High school swimming: Lawson defends state title in 100 breaststroke

  • Hawaii Prep's Maile Lawson competes in the finals of the 100-yard breaststroke at the state swimming championships Saturday on Oahu. Lawson successfully defended her title in the 100. (Parish Kaleiwahea/Special to West Hawaii Today)

HONOLULU — It would not be shocking if one day Maile Lawson grew gills and lived out her days in the water, never to head back to dry land again. The Hawaii Preparatory Academy senior just seems like a natural when it comes to swimming, whether it be in the pool or the ocean.

However, Lawson also puts in the work as well and she just wrapped up her high school career by claiming another state gold and defending her title in the 100-yard breaststroke Saturday at K. Mark Takai Veterans Memorial Aquatic Complex on Oahu.

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With a time of 1 minute and 4.66 seconds, Lawson out-touched Kamehameha-Kapalama’s Jamy Lum at the wall, jamming her fingers and bruising her hand in the process in order to seal victory on the final stroke.

“On the third turn I noticed that she was a little in front of me so I just told myself not to give up,” Lawson said. “As I approached the wall I wasn’t sure if I was too short or too long so I took a chance and put my head down. I jammed my fingers but it was a fun race until the last second.”

Head coach Mark Noetzel knew the race would not be an easy one going in.

“Based on Maile’s swim and the competition in the IM, we knew it would be tough and Jamy just had a phenomenal 500 so she had some endurance,” Noetzel said. “Jamy had some fantastic turns, but Maile, working on a fast recovery, did her best to out-swim her.

“I was really happy that Maile was able to defend her title,” Noetzel added. “This was a good way for her to go out, earning the victory against a strong field.”

Lawson claimed a third place finish in the 200 IM (2:08.33) to help lead her team to an eighth place finish at states.

”I don’t want to blame it on wind during the IM, but I did not focus enough on that aspect before the race,” Lawson said. “Usually it takes me five backstroke strokes to go into my breaststroke turn. I was swimming my back, took my fourth stroke and slammed my hand into wall. But I was able to come back on the breast and pushed my freestyle a little bit to make up for it.”

Punahou claimed the overall girls title, followed by Kaiser and Kamehameha-Kapalama. Waiakea managed a fifth place finish as the top BIIF school in the team rankings. Kealakehe was 10th and Hilo finished 16th.

“I was really impressed with the BIIF at states,” Lawson said. “Everyone may not have won, but everyone competed to the best of their abilities.”

Lawson holds several state records at the high school and club level. She has also finished near the top of many ocean swims like the Kings Swim, the Hapuna Rough Water Swim and the Cinco de Mayo Splash. The three races are known as the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.

“I am so happy with everything that I have accomplished,” Lawson said. “My times were always a little off for high school because I was tapering for age group, but it was about competing for the school. It was a great experience and I am really honored to compete for Hawaii Prep and for Coach Mark.”

Lawson’s overall athletic ability in the water, and her fast times earned her an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Southern California, one of the top swimming school’s in the nation. USC is ranked fourth overall by collegefactual.com, trailing only Stanford, Texas and California-Berkeley.

“She is joining a dynamic team in the Pac-12 conference and it is exciting,” Noetzel said when Lawson signed back in November. “She will have a chance to experience the Division I rivalries and the challenges. That is what we all hope for, for our athletes.”

Lawson’s decision to become a Trojan was finalized after her visit to the campus last fall. She also looked at Notre Dame, Hawaii-Manoa and California-Santa Barbara, just to name a few.

“A lot of schools I looked at offered amazing things, but after a lot of thinking, it wasn’t necessarily hard to choose USC,” Lawson said. “Once I visited the campus it just felt like home. I just kind of knew and I was lucky enough to experience that.”

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However, before she attends college, Lawson will train for the Junior Nationals in August.

“I will be training a little less for the next couple of months but then in the summer time I am going to go pretty hard,” Lawson said. “Two weeks after the Junior Nationals is move-in day at USC and then I start swimming for them a week later.”