’s top swimmers in Kona Aquatics’ Maile Lawson and Aulea’s ‘aukai Lileikis.
Lawson has quickly made a name for herself since the Short Course Championships. At that meet she had her coming out party by shattering the age group record in the 13-14 year old, 200-yard breaststroke. It was a record that had stood since 1985. Since then, Lawson has only gotten faster. In June, she broke the 13-14 year, old age group record in the 200-meter breaststroke while competing for Team Hawaii in the Oceania Championships in Fiji.
Lawson has shown dominance in the open water as well, winning both the King’s Swim and the Cinco De Mayo Splash. She missed out on winning the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming because she was in Fiji during the Hapuna Rough Water Swim.
An incoming Hawaii Preparatory Academy sophomore, Lawson has qualified for several events for the Long Course Championships but she is only allowed to compete in six. She is the No. 1 seed in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. She will also compete in the 200 and 400 IM, and the 200 and 400 freestyle.
However, for Lawson, the trip to Oahu isn’t just about competition.
“We have a big group going and I am excited to meet new people and bond with my teammates,” Lawson said. “As for the race, I will do my best, race smart and use good technique. Hopefully I will produce a time that I am happy with. I’m excited to see how it will turn out.”
On the boys side of the competition, Lileikis looks to dominate once again. He recently graduated from Punahou and will attend the University of California-Berkeley on a full scholarship. Lileikis was the only swimmer from Hawaii to go to the Olympic trials this year.
At the Short Course Championships in December, Lileikis dominated, breaking four age group records. He swam his way to new top times in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 200 IM.
At the Long Course Championships, Lileikis, who owns multiple state records, will compete in the 50, 100, 200 and 400 freestyle, as well as the 100 IM and the 100 backstroke.
Kona Aquatics also has several standout boys competing, though in the younger divisions.
Duke Becker, an 11-year old swimmer, is a No. 2 seed in the boys 11-12, 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. He also had two No. 3 seeds in a pair of breaststroke events.
Silas Wiley, who competes in the 13-14 division, has a No. 3 seed for the 100 backstroke and a No. 4 seed for the 200.
“I have pretty high expectations and hopefully I will do well,” Wiley said. “I am just going there to have fun.”
The Long Course Championships will take place over four days, with relays being held today and individual races starting on Friday and running through Sunday. Individual heats will take place in the morning and championship races will be held in the afternoon.
Kamehameha Swim Club and Hawaii Swim Club are expected to finish near the top in the team competition thanks to the number of individuals competing. Both clubs have multiple teams on different islands.
As for Kona Aquatics, Coach Steve Borowski expects his team do to well but it is not their main focus heading into the meet.
“We are focused more on individual performances,” Borowski said. “Each kid knows what their entry times are and what their goal times are and if they can improve on that then we are happy. There are over 3,000 swimmers in the state and only about 15 percent of them will attend this meet so just getting invited is an honor.”