Hu regains winning form

KIHEI – Although it has been a long road to recovery for Baldwin High School junior Jonah Hu, the last race of Saturday’s Maui Interscholastic League Invitational swim meet showed the work has paid off.

Hu swam the final leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay at Kihei Aquatic Center, and gave the Bears a come-from-behind victory over Seabury Hall.

“I knew we had a chance, so I thought I’d give it all for the boys,” Hu said. “I just put my head down and told myself to do it.”

Hu slowly caught up to Spartan senior Ryan Koss, allowing for a dramatic finish in the final 50 yards – Baldwin’s time of 3 minutes, 21.71 seconds was .07 ahead of Seabury.

“It was crazy,” Hu said. “Everyone was shouting and all. It was fun.”

Baldwin won the team competition with 83 points, while Seabury was second with 64. The Bears won the girls title as well with 86 points, 33 more than runner-up Lahainaluna. In Friday’s competition, Baldwin and Seabury finished 1-2 in the boys and girls divisions.

In the two days, Hu claimed seven first-place finishes.

Hu, a record-setting youth age-group swimmer, started his journey back to the pool in 2009, when he was suffering from inflammation in his right shoulder and a torn labrum in his left. Each injury required surgery, causing him to sit out his freshman year.

“I was kind of bummed,” he said. “I just had to sit on the side of the pool and watch everyone.”

Hu’s mother, Cecelia Romero, cheered him on at the meet Saturday, and said she was amazed that he had stayed so focused and upbeat during his injury. However, she recalled a couple of instances when his positivity waned.

“There were one or two times where he actually said to me, ‘Mom, you think God is trying to send me a message that I shouldn’t swim?’ ” Romero said. “And I said, ‘I don’t think so, I think he’s trying to send you a message to just trust him. And that if you just trust him, he’ll get you there in the end.’ “

Romero, a coach for Maui Swim Club, said she is happy with the way Hu’s training is progressing, and that in the past two years, he has lost 35 to 40 pounds. Since his injury, she said he no longer trains twice a day, instead opting for single two-hour sessions, and has to stretch and ice his shoulders after every practice.

“He’s hyper-flexible,” she said. “His joints will always have inflammation, so the coaches and doctors explained to him that he has to always ice and stretch, or else it’ll happen again.”

Hu has plans beyond the pool, and hopes to study anesthesiology at Stanford while swimming for the Cardinal as well. He is also a prize-winning artist, and plays piano.

Baldwin coach Laura Lipp said Hu has helped motivate the team this year.

“He’s definitely inspiring for all of the other swimmers,” Lipp said. “He’s always positive and willing to swim whatever we need him to swim. When he needs to step up, he definitely delivers.”

* Chris Sugidono is at