KIHEI - Baldwin High School swimmers Jonah Hu and Nicholas Wright have been waiting patiently - for the most part anyway.
The duo was forced to watch from the sidelines last season due to injury and transfer restrictions, respectively. They were back in the mix Saturday for the opening Maui Interscholastic League swimming and diving meet at Kihei Aquatic Center, helping the Baldwin boys team capture first with 71 points, followed by Seabury Hall with 69.
The Seabury girls team had two individual winners - Angelina Demirbag (200-yard freestyle in 2 minutes, 07.07 seconds; 100 backstroke, 1:06.48) and Maya Okamura (200 individual medley, 2:28.28) - en route to its team title with 72 points, followed by Baldwin's 68.
Reece Murata of Baldwin High School leads teammate A.J. Obrero in the boys 200 individual medley during the MIL’s first swimming and diving meet of the season Saturday at Kihei Aquatic Center.
The Maui News / MATTHEW?THAYER photo
"I was just sitting on the sidelines for awhile, so it was kind of junk," said Hu, who has excelled at age-group meets but swam in his first-ever high school meet Saturday, posting first-place finishes in the 100 freestyle (50.16) and 100 breaststroke (1:01.92).
Hu didn't swim last season after undergoing surgery on both shoulders. "I was overworking it and I grew a lot that year, and between everything I just made a mess of things," he explained.
Wright, a senior who transferred from Seabury to Baldwin after his sophomore year, did not swim last season in compliance with the MIL transfer rule.
"Today I just wanted to come out and see what I could do," Wright said following his performances that helped the Bears win the 200 medley relay (1:44.76) and 200 freestyle relay (1:32.68), and take second in the 400 free relay (3:32.42).
Wright, who did not compete in individual races on Saturday, said he was "taking it easy" in preparation for the next weekend's age-group state championships on the Big Island.
Baldwin assistant coach Rory Belk said that although it's still early, she's anxious to see how fresh faces such as Hu and Wright will perform this season.
"Jonah's just getting into it, so it's fun to see him swimming really fast already," Belk said, adding of Wright, "It's great to see him out there because it's his first time as a Baldwin swimmer."
Belk said her team's goal was to gain experience, especially for the newer swimmers.
"We just wanted to see where we're at," she said. "The kids who have never swam before got to see what a meet is like and I think that's really exciting for them."
Hu said his dream is to swim at the collegiate level, although for now he's focused on simpler goals - like spending more time in the water.
"I want to just first get back into the rhythm of practicing every day, sometimes two times a day, and just work really hard at keeping my grades up," the sophomore said.
Wright said he began swimming as a freshman at Seabury "because I had friends on the team." It wasn't until his sophomore year that he realized his potential, winning the 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle at the MIL championships.
"Then after that I thought maybe I have a natural talent for this so I figured I would join a club team to see if I could make myself better," Wright said.
Although Wright did not compete in high school meets last season, he continued to train with Hawaii Swimming Club throughout the year.
"With other sports it's kind of like you're really competitive with your team because you're competing for the best position on the field, but with swimming everyone's cheering for each other, wanting each other to go fast and that's what I love about swimming," he said.
Seabury junior Renny Richmond, the two-time MIL swimmer of the year who over the summer won the 100 fly at junior nationals, on Saturday placed first in the 100 backstroke (54.91) and helped his team win the 400 freestyle relay (3:28.16) and take second in the 200 freestyle relay (1:33.84).
In addition to the individual titles, the Seabury girls added two relay wins in the 200 medley (2:00.12) and 400 freestyle (4:02.98).
Baldwin's Reece Murata added to the Bears' win total by taking first in the 200 individual medley (2:17.20). Joshua Gaastra of Lahainaluna earned two individual wins, placing first in the 50 free (23.00) and 100 fly (57.55).
The second MIL meet is set for next Saturday at 10 a.m. at Kihei Aquatic Center.
* Lehia Apana is at firstname.lastname@example.org