Kauai Jr. Lifeguards hold own at Nautica champs

LIHUE — Kauai Junior Lifeguards battled in the shadow of the Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguards, holding their own at the Nautica Junior Lifeguard Championships Wednesday.

The host L.A. County Juniors dominated the events, which opened Wednesday at Manhattan Beach, Calif., led by Kira Makuta, who took four gold medals in the Girls 16-17 division. She added a fifth in the relay event, adding to the collection gained in the Iron Guard, Run-Swim-Run, Surf Race and Rescue Board Race.

Joy Claypoole, an Island School student and part of the 20-member Kauai Junior Lifeguard contingent, found gold in the Beach Run, along with Kaeo Kruse.

Claypoole topped the Girls AA Group, ages 16-17, 2-kilometer distance run, followed by Sophia Britzmann, another Kauai Junior, and Emma Zimmerman of the host team.

Kruse topped the Boys A Group, ages 14-15, 2-kilometer distance run in the event where the Juniors run down and around a flag and back to the finish on hard sand.

Kauai Juniors did not take any gold medals in the Surf Race, an individual event where Juniors swim out and around the two designated buoys, finishing through a funnel on the beach.

Haley Chasin and Sophia Britzmann finished second and third, respectively, in the Girls AA Group, ages 16-17, and Kruse ended third in the Boys A Group, ages 14-15.

Kate Machorek, who was honored by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. for her Long Course state accomplishments, finished third in the Girls A Group, ages 14-15, being surpassed by Isabella Siering and Emily Chung, both from the host team.

Kaira Kaaihue joined the Kauai splash by finding gold in the Girls B Group, ages 12-13 in the Run-Swim-Run event where the Juniors run a set distance on the beach, swim out and around two buoys, finishing with a second beach run.

Chasin and Britzmann were in the shadow of Makuta in the Girls AA Group, ages 6-17, finishing second and third, respectively, below Makuta’s gold medal performance.

The Kinimaka girls, Maluhia and Mainea, joined the splashing: Maluhia captured third in the Girls AA Group, ages 16-17 in the Rescue Board Race where the Juniors paddle a board out and around designated buoys, negotiate incoming surf and finish with their board through a funnel on the beach.

In the Girls AA Group, Makuta also found gold with Julie Schulte of Florida getting the silver medal.

Mainea was edged out of the gold by Amanda Calabrese of Hampton, N.Y., in the Girls A Group, ages 14-15.

Kruse rounded out his day with his second gold medal, getting past Nathanael Griffith and Wyatt Kircher, both of the host L.A. County team in the Boys A Group, ages 14-15 in the Iron Guard event.

The Iron Guard saw Juniors swim the designated course, run to the transition area, paddle the designated course and finish with a final run leg.

Wailana Gandeza found gold in the Girls AA Group, ages 16-17 of the Beach Flags event where from a prone position, Juniors, on a whistle start, rise, turn and race to get a baton, or beach flag, buried upright in the sand.

Kruse rounded out the Kauai showings on the medal stand, leading a team of Ava Wagner, Saber Fairbanks, Bryson Baligad and Kate Machorek to a third finish in the A Group, ages 14-15 in the Swim Relay.

With the showings, Kauai placed finishers on the medal stand in all but one event, the Rescue Race where teams from California swept the event.

The Junior event prefaced the three-day USLA National Lifeguard Championships, which started Thursday.

The L.A. County Lifeguard Association has won the overall title the past 26 years and has won 39 times in the 43-year history of the event which attracts more than 1,000 lifeguards and Junior Lifeguards from across the country competing for individual and team honors.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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