By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Beth Tsuha has been a good fit at swimming powerhouse Grinnell College, a Division III school in Iowa that races with a competitive edge — much like the 2013 Hilo High graduate.
She’s been busy for the Pioneers, who have won 14 of the past 15 Midwest Conference championships, swimming in her specialty the 200-yard freestyle. During her Big Island Interscholastic Federation career, she won that event three times.
But in college, there’s no such thing as limited competition in a small pond because even at a Division III school top swimmers from around the country are on the roster. To even earn a starting spot at Grinnell is an accomplishment, considering there are 44 female swimmers for the Pioneers.
Tsuha is not only starting, but doing quite well.
She won the 200 free at the season-opener on the road at Luther College on Nov. 9. She was second in the 50 free, third in the 100 free and on the second-place 400 free relay team.
In the second meet at home against Illinois Institute of Technology on Nov. 16, Tsuha topped herself, even though she was the reigning Midwest Conference Swimmer of the Week, with four wins: 100 breaststroke, 500 free, 200 individual medley and 200 free relay.
The third meet at home against Loras College on Nov. 23 brought similar results: 1,000 free, 200 breast and 400 free relay.
Then the competition tightened with the 13-team Pioneer Classic in early December, but Tsuha took second in the 200 free, and was on the winning 400 and 800 free relay.
On Jan. 7, Grinnell traveled to Naples, Fla., and Tsuha had a good time against Connecticut College: second in the 200 free, fourth in the 100 free and third on the 200 free relay.
The Pioneers are hosting the two-day Grinnell Invitational, which concludes today. The NCAA Division III national championships will be held in late March in Indianapolis.
Once rivals, now Rachel Shimizu (2012 Waiakea) and Madison Hauanio (2013 Kealakehe) are teammates at Cal State East Bay and ripping it up at the Division II school.
In a meet against Biola and Azusa Pacific on Jan. 11, Hauanio, the sprinter, was on the winning 200 medley relay, and captured the 200 free, 100 free and 200 IM. Shimizu, the distance swimmer, was second in the 1,650 free, first in the 500 free, and on the 400 free relay.
Last season, Shimizu earned all-conference individual honors as a freshman after placing seventh in the 1,650 free at the Pacific Collegiate Swim Championships.
They’re not the only Big Island products.
Ashia Joseph (2011 Waiakea) was the starting setter for the Pioneers, who finished with an 11-19 record in her junior year. Last season, Joseph led College of Southern Idaho to the school’s 10th national junior college championship.
Zoe Sims (2013 Hawaii Prep), a freshman at Princeton, is pulling double duty at the Ivy League school. Her cross country season concluded Oct. 19 at the Eastern College Athletic Conference in the Bronx, N.Y., where she was 45th in 19:45 minutes in the 5K race.
In her three other races, the 2013 U.S. Presidential Scholar, she was 37th, 49th, and 10th in 23:20 at the Princeton Invitational open run on Oct. 19 at Princeton, N.J.
Sims is also a middle-distance runner on the track team, which started its season Dec. 7 and runs through June, with the NCAA championships at Eugene, Ore.
In a tri-meet against St. Johns and St. Joseph’s on Jan. 10 at home, Sims was fifth in the mile run, behind four other fellow Tigers, in 5 minutes and 13.07 seconds. She was also on the winning 3,200 meter relay team.
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