By MATT GERHARD - Hawaii Tribune-Herald
They left the beach kicking and thrashing, seemingly one violent mass being swallowed by the Pacific, and from a spectator’s view there wasn’t much to see for 20-odd minutes until the first swimmer appeared off in the distance.
Not that the competitors’ vantage point was much better.
“Coming in I was discombobulated,” Madison Hauanio said. “I couldn’t see anything.”
There wasn’t much for her to see, save for clear sailing to the finish line. A two-time top wahine at the event, Hauanio took the whole shebang this time, leading from the start Sunday morning to claim the 29th Richardson Roughwater Swim.
The 1-mile course was choppy and challenging, and the 2013 Kealakehe graduate wouldn’t have had it any other way. She navigated it in 21 minutes, 56 seconds.
“It lived up to its name this year,” she said, “and I really like it that way.
“Heading out, it felt like it took forever, and then when we turned around, it felt like we got back so quick.”
Hauanio has been busy this summer taking classes in order to stay on track to graduate next spring with a degree in recreational therapy at California East Bay. She said she didn’t want to miss this year’s event since it was Terry Miura’s final go-around as organizer.
Under a light rain, it was marked by strong performances by female swimmers and those in the older age groups.
Mina Poppas, who’s set to begin her sophomore year at Waiakea, was second in 22.11, and 53-year-old Jim Mellon was the top male finisher in 23.28. Mellon was absent at the awards ceremony, causing Miura to guess he was probably already off running somewhere.
Richardson mainstay and six-time top wahine Susan Groff, 50, finished in 24.44, four minutes better than anybody in her age group, and there was an ample amount of swimming experience represented when Steve Sugar, Bill Sakovich and Tom Goltz, the top three finishers in the male 70-74 age group, took a picture together.
While they represented, younger male swimmers did not. Sakovich, the Waiakea swimming coach, joked that they were chicken.
“No, I don’t know, there aren’t many of my kids here,” Sakovich said. “I encourage my kids to do (this), and I wish more would do it.
“It comes and goes, and just now the girls are stronger.”
Including Poppas, who captured silver last season in both freestyle events at the BIIF swimming and diving championships. She spent part of her summer practicing with the Bolles swimming program in Jacksonville, Fla.
“She should do something big this year,” Sakovich said. “She should do very well.”
On Sunday, the only competitor to one-up her was a college swimmer.
Hauanio is from Kailua-Kona, but her father is from Kalapana and she likes competing in East Hawaii. She burst on to the island’s swimming scene in 2010 at Kamehameha, helping Kealakehe win the HHSAA championship as a freshman. She was the overall runner-up at Richardson in 2010 (behind Kinney Gindall) and last year (Cody Hamane won).
“I always love it (at Richardson),” she said. “It’s always fun to come back and see everyone. It was cool seeing (Waiakea grad) Akemi (King). We’re both finishing up (college).”
Hauanio used Sunday’s swim as a springboard for her senior year of college swimming. Also, she’ll defend her title at the Alcatraz Swim in September in San Francisco.
“I’m trying to go into next year and do really good since it’s my last year,” she said. “It’s going to be totally different this year because we’re going to have a new coach.