By MATT GERHART
By MATT GERHART
KEAAU — Hawaii Prep swimming coach Mark Noetzel has only dangled the carrot that is the HHSAA swimming championship in front of his team once.
And he did it with the ultimate qualifier.
“I told them you’re the underdog and you’re going to have to earn it if you are going to win it,” Noetzel said. “Let’s just keep our heads down and do some work.”
For some, that process started at Saturday’s BIIF meet at Kamehameha’s Naeole Pool, though HPA didn’t so much as dive right in as it merely dipped its toes in the water.
Ka Makani won’t taper their training until the state finals Feb. 11, and the only regular-season meet it truly focuses on is the HPA Invitational, which is this Saturday in Waimea.
“We’ve had a long break, and we’re going to get stronger as the season goes on, across the board,” Noetzel said. “We’ve got to rebuild the next five weeks for the state meet. We’re kind of setting the sights on how well we perform against the state teams.”
If the meet at Kamehameha ran more briskly than usual, one reason is that Noetzel only brought a skeleton crew. Still, with a quarter roster, Ka Makani showed why they are the heavy BIIF favorites, especially on the girls side, where HPA is vying for a fourth consecutive championship.
It dominated all three relays and claimed four of eight individual races. Kira Parker won two races (200-yard freestyle, 100 backstroke) and had a hand in two relay victories, while Taylor Doherty (200 individual medley) and Karly Noetzel (50 freestyle) each won an event along powering two relays.
Considering who wasn’t at the meet, this could just be the tip of the iceberg.
State age-group record-holder Maile Lawson, who won four BIIF golds as a freshman last season, wasn’t in attendance. Neither were Frida Berglund, who went home to Sweden for the holiday break, nor Tereza Kanalosova, who visited her native Czech Republic.
All the talent, senior Janelle Laros included, could give Noetzel a luxury he didn’t have the last time he coached HPA to a state title. In 2011, he had four boys swimmers triple up in the relays and focus on one individual event — four is the maximum events allowed — as HPA toppled Punahou.
“I don’t think I’ll have to do that this year,” Noetzel said. “We’ve got enough diversity where I think it’s possible that I can allow the athletes to swim in two individual events and still have the relays fall into place.”
Last season at states, the HPA girls finished runner-up, though Punahou lapped the rest of the field to continue the ILH’s reign.
Save for Kealakehe’s title in 2010 and Waiakea’s back-to-back crowns in 2002-03, an ILH school has ruled the girls field at the HHSAA championships every year dating back to 1973.
“Who knows what Punahou will pull out of their hat, and the other ILH schools seem to put together really strong relays,” Noetzel said.
• Sophomore Mary Campbell continues to carry the banner for St. Joseph. Campbell won the 500 freestyle and took second in the 200, swimming state-qualifying times in both. Last season, Campbell swam in at states in the 500, ending a lengthy drought for the Cardinals, and she bettered her times in both events.
“Now she can try to qualify for a third,” said Hilo coach Jon Hayashida, who’s also Campbell’s club coach. “She keeps on improving.”
Campbell and a teammate practice with the Vikings.
• Two-time boys BIIF champion HPA got two victories apiece from Frederick Moller (200 free, 100 butterfly) and Matthew Ostrem (100 breaststroke and 200 IM).