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Swimmers trade pool for ocean workouts

Swimmers in the 9-and-under age group exit the water after swimming around coach Shawn Donohue (background) during their morning workout on Thursday at Kamaole I Beach Park. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

KIHEI — Kainalu Ball is used to swimming at the Kihei Aquatic Center, but with strict guidelines at Maui County pools in place right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is now enjoying workouts in the Pacific Ocean.

Ball, a rising senior at Maui High School, was a member of the 2020 Maui Interscholastic League championship boys team and an MIL finalist in the 500-yard freestyle.

Thursday morning, he was working out with the “Maui fun and fitness” group at Kamaole I Beach Park, under the guidance of coaches Shawn and Maverick Donohue.

Ball was asked if he felt like he was able to stay in shape doing the workouts that include age-group swimmers from three different Valley Isle swim clubs.

“Yes, actually, more so than the pool,” Ball said of the ability to stay in shape. “It’s very unique because we swim in the pool usually and so if we’re swimming on the beach then it’s really unusual, but I like it.”

Swimmers in the 13-and-over age group work out on the beach in stations before entering the ocean. There were four stations, including two medicine ball-tossing spots, pushups and “capture the bacon” running drills using cut-up foam pieces. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

The workouts put smiles on just about every one of the teens and keiki in attendance on Thursday.

Maverick Donohue, who recently finished his bachelor’s degree in exercise-sports science and kinesiology at Concordia University-Irvine, was the MIL Boy Swimmer of the Year for Baldwin in 2016. He is currently working on a teaching credential, but is thoroughly enjoying his first try at coaching in the free program that his dad started about six weeks ago.

“It’s honestly been amazing,” Maverick Donohue said. “With everything going on this summer, I didn’t have much to do and when I had the opportunity to volunteer and coach these kids, I took it right away. … I want to coach and I want to teach here on Maui.”

Maverick Donohue said that he has been looking for ways to make the workout fun. Thursday’s workout for the 13-and-up age group began with stretching and then station-to-station drills on the beach. The stations included medicine ball tosses, pushups, and “capture the bacon” and “suicide” runs using cut-up foam floatation devices.

“Every singe day we’re just working out, we’re getting as creative as we can,” Maverick Donohue said. “Doing ocean swims, beach runs and any kind of dry-land (drills) we can work on the sand.”

Maverick Donohue peered over at the swimmers following in his footsteps and smiled.

“It’s honestly been a great experience, my dad’s been coaching and teaching his whole life, so I’m basically just taking up what he’s been doing,” Maverick Donohue said. “Having the opportunity to learn from this has been amazing.”

Keanna Campbell is a rising junior at Baldwin.

“I’m having so much fun, it’s my favorite thing to do,” Campbell said of the beach workouts. “When I wake up every morning I’m so excited to come here and work out.”

County pools currently require making reservations via phone the day prior for a 45-minute session to swim laps. Campbell said she may keep doing ocean workouts even when the county pools become more accessible.

“I love swimming in the pool, but this is way more fun and I get to do it with all my friends here,” Campbell said. “The environment here is just way better than just staring at a black line all day in a pool.”

Mikela De Aguiar will be a Baldwin sophomore when the school year begins.

“A whole lot of fun, it is just great coming out here every morning, it gives you something to do,” De Aguiar said. “It’s your motivation to stay fit during times like this.”

De Aguiar said that she has gotten a lane reservation at county pools a couple times since the pools reopened about a month ago.

“I did when the pools first reopened, but now I have been surfing a lot lately and just with this, I get too tired,” De Aguiar said. “I want to be able to come here every morning. I don’t want to push my limits. I’m definitely getting in shape, more than I would be if this wasn’t here.”

Shawn Donohue worked with the youngest set of kids on Thursday — the 9-and-under group does the workouts two days a week. The 10-12 age group goes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Maverick Donohue’s older group goes five days a week.

The program started about six weeks ago when the county pools were still closed. It started small and has grown as the COVID-19 guidelines evolved.

“When we started it was just nine athletes and a coach,” Shawn Donohue said. “Divided, we had five different groups going at one time. Now, we’re down to three groups.”

Shawn Donohue said the idea came to mind one day when he was on one of his daily morning swims at Kamaole I. He emphasized that Maui County and USA Swimming rules are being followed each step of the road.

“I was down there in mid-April and I looked out and I see four or five girls swimming and I immediately recognized their strokes,” Shawn Donohue said. “They were way out in the ocean, recognized their strokes, they popped their heads up and I saw them.

“Went on my swim and I started talking to them and I said, ‘Hey, would you guys like to do something a little more structured with this?’ They were, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, more structured.’ That’s just kind of how it morphed into it.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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