Boys make waves at Sakamoto meet

Urquia, Yip star at event

Aaren Urquia of Hawaii Swim Club checks his winning time of 26.06 seconds in the mens 15-16 50 free Saturday at the 45th annual Coach Soichi Sakamoto invitational Swimming Meet. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — It was just two years ago that the Maui Interscholastic League girls dominated the state high school meet, winning five of the eight individual titles.

At the same state meet, just one MIL boy made a final.

Now, the pendulum appears to be evening out with Maui County ready to make big moves in the boys ranks.

Two of those boys showed just what the future may hold at the 45th annual Coach Soichi Sakamoto Memorial Swimming Meet on Saturday at the pool in the War Memorial Complex named for the legendary coach.

Aaren Orquia, a Maui High School sophomore who swims for Hawaii Swim Club, broke the meet record in the 200-meter butterfly on Saturday in the 15-16 age division when he touched in 2 minutes, 13.07 seconds. That erased the 2:13.76 meet mark set by Dong Hyeon Hwang last year.

Jaden Yip of Lahaina Swim Club won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:35.98 and the 200-meter individual medley in 2:19.76. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

In the final event of the day, he broke the open division record in the 400 free, touching in 4:18.26, shattering the old mark of 4:31.68 set last year by Carl McNabb.

“That’s great, I love the team, we’re just trying to make it better,” said Orquia, who won the 500-yard freestyle in the MIL meet in February.

Jaden Yip, a Kihei Charter sophomore who swims for Lahaina Swim Club, was second to Urquia in the 200-meter fly, and won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:35.98 and the 200-meter individual medley in 2:19.76.

Orquia and Yip are part of a solid group of MIL boys across the league who currently are sophomores or freshmen. They grew up swimming against each other. Vincent McNabb of Baldwin and HSC, Sean Cerizo of Maui Swim Club and St. Anthony, and Patrick Garduque of Maui High and MSC are all in the mix.

They were having fun in the age group meet that highlights the calendar annually on the Valley Isle.

Lahaina’s Mathew Iverson (center) smiles after wining the mens 13-14 50 free with a time of 29.27. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I started swimming when I was, like, maybe 6,” Orquia said. “It’s really fun because it is not as stressful as states, but I still like to cut my times, and I like to race Patrick guys. It’s fun.”

Orquia won the open division 50-meter free on Saturday in 25.79 and his age division (26.06), and the 100-meter backstroke in 1:04.69.

Yip also was second in the back in 1:05.77 and was second in the age group 50 free in 26.28.

“The mentality in this meet is like high school, it’s really fun, a lot of people cheering you on,” Yip said. “Aaren is really fast in the fly. I’ve been swimming against him since I was, like, 10. He has always been a really fast flyer.”

Yip said his group is conscious of returning to the top of the podium at the high school state meet like their female counterparts.

Melia Lee of Island Aquatics swims to a win in the womens 11-12 200 IM Saturday with a time of 2:45.96. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“The younger generation is always getting faster, so we’re constantly always pushing each other to do better,” Yip said. “We all have grown up together.”

Maui High and HSC coach Reid Yamamoto is impressed with the young boys currently coming up in the ranks.

“Aaren Orquia, Jaden Yip, Vicent McNabb who is not here because he’s out sick, but they are in a group that we should be keeping an eye on for the next few years,” Yamamoto said. “Those guys have a bright future, I think.”

Yamamoto is a former state champion in the 100-yard backstroke for Hawaii Baptist and swam collegiately at the University of Hawaii. He has grown into being a Mauian. 

He came to the start of the Sakamoto meet to get his team prepared, then hurried to Seabury Hall’s graduation to see his former state champion Jasmine O’Brien receive her diploma, and then scurried back to the meet.

Evans Tan of Splash Aquatics swims the breaststroke leg of the mens 11-12 200 IM Saturday on his way to winning with a time of 2:48.82. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“When you think about Sakamoto, you think about Maui,” Yamamoto said. “You think about Coach Sakamoto, you think about (MSC founder) Spencer Shiraishi.

“This is Maui’s meet.”

* Rob Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.