Three earn top honors

Whenever Baldwin High School’s Jonah Hu entered the pool this season, there was a driving force behind him.

Hu, who won a pair of state titles in February, dedicated his year to Spencer Shiraishi Sr., his longtime swimming coach who died in August at age 87.

Hu and Maui Prep’s Sky Hirsch, who claimed a state title of his own, have been voted the Maui Interscholastic League’s Male co-Swimmers of the Year. Maui Prep’s Danielle Jefferies was named Female Swimmer of the Year.

Since age 3, Hu was coached by Shiraishi at the Maui Swim Club.

“I knew I wanted to do well for him this season,” Hu said last week from the Speedo Champions Series Western Zone Sectionals in Federal Way, Wash. “He gave me the drive to work hard and push hard at practice. He motivated me to do my best and I was able to go out with a bang.”

Hu, a senior, set a state meet record in the 100-yard breaststroke last month at the Kamehameha Hawaii pool with a time of 55.72 seconds and also won the 200 individual medley in 1:53.51. Hu swam on two runner-up relay teams as well, handling the butterfly leg in the 200 medley relay and competing in the 200 freestyle relay.

“It was definitely a treat,” Hu said of the record. “I?had my eye on that record for a while. I pushed myself. I missed it in prelims, but I just did my best and pushed through and was lucky to get it.”

Hu, Hirsh and Spencer Shiraishi Jr. – their coach – all attended the Western Zones.

“Jonah loved my dad as his own grandpa,” Shiraishi Jr. said. “Jonah and so many others loved my dad. It means a lot to my dad who dedicated his life to swimming. Jonah really gave back to him in respect and honor by dedicating the year to him.”

Hu, who has a 4.38 GPA, is hoping to attend Southern California or Stanford.

Last year, Hu shared Male Swimmer of the Year honors with Seabury Hall’s Renny Richmond, who is now at the University of Arizona.

Joining Hu and Hirsh on this year’s boys all-star team are Baldwin’s Troy Kojenlang and Jonathan You; Kamehameha Maui’s Spencer Shiraishi, Mika Kane and Kyle Mauri; Lahainaluna’s Rhett Wiseman; and Seabury Hall’s Dylan Kresge.

Hirsh, a senior, won the 50 freestyle in 20.57 seconds to become the first boys state champion from Maui Prep.

“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “I was stoked for it. I was training hard for it.”

Hirsh also has put his swimming skills to use as an ocean rescuer. During his freshman year, he said he pulled a struggling swimmer from the water in Makena. In his sophomore year, Hirsch pulled his sister Misty, now 14, from the waters in Napili. In November, he helped take part in another ocean rescue in Napili.

“It was a huge day and guys jump off the rocks,” Hirsch said of the latest incident. “This freshman boy jumped in the water and couldn’t get out. He hit his shin. He started to swim toward the rocky beach and I followed him. I jumped in, pulled him up and kept him calm and pulled him up to get air.”

Hirsch said a huge wave hit them and they got separated. He added the boy was “way out,” but lifeguards brought him back to shore with help of a motorized watercraft.

Hirsch, who trained in the Junior Lifeguard Program, will attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

Jefferies, a junior, finished third in the 200 individual medley 100 butterfly at the state meet.

“I didn’t expect it. It’s really great,” she said of being named the league’s top female swimmer. “There were a lot of great swimmers this year.”

Also making the girls all-star team were Seabury Hall’s Sabrina Altman and Maya Okamura; Baldwin’s Maya Sinclair and Dana Leonhard; Lahainaluna’s Sydney Wagner and Alicia Wintermeyer; Kamehameha Maui’s Mia Czerwinski; and King Kekaulike’s Jonalei Aguirre.

Hirsch and Jefferies trained together with the South Maui Sharks.

“He’s a great swimming partner,” Jefferies said. “I was really happy for him (and his success). It was great for Maui Prep. It’s been a lot of fun.:

Baldwin’s Leighton Hao is the MIL Coach of the Year after leading the Bears to their third consecutive sweep of the boys and girls titles at February’s league championship meet.

* Kyle Sakamoto is at