Battle for MIL boys team title appears wide open

Austin DeCambra of King Kekau-like High School heads to a win in the boys 100-yard butterfly in a time of 54.24 seconds Friday at Kihei Aquatic Center.-- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KIHEI — If Friday’s results are any indication, the Maui Interscholastic League boys swimming and diving championship is up for grabs next week.

Baldwin High School, the seven-time defending MIL boys champions, won the meet with 46 points. King Kekaulike was just three points behind and Lahainaluna was 3.5 points out of the lead.

All three of those schools have won boys regular-season meet titles this season, as has Maui High, which was fourth Friday night at Kihei Aquatic Center with 24 points.

Team lineups will be very different when entries for MILs are turned in on Wednesday, and relay team members can be juggled all the way up to the finals on Saturday.

Still, it appears the race is on.

Lahainaluna’s Lexi Anderson swim the butterfly leg in the girls 200-yard IM Friday. She won with a time of 2:13.24. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I think it’s going to be fun, a little bit stressful, perhaps,” Maui High coach Reid Yamamoto said. “But I think for our boys it’s just get in and race, just do the best they can.”

Yamamoto said entries will be key. For championship meets, swimmers are allowed to enter four events, including no more than two individual races. No more than four swimmers from one team can enter a single individual event.

“It’s of the utmost importance if you want to win,” Yamamoto said of placing swimmers in the right place in the eight individual races. “It’s a lot more spread out this year, so it makes it that much more of a chess match.”

The boys individual races had just two double winners Friday night: Baldwin’s Vincent McNabb in the 50-yard free (23.18 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (56.43); and King Kekaulike’s Austin DeCambra in the 100 butterfly (54.24) and 100 breaststroke (1:00.59).

Other individual boys winners included Maui Prep’s Slater Fleck in the 200 freestyle (1:50.68), Lahainaluna’s Jaden Yip in the 200 individual medley (1:59.78), St. Anthony’s Sean Cerizo in the 100 free (50.58) and Kamehameha Maui’s Kaeo Kaupalolo in the 500 free (5:25.45).

Baldwin’s Jacsen Donohue swims the butterfly leg while helping her team win the girls 200 medley relay. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

DeCambra is a senior, all of the other Friday winners are freshmen or sophomores.

Baldwin coach Arielle Obrero sees a race for the boys crown. The Bears’ girls have won the last 10 MIL titles and won Friday’s meet with 58.5 points, 14.5 in front of second-place Lahainaluna.

“It’s going to be really close,” Obrero said. “For us last year we had 15 seniors leave, so this year we are kind of rebuilding again. We did get a really good group of talented freshmen, too, so we’re excited about that. At this point, I can’t even tell — it’s going to be strategizing where to put them. That’s going to be super important.”

Lahainaluna coach Tom Popdan said the regular-season strate­gy changes dramatically for the championship meets.

“There’s a lot of difference between the meets that are during the season and the ones at MILs because the two individual events and two relays is all you can do,” Popdan said. “The scoring is going to be different based on how each coach is focused on that one particular meet. So, I mean there’s a lot of parity and there’s a lot of good swimming in Maui.

St. Anthony’s Sean Cerizo (foreground) battles Lahainaluna’s Jaden Yip in the boys 200 IM. Cerizo finished second in 2:06.36; Yip won in 1:59.78. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“These boys — I’ve watched a lot of them grow up — and now they’re all making their mark here in the MIL. So, I think they are going to bring the best out of each other.”

King Kekaulike coach Malcolm Cooper said his approach is simple.

“If the scores work out for us — I know that it’s close in terms of the numbers, just by number of boys– you can only enter those two events and depending on how it goes,” Cooper said. “But we’re shooting for our kids to just have their best times and do well and make as many as we can go to states.”

Cooper acknowledged that the competitors’ eyes will be on the team prize.

“Of course it adds to the excitement, the kids care more about the team scores than anything, they really get into that,” Cooper said. “It’s exciting.”

Maui High’s Aaren Orquia and Connor Gunderson (background) congratulate Baldwin’s Vincent McNabb (foreground) after his win in the boys 50 freestyle. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com