KAILUA-KONA — Maile Lawson is no stranger to the Big Island swimming scene. The Hawaii Preparatory Academy junior and Kona Aquatics Swim Club standout has built a name for herself with her speed and endurance, both in the ocean and in the pool. She continues to build her athletic resume by going head-to-head with some of the best swimmers in the state, and she usually comes out on top.
Lawson competed in the Hawaii Age Group Short Course Championships, which was held over the weekend at the Kona Community Aquatic Center. Sound both physically and mentally, Lawson dominated her competition on the way to three Hawaii Age Group state records.
“She was fantastic and put up her best times in all but one of her events,” said Kona Aquatics head coach Eric Rhodes. “She is only going to get faster from here. We have her on a very specific nutrition program, she is starting a new dry-land training program, and she is injury free and having a lot of fun.”
Always excelling in the breaststroke, it was no surprise that Lawson took first in both the 100- and 200-yard events, with record times of 1:01.30 and 2:15.51, respectively. Lawson also broke the age group record in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:24.09.
Her IM time was particularly impressive because it is an event that Lawson had to learn to like.
“When I first started swimming the IM, I thought it was the hardest, and it still is, but I have grown to like it,” Lawson said. “Once you start liking something it becomes easier to do.”
Lawson also feels she has a lot of growth potential in the IM.
“I was talking to my coach right after the event, telling him the things I could do to improve,” she said. “I can still improve on by backstroke, which is not my strongest leg. I know it is a process and I am just trying to keep a positive mind.”
As for the breaststroke events, her time in the 100-yard event was particularly fast.
“Nationally, at her age, that time is really high up there,” Rhodes said. “It’s one of the best in the country.”
The key to Lawson’s success, especially lately, is her ability to bounce back from injuries. Lawson battled both shoulder and back injuries, spending a lot of time this year just trying to heal.
“She really only started swimming again in June and then we took a month off in August,” Rhodes said. “She has been swimming and getting ready for this event since September.”
Lawson sees the injury time as a life lesson.
“I learned that I really need to listen to my body and know the difference between pushing myself and pushing myself too hard,” she said. “It was a bump in the road, but now I know where my focus needs to be. I am brushing it off and focusing on what is good for me.”
Lawson is also starting to focus on life beyond the club and high school swimming scene, which means more focus on life outside of the pool, but it’s not necessarily unrelated.
“Swimming is one part of my life, school is another part, along with nutrition and college preparation,” Lawson said. “They are all different parts and I want to excel in every one because I think it will all come together at one point.
“I can always eat better and there are multiple ways to keep my body healthy. In school I am trying to absorb the information being given to me. I want to take it all in and say thank you to everyone that is trying to help me. I am so thankful.”
Academy finds team success
Academy Swim Club, out of Waimea, sent 40 swimmers to the Age Group Championships and managed to come away with a third place finish overall.
“We did phenomenal and we had a great performance from our seniors,” said ASC head coach Mark Noetzel. “I enjoyed it for Big Island Swimming and our club. We are a little team from Waimea, and to do so well, I am proud of the team.”
Academy was led by winning performances in the 17-18-year-old division from Karly Noetzel and Kira Parker.
Karly Noetzel took first place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:06.90.
“She was fourth going into the finals after a near lifetime best swim at that point,” said Mark Noetzel. “She was two seconds behind the fastest seed going in and took the lead from the first stroke, holding on to the end.”
Karly Noetzel had previously competed in 16 state meets, never before winning a state championship until she did it over the weekend, earning her first title in her final state meet.
Parker took first in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:05:90.
“It was a dominating race,” her coach said. “She was the top seed going in and dominated the entire thing.”
Kamehameha Swim Club’s Grace Monahan put on a clinic at the four day meet. Monohan dominated her competition in the 13-14 year old division on the way to at least seven individual and relay age group state records. At 13, more records are sure to follow.
“She is a great person and a hard worker. She is probably the hardest worker in the pool,” said KSC head coach John Flanagan. “She has been breaking records throughout her career. She earned it and it has been a good meet.”