By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kealakehe senior Madison Hauanio has always made it a point to carry others on her back when she swims.
She’s been productive in the pool — winning numerous medals at every level and helping the Waveriders to the school’s greatest glory with a Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championship in 2010.
But Hauanio’s biggest contributions remain her work as a selfless teammate, something her coach could count on, especially with a squad that wasn’t expected to fly so high. Kealakehe, with only 10 swimmers, captured the Big Island Interscholastic Federation title and took second at states.
“Madison sets a good example. She’s always positive, really upbeat, enthusiastic, trains well and is consistent,” coach Steve Borowski said. “The one thing we encourage the older swimmers to do is give back and help the younger swimmers, the freshmen and sophomores, and not just starring on the team. She’s always been giving with that. She does that with the kindness of her heart. I’m proud of her for that.”
Hauanio not only swims for her teammates, but also with her family in mind, too. Swimming turned into her ticket for a college education, relieving her parents, Kaleo and Cata Hauanio, of a financial burden.
But beyond that, it’s a proud moment for Hauanio, who will become the first in her family to attend college. She’s the second oldest of six siblings and has a scholarship waiting at Cal State University East Bay, where she’ll join 2012 Waiakea graduate Rachel Shimizu as a teammate.
With Borowski’s help, Hauanio emailed a bunch of schools. The Pioneers, who compete in the Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference, a conglomeration of Division I, II, III and NAIA schools, showed the most interest.
Hauanio will make an official visit next month to the Division II school in Hayward, Calif. The next national letter of intent signing date is April 17. She carries a 3.0 grade-point average and plans to major in ocean geography.
“The best thing is knowing my swimming has paid off,” she said. “It will help get me into college and my parents don’t have to worry about paying my way. I feel great about helping out.”
When Hauanio was a youngster, her parents adopted two baby brothers. They came into the household under difficult circumstances. It was an experience that shaped Hauanio’s perspective on life.
“They were adopted as really young drug babies,” she said. “Helping them grow up, it’s been a good experience for me. I love them and it’s been really neat to see how they bettered themselves.
“One of my brothers has autism. I want to help them do good in life. It’s brought a calmness and taught me understanding, how sometimes people are different. You have to be compassionate because people go through difficulties in life.”
Koa is now 10 years old and Nalu is a year younger. They’re living better lives. Their sister is a proud role model, whose hope is that her scholarship inspires all of her younger siblings.
“It’s exciting and I feel really proud, letting them know they can do the same as they grow older,” Hauanio said. “Hopefully, they get into swimming.”
She grew up around the ocean. Her dad has been a lifeguard for 25 years. She joined a novice swim team at 7 years old, and then found a home with Borowski’s Kona Aquatics Swim Club, which will compete in the state Long Course Championships in July.
Borowski believes Hauanio will be a good fit at Cal State East Bay because of her versatility. As a freshman at the HHSAA state championships, she captured gold in the 200-yard individual medley, and took second in the 100 backstroke. In the 100 back as a senior, she placed third.
Cal State East Bay made its first trip to the Division II championships in two decades. The Pioneers will get a swimmer capable of filling any of the four strokes — backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle — and any distance because she worked at everything.
“When she was 12 years old, she looked more like a distance swimmer. She didn’t have a lot of natural speed,” Borowski said. “But her speed kept coming on and coming on. Now, she’s winning a lot of long open ocean water events, same with her times in the 50 free. She’s as fast as anyone.
“From a coaching viewpoint in college, when there’s a dual meet she can be placed in a lot of different things. That’s a nice thing to have.”
Hauanio is swimming three hours a day, getting ready for the long course championships and pushing herself and her teammates.
“I enjoy the teamwork and practicing with my teammates,” she said. “That’s really fun. What I got out of swimming was learning about teamwork and commitment. I feel swimming keeps me disciplined and helps me in school.
“I couldn’t see myself not swimming. It’s also helped me for lessons in life, too.”