Hirsch hopes he’s building toward gold

PUKALANI – Maui Preparatory Academy’s Sky Hirsch has become a force in Maui Interscholastic League swimming, and has the muscles to prove it.

The senior has gained about 45 pounds of muscle since his freshman year, helping put him among the state’s top contenders in the boys 50-yard freestyle.

“I used to be tiny,” Hirsch said during MIL meet No. 5 on Saturday at Kamehameha Maui. “(Now) I’m just eating, lifting and swimming.”

Although Hirsch did not compete in his marquee event Saturday, he holds an MIL season-best time of 21.38 seconds and posted a 20.67 last month to claim a state age-group championship.

“I think our class is probably one of the strongest swimming classes we’ve had in awhile,” he said of high school swimmers across the state. “We have, I think, six guys going under 21 (seconds) and that’s really fast. It’s open for anyone, I guess.”

Over the past year, Hirsch has been lifting weights three days a week – even after meets. He also swims with a drag suit “that’s like pulling a parachute” underwater, he said.

“I was training with my friend who is in the military – so that was helpful,” Hirsch said of his summer workout routine with a smile.

Hirsch’s training has helped him improve in other races, as well. He placed first in the 200 individual medley Saturday in 2:04.67, and finished second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.62.

Hirsch was sixth in the state in the 50 freestyle last year, and third in the 100 freestyle.

“My goal is to win states,” he said.

While Hirsch has bulked up, Baldwin’s Maya Sinclair has healed up after an injury that sidelined her for seven months.

The junior, who specializes in the 100 and 200 freestyle, dislocated her left shoulder two years ago and said it’s been “a challenge” to regain her form.

“The seven months were long and kind of depressing because I couldn’t get in the water,” Sinclair said. “Afterwards, the training was painful and long. But it’s worth it.”

Sinclair won the 50 freestyle in 25.79 on Saturday and swam on three first-place relay teams – she anchored the 200 (1:45.99) and 400 (3:53.28) freestyle relay squads, and was part of the 200 medley relay, which won in 1:59.83.

“We’re trying to get as many girls to states as possible,” Sinclair said. “The times have gotten a lot faster this year, though, so it’s difficult.”

Among the swimmers who have lowered their times is Sabrina Altman. The Seabury Hall senior, who was second in the 100 backstroke at the 2012 state meet, won the 100 breaststroke on Saturday in 1:11.64 and took third in the 50 freestyle in 26.15.

“This year I’m hoping to drop a few seconds in my 100 backstroke and do really well at states with it,” she said.

* Chris Sugidono is at