HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brittany Beauchan sat out a season before she returned last year to help the Buffanblu capture the state championship. The senior won the 100 breaststroke and was a member of the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams. CLICK FOR LARGE
A stroke of gold
Punahou's Brittany Beauchan is a three-time state champ in the 100-meter breaststroke
PERCHED atop her block as she awaits the starter's pistol, Brittany Beauchan cannot be disturbed.
Concentrating only on the water in front of her, she prepares for a fast start -- one that will allow her to be the first swimmer to enter the water.
Beauchan does not concern herself with winning her third state title in the 100-meter breaststroke, the full-ride scholarship she has already accepted from UCLA, or the spot in the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials she has already earned. She thinks only of swimming the fastest race she can possibly swim.
"I just try to focus on being first in," Beauchan said. "Once I'm in and I start swimming, my brain just kind of shuts off and I try to just go like a racehorse. I think about reaching out and pulling as far as I can, and keeping my kick speedy.
"After a while I can feel my body, the physical sensation of everything working together in the water, and the sound of the bubbles swooshing over me and it is awesome. Once I near the end, I just focus on getting into the wall as fast and as hard as I can."
IT IS THIS ability to live in the moment and maintain her unshakable focus, along with talent and dedication, that have allowed the Punahou senior to be the first to touch the wall many times, and have made her one of the fastest breaststrokers in the country.
"Brittany is great, she's clearly the fastest breaststroker in the state," said Jeff Meister, Punahou's swim coach since 1989. "She is one of the hardest workers on the team, and that's saying something. She is going to be as good or better than anyone else we've ever had."
Taking into account the legacy of Punahou's swimming program, Meister's statement is bold indeed. In the 48 years that Hawaii has recognized a girls state champion, the Buffanblu have captured 41 titles. Dozens of alumnae have gone on to swim in college, including Celeste Jacroux (Ohio State), Jody Jackson (Stanford), Malia Chong (Purdue), and Sara Jenny (New Mexico).
With all that she has accomplished already, it is a statement well-founded. As a freshman at Kalaheo, Beauchan earned her first All-America honor from the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association after winning the state championship in her feature event, the 100 breaststroke, and placing second in three other events.
Following that season, Beauchan's family felt it was the right time to make the move to Punahou.
"My mom always wanted me to attend Punahou," Beauchan said. "I've been competing in meets here since I was a kid and I always enjoyed the campus and the environment and I am so happy that I have been able to come to school here these last few years. Punahou offers really good preparation for college and of course its swimming program is a great legacy to be a part of.
"I am so thankful for my parents, who have made so many sacrifices for my education and my swimming. I don't know how they do it, but I appreciate everything they've done for me so much. "
MEISTER WAS excited about Beauchan's change of scenery, too.
"When we heard she was accepted we were ecstatic," he said. "Brittany is always happy, upbeat, and of course, she is obviously talented. But a lot of her success is also due to her club coach, Scott Sherwood at HSC (Hawaii Swimming Club). We have Brittany for only about 3 1/2 months, and the rest of the time she is training with them."
With the change in schools came drastic adjustments to her daily schedule. Beauchan typically wakes up at 5 in the morning to get dressed and make the commute from Kailua to Manoa for 7:30 classes. After finishing at 3:30 p.m., she makes the arduous drive back to Kailua and has about 15 minutes to run into the house and grab her gear before heading off to practice with HSC, in Salt Lake. After a 2-hour practice, Beauchan heads home for dinner and then homework until about 11 p.m., before heading off to sleep.
"It definitely gets tough, sometimes," Beauchan said. "It takes a lot of time and discipline, of course. But I know that's what it takes. Lots of swimmers from this program have gone on to great things in life, and I know that the work I put in now will be the groundwork for success."
BEAUCHAN'S ABILITY to focus has paid off at Punahou. After having to sit out the past swim season due to her transfer, Beauchan returned last year to help the Buffs reclaim the state championship after a five-year losing streak, capturing the 100 breaststroke while also helping her squad win both the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.
Punahou won 10 of the 12 events at the state meet, outpointing runner-up Iolani, 91-38. Her time in her breaststroke set a Hawaii High School Athletic Association championship record, at 1:04:10, and earned her a second NISCA All-America award.
"We would love to see her go 1:01 or 1:02," Meister said. "Last year she got sick about this time, but still swam well, so this year she's trying to take better care of herself. Her times in the breaststroke are really good. She's again put up NCAA qualifying times this year."
At UCLA next fall, Beauchan will become part of a program that has enjoyed much success, producing 18 Olympic medalists.
"Early on, I wanted to go to a school with Olympic coaches because I figured it would give me the best chance to pursue that dream," Beauchan said. "The farther it went along, I realized it was as important to have coaches who were supportive and nurturing, too. With UCLA I feel I got both. Most people who entered that program got a lot more than a gold medal out of their experience there."
In Westwood, Beauchan will continue to prepare for her Olympic trials, slated to be held in Indianapolis during the summer following her freshman year of college.
"My goal with the trials is just to do well and compete," she said. "I'm not expecting to make the Olympic team, to be one of the top eight in the nation. But I think it'll be a great experience to see how the best swimmers in the world compete."
IN SPITE OF all of the acclaim Beauchan has earned in the breaststroke, she remains the consummate team player. When speaking to Beauchan about her swimming accomplishments it quickly becomes evident that she may be more proud of her relay team honors than she is her individual honors.
Beauchan and her relay team of Christel Simms, Michelle Yoshida and Rachel Cote have been outstanding this season, highlighted by an effort that saw them take first place in every relay they entered at the 30th Kalani Invitational, held earlier this month at Central Oahu Regional Park.
"All of the girls on this relay team are national-caliber swimmers," Beauchan said. "When we put our minds to it we can swim and have great performances. I wish there was a national high school meet. I'd really like to see us go up against all the other schools out there. We have a lot of power, efficiency and technique, and I think we can dominate not only here, but in the mainland as well."
Beyond winning medals and setting records, Beauchan has grown into a leader for the Buffanblu, a role model.
"It will be very different without her here and in club," said Simms, the defending state champion in the 200 freestyle. "We've been through so much together, traveling to regionals and nationals. I'm really going to miss her. I really look up to her and she's been a great friend."
Fellow relay-team member and two-time state winner Yoshida echoed Simms' sentiment.
"She is a really good teammate," said Yoshida, the state champion in both the 50 and 100 freestyle last year. "She's really inspiring to me. She always brings a positive attitude to the team and she has had a lot more experience competing than I have going to big meets, and it's nice to have her around to learn from.
"States will be her last meet with us and it'll be sad to see her go, but that makes it even more important for us to make it memorable and do something special that we'll never forget," Yoshida added.