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Maui High boys cap states with relay bronze

Maui High School’s Aaren Orquia (black cap) competes in the boys 100-yard butterfly final Saturday during the K. Mark Takai/HHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships at Kihei Aquatic Center. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KIHEI — Lining the pool were screaming fans and coaches as the Maui High School boys 400-yard freestyle relay team held strong for bronze at the K. Mark Takai/HHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships, concluding the day with the highest finish among the Maui Interscholastic League’s boys competitors.

The Sabers entered finals as the fourth seed, but edged Iolani for third place on Saturday afternoon at the Kihei Aquatic Center with a time of 3 minutes, 18.47 seconds.

“I just tried to swim my fastest leg. … It was really good, everyone just kept on going,” said Maui High’s Aaren Orquia, who was joined by Kian Leonard, Patrick Garduque and anchor Connor Gunderson. “Connor had a clutch last leg and everyone else did good. We were just going to try and see what we could do in there and just race.”

Earlier in the meet, the same Sabers quartet placed fifth in the 200 free relay.

Orquia also was one of the MIL’s top individual racers with his fourth-place performance in the 100 butterfly. He finished in 51.12 seconds, but “was hoping for a better time.” The Sabers junior was also sixth in the 500 free in 4:48.26.

Maui Prep’s Mathew Iverson swims to a fourth-place finish in the boys 200-yard individual medley Saturday.

At the MIL’s home pool, Maui High totaled 11 points to tie for seventh place in the team standings. Punahou tallied 58 points to win its seventh straight team title.

“I just learned that you just have to get out as fast as you can and just hang on as best as you can because, like, if you’re tired after you race, then what’s the point?” Orquia said. “Everyone is like family to me, everyone from (club team Hawaii Swimming Club) to Maui High — everyone in Maui, we all know each other and we grew up racing — I’m just blessed to have them to race against and to get faster.”

Another top MIL finisher was Maui Prep freshman Mathew Iverson, who placed fourth in the 200 IM (1:58.49) before helping Na Pueo finish seventh in the 200 free relay and then quickly jumping back into the pool for a sixth-place finish in the 100 back (54.99).

Baldwin’s Carl Vincent McNabb, who earlier placed eighth in the 200 free, just outreached Iverson in the 100 back to claim fifth in 54.75.

“I’m very happy. I was excited where I placed in the 100 back, I moved up and it was an exciting race,” Iverson said. “It was a big adrenaline rush in between the two races, whether I was going to warm down or not, or if I was going to have enough rest in between, but it ended up feeling pretty good.”

Na Pueo’s Jerone Samari competes in the unified 200 freestyle final.

Na Pueo coach Mike “Tex” Ritter was happy with his freshman’s efforts.

“It’s a great meet, the competition is always incredible, seeing everybody from all the other islands, there’s just such an amazing talent here in Hawaii. … We’re just like one big family,” Ritter said. “Mathew did really well today, he’s done his best times. That relay was really good, he split a 22, so it was really good to have him in back-to-back events.”

Ritter added that the future of Maui Prep is looking even brighter after a small piece of history was made on Saturday.

For the first time in HHSAA swimming and diving history, the event hosted unified races in which Maui Prep senior Jerone Samari, who was born with cerebral palsy, was the first competitor.

“It was awesome, I mean beforehand I was so nervous, that’s just kind of how I always feel when I’m out there, but it was really cool,” Samari said. “All of the support, everybody gathering around, it was just really awesome to be a part of and really hope that next year more unified swimmers will come out and will have more of an event, but it was still really awesome to be a part of it.”

Maui High’s KaiMana DeGuzman-Meya competes in the boys 1-meter diving final. DeGuzman-Meya placed eighth.

Samari swam solo in the 200 and 100 free in front of a jam-packed aquatic center, earning personal best times of 3:02.07 and 1:25.20, respectively.

“Jerone is just an incredible inspiration to our team and the whole sport here,” Ritter said. “For unified events, he’s really just a trailblazer to turn this into something more mainstream for people to have that opportunity, so by him taking that step and being there, it’s opened a door for a lot of people to do some amazing things.”

Other boys finalists from the MIL were Lahainaluna’s Jayden Yip (fifth in 200 IM and sixth in 100 breaststroke); King Kekaulike’s Luke Berrigan (fifth in diving); Maui High’s Gunderson (seventh in 50 and 100 free), Garduque (fifth in 100 fly) and KaiMana DeGuzman-Meya (eighth in 1-meter diving); Maui Prep’s Slater Fleck (seventh in 100 breaststroke); and St. Anthony’s Sean Cerizo (eighth in 100 free).

Among the other MIL boys relay teams were Baldwin (sixth in 200 medley) and Lahainaluna (eighth in 200 medley).

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

King Kekaulike's Luke Berrigan dives in the boys final on his way to a fifth-place finish.