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Matsumoto rewriting record books at Indiana State

Baldwin grad, Sycamore sophomore has already posted several top-three times in program history

During her freshman season at Indiana State University, Baldwin High School graduate Kaimi Matsumoto recorded three top-three times in school history and was a first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection. Indiana State University Athletics photo

Terre Haute, Ind., was close to the last place Kaimi Matsumoto thought she’d end up swimming in college when she was making her decision two years ago as a Baldwin High School senior.

Now, the Indiana State University sophomore couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

“Well, before I was even looking at Indiana State I was looking at colleges more in California, just because it’s closer, it’s warmer, I think the culture is more similar,” Matsumoto said Monday via phone.

Matsumoto was interested in Fresno Pacific University and talking extensively to then-FPU coach Josh Christensen about nailing down her decision. Soon after, Christensen landed the head coaching job at Indiana State and a month or so later, he checked in with Matsumoto.

“Indiana was not even on my radar, but he ended up messaging me and giving me an offer, a very good offer,” Matsumoto said. “I started looking into Indiana State and it’s a pretty solid school, so I took a risk and here I am. I’m really glad I made this decision to come here, honestly.”

Matsumoto

The Sycamores are happy to have the Wailuku native. She was the 2018 state champion in the 200-yard individual medley and the Maui Interscholastic League Girl Swimmer of the Year as a Baldwin junior.

As a freshman at Indiana State, she recorded three top-three times in school history and was a first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection behind a third-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly with a personal best time of 55.45 seconds, which ranks second in program history.

Her personal best time of 51.73 in the 100 freestyle ranks third in program history, as does her 23.70 time in the 50 free. She was also on the 200 free, 200 medley and 400 medley relay teams who broke school records at the MVC championships last year.

She was named MVC swimmer of the week on Feb. 10.

“I’ve got really great team members, they’re like family to me now,” Matsumoto said. “I’m really happy that I’ve been able to make a lot of connections. Coach Josh, he’s always willing to recruit outside the United States. We have quite a few internationals on our team, so I’m actually getting to meet people from all over the world.”

Kaimi Matsumoto has posted the top times in five races this season for the Sycamores, including the 50- and 100-yard breaststroke. INDIANA STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS photo

Christensen is glad he decided to make the late call to Matsumoto back in the recruiting process two years ago.

“She’s doing great, she had a really good freshman year, great conference meet last year, and she really kind of picked up where she left off this year, even despite the craziness with COVID and everything like that,” Christensen said. “She’s grown so much even since last year, too. So in some ways she’s just so much more mature and kind of established and settled in this year, too, which is really exciting.”

So far this season, Matsumoto has No. 1 times for the Sycamores in the 100 free, 100 IM, 200 IM, 50 breaststroke and 100 breaststroke. She’s No. 2 in the 200 free and No. 3 in the 100 fly.

“I’d say the first semester (as a freshman) I kind of struggled a little bit, my times weren’t as fast,” Matsumoto said. “But second semester I really thought about it and I was, like, ‘OK, I’ve got to start putting in work.’ So, I just trained hard and coach Josh really helped me out a lot — he was always very encouraging, and my teammates really helped me out a lot, too. So, to be honest, I’m able to succeed because of them.”

The Indiana State program has its eyes on the MVC championships. The Sycamores are 4-0 in dual meets so far and have five more before the conference championships begin April 14 in Carbondale, Ill.

The MVC, similar to many other mid-major conferences, sets its conference meet after the NCAA championships, which take place this month.

“I’m excited for it, definitely,” Matsumoto said of the MVC meet. “We’ve had kind of a longer training season, so it’s given us a lot more time to prepare and we’ve been putting some good work in at the pool. I am really excited for that.” She is honored to be part of an impressive list of college swimmers from Maui.

“I’m really glad that I’ve been given this opportunity,” she said. “Swimming is definitely not a popular sport at all. It’s very underrated, especially in Hawaii. So I’m really glad that there are the few of us that are able to make way for the newer generation, the younger generation, and I hope it gives a good message to the younger people. Like, ‘You can do it, too, you can work your way all the way up to college and you have a shot at it, too.’

“That makes me really happy that maybe I can inspire someone to work harder every day and reach their goals, too.”

Matsumoto comes from a swimming family. Her mom Kiki Matsumoto is the Maui Swim Club head coach and older brothers Ponia and Kiakahi both swam competitively, Kiakahi in college.

It is her dad Tom Matsumoto who originally guided her in the pool as the MSC head coach. He died in 2017 when Kaimi was a Baldwin sophomore.

“It was always his dream that I swim in college in the Mainland,” Kaimi Matsumoto said. “So, I hope that since that’s what I’m doing nowadays he’d be proud of me for that. He’s a big motivation for me, he always had goals or times he wanted me to hit, so whenever I feel discouraged in swimming or I just feel burned out, I can always think about those goals and work towards them.

“It helps motivate me and pushes me forward every day.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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