LIHUE — Sammy Stokes swam like she’s never done before at the Mokihana Aquatics Ken Suenaga qualifying swim meet that ended Sunday at the Kauai High School pool.
“This is about doing better than ever,” said Orlando “O” Anaya, the Mokihana Aquatics coach. “Sammy not only had six best times, she made trouble to all who swam head-to-head against her. I’ve had many comments on her push to do better. This is really very cool.”
The effort from the 13-year-old Stokes paid off when she was named Swimmer of the Meet for the two-day timed trials attended by Hawaii State Officials chair Sandy Drake. The meet also celebrates the start of Mokihana Aquatics’ 35th year on Kauai, the organization starting at the urging of James Kitamura, the father of current Kapaa High School swim coach Kara Kitamura, while “da hanabatas” were practicing for the very first Ed Ho Memorial Meet held in December 1981.
Swimming over two days, Stokes finished with a HI-AA time standard in the 50 freestyle, not one of her personal best swims, but strong enough to earn her the ranking.
Her best swim came in the 200 butterfly where she touched the wall at 3 minutes, 15.27 seconds for an improvement of 12.17 seconds over her seeded time, her strong swim being pushed by team leader Madeline Hoesel, 14.
“You were like the team mom,” Drake said, praising the leadership and compassionate behavior of the young girl who took over sole responsibility of getting swimmers ready for their respective swims. Her duties are normally shared with Sara Funtanilla who was unable to attend the meet due to previous engagements.
In addition to her leadership role, Hoesel finished the meet with a personal best in the 200 Individual Medley (2:43.53) as well as four HI-AA swims.
Kamaira Silva, 11, put a strong challenge to Stokes’ effort, finishing the two days of swimming with eight HI-AA swims and seven personal bests, her strongest swims coming in the 200 IM (2:48.86) and the 100 breaststroke (1:29.67) where she cut more than three ticks in each event over her seeded swims.
Tyler Tanaka, 12, finished with 10 HI-AA swims while picking up four best swims, his strongest swims coming in the 200 IM (2:41.66) and the 100 breaststroke (1:25.87) for improvements of greater than two seconds in each event.
“Tyler is inching his way closer to his first state time standard,” Anaya said. “He is oh, so close. He had a goal to make his first state cut in the Boys 11-12 when he was 11 years old, but came up short. Trust me, he will make his cuts in this new age group.”
Kaeleb Santiago celebrated his seventh birthday in style, finishing the two-day meet with the greatest improvement over the field of swimmers. Santiago touched the wall at 3:51.94 in the 200 freestyle, an improvement of 29.13 seconds.
Kaedyn Santiago, 9, pushed himself to two new HI-AA time standards — the 100 freestyle (1:22.81) and the 50 backstroke (44.27). Elijah Adams, 10, picked up his first HI-AA time standard in the 100 breaststroke (1:49.07), a personal best of 4.73 seconds over his previous swim.
“I don’t know if I ever saw a swimmer get so excited about making his first invitational cut,” Anaya said. “That was very cool.”
Madhav Collins-Doijode, 12, a recent winner in the Mokihana Aquatics costume contest, posted seven personal best times, his strongest swim coming in the 200 freestyle (3:28.18) where he chopped 19.35 seconds off his seeded swim.
Leigh Idica and Ian Raquel, both 11 years old, provided some of the best races over the two days of swimming.
During the 100 backstroke, Idica touched the wall at 1:24.81 for a .92 improvement, and being chased by Raquel touching at 1:25.57 for a 4.93 improvement.
“What a great way to celebrate our 35th year,” Anaya said.