Friday | January 19, 2018
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Waiakea diving on the rise

KEAAU – Hawaii Prep swimming coach Mark Noetzel joked five years ago that if all the BIIF divers got together and played cards, there might be enough to occupy all the seats at a good-sized poker table.

These days, it’s a good bet that at least two or three tables could be filled.

Waiakea has a full house with seven divers, including a strong contingent of girls competitors, giving coach Lindsey Paulekas designs on sweeping the medals at the league championships.

“The top three is going to be all my gymnasts,” she said last Saturday at Kamehameha. “They work so hard and are so dedicated. That’s the best part about coaching them, they are so self-driven.”

Waiakea swimming coach Bill Sakovich saw Paulekas diving at Sparky Kawamoto Pool a few years ago and finally recruited her to coach the Warriors; they in turn convinced twins sisters Kaitlin and Marissa Iwahashi to try diving; and the seniors did cheer this year and helped sway fellow gymnasts/cheerleaders Caitlyn Nakata and Kobie Uyeda to the sport.

In their third season, the twins have experience on their side, but Paulekas calls Nakata her “sophomore powerhouse.”

“She’s just picking it up super quickly,” Paulekas said. “I have to tell her to slow down because she so powerful. She’s fearless. I can tell her to any dive, and she’ll try it.” With a diving competition on tap Saturday at Hawaii Prep – it follows the annual HPA Invitational swim – Kaitlin Iwahashi (293.25) and Caitlyn Nakata (288.40) and Natalie Mendoza (225.o) each compiled their highest scores of the season at Kamehameha, while Marissa Iwahashi has been consistent the past two meets scoring 271.70 and 270.25.

Defending BIIF champion Brianne Souki (246.60) of Kamehameha was fourth last Saturday.

BIIF divers usually don’t make much of a wave at states, but that changed last year in a big way when Hawaii Prep’s Joar Berglund led the way by striking gold, with Keaau’s Keliipono Mendoza second and Hilo’s Kore Ohumukini fourth.

Paulekas could see her girls making a dent at states this season.

“They are learning (the state dives) and by the end of the year we could very well have some placers,” she said.

While Berglund returned home to Sweden, Mendoza (season-high 326.75) and Ohumukini (314.3) are back and ripping it up in the pool.

With Hawaii Prep and Konawaena also sending divers to meets, there are more than enough bodies to fill all the seats at the table.

“I started coached three years ago and there was probably less than 10 divers,” Paulekas said. “At this meet, we have 21 that are diving.”


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