HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Stanford's Hongzhe Sun has his eye on Stanford's record in the 200-yard backstroke. He fell two-tenths of a second away from it last year.
Stanford senior Hongzhe Sun is aiming for a record at this week's Pac-10 meet
Hongzhe Sun is participating in his final Pacific-10 Conference men's swimming championship that started yesterday and concludes tomorrow in Federal Way, Wash., with a Stanford team aiming for its 26th consecutive title.
Sun has two goals in mind. One could be accomplished this week.
"In the 200-yard backstroke, I'm looking forward to breaking the long-standing Stanford record of 1:40.06," Sun said. "I was less than two-tenths (of a second) off last year and I'm pretty confident I'm going to go sub 40 this year."
He described himself as a person who is sort of goal orientated, usually having a set of short-term goals that keep him on track toward reaching his long-range goals. His daily goals help him make sure he is moving forward.
The second goal will have to wait until March 17 when the three-day NCAA championships in Minneapolis conclude.
"As a team goal, all our eyes are on the big prize ... the NCAA title," Sun said.
Stanford finished third in the NCAA meet a year ago.
Sun is swimming the 100 and 200 backstroke and the 200 individual medley this week. He also will be on the 200 and 400 medley relay teams and will swim the 200 butterfly unofficially.
"Hong wants to see how he will do in the 200 fly and how it fits into a three-day meet physically. Participants are only allowed to compete in three individual events and he wants to keep his options open for the NCAA meet," Stanford coach Skip Kenney said.
Sun is the defending Pac-10 champion in the 200 IM and 100 back, and the two-time defending champion in the 200 back.
He has met the NCAA qualifying "A" standard in the 200 fly (1:44.00), the 100 back (47.29), the 200 back (1:41.98) and the 200 IM (1:46.19).
"I would like to see him win something at the NCAAs. His best chances are in the 100 and 200 back," Kenney said.
Sun earned All-American honors at the 2006 NCAA championship with a second-place finish in the 200 back (1:40.25) and by swimming the leadoff leg on the third-place 400 medley relay (3:07.96) team.
COURTESY STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Iolani product Hongzhe Sun is doing everything he can to peak at the NCAA championships next month.
Is he ready?
"I'm not at my peak. I'm still on my way up. I aiming to be at my peak in Minneapolis," Sun said.
Sun was Pac-10 freshman/newcomer of the year in 2004 and has improved each year.
"Hong has made himself a great swimmer. He is a very, very intelligent young man." Kenney said. "He is always studying his stroke technique. We video on top under water and he is very into that, always challenging himself. He talks to other great backstrokers. He goes above and beyond of just doing what he is asked to do.
"Hong is one of our team captains this year. He is a great team leader, so easy to coach.
"The captains have more responsibility. I tell them that it is their team. We don't have rules but there are trends to follow. They assign big brothers to the freshmen swimmers. They decide what we wear at banquets and when we travel."
Sun was born in Shanghai, China, and began swimming there at age 5.
"The local district coach came to my school with a list of requirements they look for in a swimmer," Sun said. "Physically, if someone fell into what they felt was a swimmer type, they were given the option of attending an athletic school that catered to swimmers.
"They checked my height, arm span and took body measurements. They also checked family members, the uncles on my mother's side. They didn't check my father's side which I thought was interesting."
The family moved to Hawaii when Hongzhe was seven so his father Wenhao could pursue his Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Hawaii.
His family decided to stay in Hawaii and Sun entered Iolani in the sixth grade. He swam and played water polo until the ninth grade, then focused on swimming with one exception. He lettered one year for the Raiders kayak team.
"My coach (Brian Lee) recommended kayaking because it would be good for cross training," Sun said.
He considered Harvard, Princeton, USC and California before deciding on Stanford.
"The No. 1 reason was the team at Stanford was outstanding with a passion for swimming that was unparalleled," Sun said. "I got to work with some of the best backstrokers in the world my freshman year.
"Randall Bal, Markus Rogan, Jeff Rouse and Peter Marshall were there and I was looking for that wealth of knowledge. Also, there was no comparison in terms of academics and athletics. None of the other schools had that combined power that Stanford has."
Last summer, Sun finished fourth in the 200-meter backstroke at the USA National Championships to earn a spot on the United States team that will compete at the 2007 World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 8-18. (He became a U.S. citizen while in high school).
"I was very pleased making the team. It was a goal I had going into the summer," said Sun, who has the 2008 Olympics in his sights.
Sun, a member of the All-Pac-10 Academic second team in 2005 and the first team in 2006, is majoring in management sciences and engineering and graduates this semester.
"It is an interdisciplinary major. I will get an engineering degree, but with a lot of economics and a business background," Sun said. "I have a position with an investment bank in San Francisco, but they gave me the courtesy of not starting until after 2008."
That leaves Sun free for a year to train for the Olympics.
Noa Sakamoto (Punahou '04) also competed for the Cardinal this year, but he is not at the Pac-10 meet.
"Noa is now training for the open water Olympic trials next year," Kenney said. "We'll see where that takes him.
"He may decide not to be on the team next year and train with triathletes in open water. Noa also is pre-med so he has his hands full with academics."