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The Maui News 2019-20 MIL Swimming and Diving All-Stars

Mission accomplished: Eyre, Orquia had banner seasons

King Kekaulike High School’s Aniston Eyre won three gold medals at the state championships last month, placing first in the 50 and 100 freestyles while also anchoring Na Alii’s 200 free relay team to victory. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

King Kekaulike High School’s Aniston Eyre is excited to take swimming to the next level at Columbia University after an epic senior season. Aaren Orquia can’t wait to get back in the pool to represent Maui High one last time.

Both Eyre and Orquia have a lot to look forward to after accomplishing so much this season, including being chosen by Maui Interscholastic League coaches as the MIL Swimmers of the Year.

“I was so happy to hear about that,” Eyre said of her second straight swimmer of the year accolade.

During the K. Mark Takai/HHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships in front of a home crowd at the Kihei Aquatic Center in February, Eyre claimed the only golds for the MIL — she won the 50-yard free in 23.72 seconds and 100 free in 51.56, both personal records, while also adding another victory with her comeback anchor leg in the 200 freestyle relay.

Eyre also led Na Alii to a second-place finish in the team standings, which was “really, really cool.”

Aaren Orquia helped lead the Maui High boys 400 free relay team to bronze at the state championships — it was the highest finish for the MIL boys at the state meet. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I went into the state competition just kind of knowing I had a challenge, knowing I had been beat the previous year and the competition in the sprint races are always really strong,” she said. “So I was kind of nervous about that but I hoped that my hard work and just the energy of this Maui states would kind of propel me to be able to, if not win, get some good times, which I did, so that was really gratifying.

“Also I haven’t been able to place that high in a relay in my four years of high school, so that was really, really cool to walk away with a win.”

Just a few weeks prior, Eyre went home with four gold medals from the MIL championships as well as a tie with Seabury Hall for the girls team title.

“It still doesn’t feel real to be honest,” she said. “It was such a great season, not just for me individually, but for my team and for all the girls that I get to graduate with and all the people I got to be with for one last year, it was a really positive experience when I look back on, and I’m so glad I was able to get that season in there.”

Eyre is joined on the girls All-Star first team by Lahainaluna’s Lexi Anderson; Baldwin’s Kylie Carter and Maria King; Maui High’s Jordynn Brown, Karissa Ginoza and diver Summer Coronesi; Seabury’s Kamille Pellettieri; and Maui Prep’s Paloma Banto.

MIL SWIMING AND DIVING ALL-STARS

Eyre planned to wrap up her prep career with the King Kekaulike water polo team, but that has been put on hold with spring sports indefinitely suspended due to the new coronavirus.

“I’m missing water polo but I’m so happy that we got to finish the (swim) season,” Eyre said. “All those days at practice where we would all show up with enthusiasm, no matter what level of swimming we were at. We would talk story but also work out hard, and just being a team.”

“It’s been a really, really important part of high school, at least for me, and becoming a better athlete” she added. “I learned to be a leader and learned to encourage others, and not just focus on my own performance.”

Orquia put together a strong season as well. The Sabers junior celebrated victory in the 500 free and helped lead Maui High to wins in the 200 and 400 free relays at the MIL championship. The Sabers won the boys team title, ending Baldwin’s eight-year reign.

“We knew we had a shot at winning the team title, but what we were focusing on was trying to do our best individually,” Orquia said. “I’m satisfied with how I did this season. I cut time in most of my events and achieved all the goals I had.”

Maui High coach Reid Yamamoto — chosen by his peers as MIL Coach of the Year — said that Orquia has been a good example for the rest of the team to follow, in and out of the pool.

“The whole team had a great year as well, I think the boys were kind of fired up to see what they could do. Luckily it came out our way,” Yamamoto said. “Aaren is pretty much more of a quiet leader. He’s in the pool and he’ll say a few things, but we’ve been trying to really get him to be more of a vocal leader.

“I think he leads the other boys by how he pushes himself in the pool and by what they see, and I think that’s good for sports, good for us, good for my boys, and good for all the other guys on Maui.”

At the state meet, Orquia finished fourth in the 100 butterfly and helped push the Sabers’ 400 free relay team to a third-place finish, the highest boys finish from the MIL.

“I think what made him take that step to the next level was that his strength improved,” Yamamoto said. “He started lifting weights, which was a big difference, at least for him. He’s a lot stronger this year; he had some injuries in the past — knees, wrist — and this year wasn’t as bad, which can be attributed to his strength and overall toughness.”

Meeting the Junior USA Swimming standards in the 100 and 200 butterfly is next on Orquia’s radar, and also to defend the Sabers’ MIL boys team title in his senior year.

“Now I’m focusing on the next season of age-group swimming,” he said. “I don’t really do any other sports besides swimming.”

Orquia is joined on the boys All-Star first team by fellow Sabers Patrick Garduque and Connor Gunderson; Maui Prep’s Mathew Iverson; Lahainaluna’s Jaden Yip; Baldwin’s Carl Vincent McNabb and Brandon Kwock Fukuda; St. Anthony’s Sean Cerizo; and King Kekaulike diver Luke Berrigan.

“It feels great to be the swimmer of the year. It’s been a goal of mine ever since I joined high school,” Orquia said. “My teammates made the season even more enjoyable. We all get along really well and we have fun together.”

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com

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