Na Pueo’s dynamic duo
NAPILI – Maui Preparatory Academy has got to be the per capita leader in pioneers going into the OC16 State Swimming and Diving Championships this weekend.
Sophomore Danielle Jefferies and junior Sky Hirsch take care of that for Na Pueo swim team for the west-side school that has just 55 high school students.
Last season, Jefferies became the school’s first Maui Interscholastic League and state individual champion by winning the 100-yard butterfly. Hirsch became the first MIL boys champion for MPA when he captured the 50 freestyle at the league meet a week and a half ago.
“It’s really good for Maui Prep,” Jefferies said on campus after school Tuesday. “It is just a good atmosphere for our team and it’s fun.”
The first-title-for-your-school thing is nothing new for Hirsch, who two years ago became the first-ever MIL champion for Kihei Charter when he won the 100 free as a freshman.
He transferred to Maui Prep as a sophomore, after earning a full-ride academic scholarship worth about $15,000 per year, just like Jefferies has.
“At first it was (hard) because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do any of the sports I did as a freshman – cross country, swimming and track,” Hirsch said. “So basically my sophomore year was going to be thrown out, I wouldn’t be able to do any sports. So what I did do though was I took that as more of a push instead of letting it draw me back. I trained cross country with the team, I trained with the swimming team and I trained with the track team.
“So, I was looking forward to this year and being able to push out this year and getting a good solid junior year.”
He also learned by watching Jefferies, a former club-team training partner, make history for the tiny school nestled at the base of the West Maui Mountains.
“I remember watching her last year at state, I knew she had it when she dove in,” Hirsch said. “I just saw her take it out in the first 25 and I’m like, ‘Yup, there it is.’ “
It will be tough for Jefferies to defend her title after shoulder problems limited her to one MIL meet before the championships – a bout with the flu also slowed her progress.
Jefferies is seeded fourth in the 100 fly, 5.46 seconds behind leader Jasmine Mau of Punahou. Nothing can take away her historic state crown last year, however.
“It was great because I’m a scholarship winner, so it’s great to bring some publicity to the school,” she said. “I mean, it was an awesome race, it was amazing, I loved it.”
This weekend, there is no pressure for Jefferies in either the 100 fly or 100 backstroke, where she is seeded 10th.
“I’m just going to have fun with it,” Jefferies said. “(Mau) is my really good friend, so I’m just going to push myself and go for it.”
While Jefferies goes into the state meet not quite in top shape, Hirsch is ready to roll.
“I’m pretty sure I can win (a state title),” said Hirsch, who is seeded third in the 100 free and fifth in the 50 – less than half a second from the top in each – going into Friday’s preliminaries at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex on Oahu. “I wasn’t shaved or tapered for the MIL championship, plus I wasn’t wearing my fastest suit, so I think I’m going to be mentally there, mentally ready and just going to go for it, hopefully keep up with the top guys and maybe touch them out at the end.”
Hirsch and Jefferies commute to school together from Kihei after morning workouts are completed – Jefferies for Island Aquatics at the Kihei Aquatic Center, Hirsch for Hawaii Swim Club at Kokua Pool in Kahului. On the way home from school, Hirsch drops Jefferies off at Maalaea so both can get to their afternoon workouts.
“The drive gets boring,” said Hirsch, who also has weightlifting sessions Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
So the topic of conversation has to be swimming, right?
“No, we usually blast the music and sing along,” Hirsch said.
Jefferies chimed in: “We make it fun because the drive does get old. We talk smack to each other all the time. We are old training partners, so we are just having fun on the drives.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org