By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — With depth in spades, Hawaii Prep and Waiakea were going to be hard enough to beat as it was.
An unexpected relay victory here, and a few breakthrough golds there Saturday made it all but impossible.
The Ka Makani girls grabbed their first title at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation swimming and diving championships since 2005, while the Warriors boys completed a threepeat on a sun-splashed day at Kamehameha’s Naeole Pool.
“Everybody did what they they needed to,” HPA coach Mark Noetzel said.
At the top of the list was freshman Taylor Doherty, who was part of two relay triumphs and was the only HPA girl to win individual swimming gold, claiming the the 100-yard backstroke as the top seed.
“It was really crazy,” she said. “I worked hard all season, so it’s finally coming through. The (team title) means a lot. This is setting me up for all four years here, and I’m really excited.
“The backstroke has been my best race ever since I can remember.”
Doherty was the workhorse, getting HPA off to fine starts in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, but Ka Makani couldn’t have won the medley without a stellar freestyle anchor leg from Hannah Twigg-Smith. The senior came from behind and outtouched her longtime friend, Kealakehe’s Chenoa Jesser, for her first career BIIF gold.
“Hannah brought it home,” said Doherty, who also had a bronze. “That was amazing to all of us. We never knew she could do it.”
Twigg-Smith, who swam the anchor as HPA’s 200 free relay team finished second and got two third-place finishes, has savored a team title ever since she watched the HPA boys take the championship back in her freshman year in 2010. She’s also cherished an elusive gold. She made all the difference in the medley, the first swimming event of the day, even though Kealakehe held an almost four-second advantage in the preliminaries.
“Coming in, I thought we were going to get second,” she said. “I wanted to do it in may last chance. I wanted that gold medal.”
Like teammates Doherty and Twigg-Smith, Katie Jefferson also medaled in four events — the maximum — swimming both freestyle relays to go along with a pair of silvers. Sarah Cavanough scored a silver in addition to relay gold and bronze.
The top eight finishers score points at BIIFs, and no team took more advantage of that fact the past two years than the Waiakea boys. This time around, though, the Warriors had more success at the top, helping them overcome a disqualification in the medley relay. For the third consecutive year, Adam Hill ruled the 100 free, meanwhile Ren Kuwaye-Tamanaha (100 butterfly) and Drew Holloway (500 freestyle) reached the top of the podium for the first time.
“We didn’t expect to see some of those wins,” coach Bill Sakovich said.
Holloway and Kuwaye-Tamanaha also added silver, as did Noah Kimura, and Holloway, Teddy Uekawa, and Hill teamed up to claim the 400 free relay. Uekawa also took third in two races, and Gavin Sako, Jin Harbour and Kai Hendershot joined him in winning bronze.
Hill’s victory came in one of the best races of the day. The senior edged Kealakehe’s Mitchell Furer by just 18 one-hundredths of a second in the 100 free.
Kuwaye-Tamanaha credited coaches Sakovich and Justin Pearce for the program’s success, and he said one key is everyone pushes each other in and out of the water.
“The whole team did better than expected,” Kuwaye-Tamanaha said. “(The gold) doesn’t really matter to me, as long as we all put in the team effort. As long as we do it as a team, I’m happy.”
The most decorated swimmers on the day were Kealakehe’s Cara Jernigan and Hilo’s Ryan Bisel, who each took two individual golds to go along with relay gold and silver. The other double individual winner was Waiakea freshman Kelee Shimizu.
Jernigan won her first titles in the 100 breaststroke and 100 freestyle. Two weeks ago at Kamehameha, Jernigan topped Madisyn Uekawa’s two-year-old league record in the breaststroke, and on Saturday she came within five one-hundredths of second of Uekawa’s BIIF championship mark.
Madeline Foo’s victory in the 200 individual medley was her first BIIF crown for Kealakehe. She and Leahi Camacho each recorded two golds and two silvers, as those two combined with Jernigan and Lexi DeCarli to take the 200 freestyle relay.
With only eight swimmers, however, the Waveriders were no threat to HPA, finishing well behind in second. Camacho easily captured the 100 butterfly, but a swarm of HPA-capped swimmers followed, with Jefferson, Olivia Beckham, Tola Mahoney and Sienna Levine taking spots 2-5.
“We focus on the individual, and if you swim good, it doesn’t matter what place we come in,” Kealakehe coach Steve Borowski said.
Jernigan will return to Naeole Pool in two weeks as one of the favorites in the breaststroke.
Camacho closed her BIIF career with her fifth individual gold in the past three years, but the surprise of the day came in a race she didn’t win, the 200 freestyle. Shimizu appeared to lose her lead to Camacho, only to overtake her again at the last second.
“Once I hit the wall, it was kind of a shocker,” said Shimizu, who also won the 500 free as well as two relay medals. “I saw her catching up and was scared. I just tried to dig deep and push through toward the end.
“She always beats and really pushes me.”
The Hilo boys swimmers combined to win four races and one relay despite having only four swimmers.
Bisel led the gold rush, setting a championship record in the 200 IM in 1 minute, 57.68 seconds, bettering the mark he set last year. He also won the 100 backstroke, giving him two individual crowns in each of the past two years, and his third gold came in the 200 freestyle relay along with Cody Hamane, Jordan Kamimura and Kenneth Kitahata. The foursome was second in the 400 relay.
Hamane and Kamimura each went home with two golds and two silvers. Hamane won the 200 free for the second straight year, while Kamimura (100 breaststroke) has won a race at BIIFs in each of the past three years. But with the limited roster — Kitahata just swam in his first meet last week —the best Hilo could manage was third place.
“It’s really cool to have three boys taking the top places,” Bisel said. “It’s also really cool to come have Kenneth come and be the fourth person.”
The HPA boys were second behind junior Jake Anderson’s two golds. He is 3 for 3 in the 50 free in his BIIF career, and Ka Makani took advantage when other two teams were DQ’d in the medley relay.
In the girls 50 free, Kassie Kometani became Kohala’s first girls champion, and later she was just behind Jernigan, coming in second in the 100 free.
Before the swimming began, Kaili Yuen and Lawson Nerenberg got matters off to a good start for HPA, winning the diving competition. Nerenberg was the only boys competitor, while Yuen beat teammate Hadley Beach.