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Simms leads Punahou to state title


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POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

Four. It's the number of titles the Punahou girls swim team has won in the same number of years. It's also the number of gold medals senior Christel Simms and junior Rachel Fujita took home after yesterday's HHSAA State Swimming and Diving Championships at the Veteran Memorial Aquatic Complex in Waipio.

On the boys side, 'Iolani reclaimed the title after a three-year sabbatical, finishing with 62 points. Freshman Kacy Johnson nabbed four gold medals to lead the Raiders past two-time defending champion Punahou, which finished second with 43 points. Hawaii Prep, Kamehameha and Kaiser rounded out the top five.

Just one day after setting a state record in the 100 backstroke, Simms did it again, clocking in at 55.73, breaking her previous record of 56.34. “;(I feel) really great, a little emotional”; Simms said. “;I was so excited for that race, (I was) thinking about it all night. I wanted to go in there and give it my best, especially since it was my last time doing it and it worked out.”;

In addition to the record-breaking win in the backstroke, Simms captured victories in the 100 butterfly, 200 medley relay and 400 free relay.

“;I told my team this was my last one and I wanted to make it special,”; she said. “;So we went out there and did our best.”;

Simms' state records in the 100 and 200 freestyle remain intact, although she wasn't able to compete in either do to regulations forbidding athletes from participating in more than four events.

Simms was a member of the 2005 Buffanblu team that took the title from then two-time defending champs 'Iolani, which finished a distant second this year. The Buffanblu dominated the pool, outscoring the Raiders 75-21 and placing in the top three in nine of 12 events.

“;Punahou was so great over the past four years,”; Simms said. “;I'm just so happy right now. We've worked together for the last couple of years. We had a lot of depth and talented swimmers. I think this year we had a lot of hard workers that just came together and we got a state championship.”;

Fujita took home gold in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free relay and 400 free relay. “;I'm really excited,”; Fujita said. “;We've been working hard so it feels good. Our seniors are really good this year. They are good leaders and we do our best to follow.”;

Baldwin and Kapolei finished third and fourth, followed by Lahainaluna and Kealakehe which tied for fifth.

The 'Iolani boys set an HHSAA record in the 200 medley relay with a 1:35.97 finish, surpassing the 2002 Raider mark of 1:35.98. Trailing Punahou after the first leg of the relay, the Raiders rallied on the second leg, Johnson's 50 breaststroke, and went on to win, slightly more than a second aheaad of Punahou.

In addition to the gold in the 200 medley relay, Johnson finished first in the 200 individual medley, 500 free, and the 400 free relay. “;I performed decent,”; Johnson said. “;In training, I don't think I could have done any more. Mentally, I could have toughened up because it was my first state meet and nerves were getting to me. But my coaches are pleased with what I did and that makes me feel good.”;

A pool of freshman phenoms added to the competition as the youngsters either won or aided in 10 out of 24 gold-medal finishes. Pearl City freshman Daren Choi finished the season undefeated in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, claiming two individual gold medals.

“;I work really hard in practice and this is what I got out of it,”; Choi said. “;I'm surprised coming out as a freshman and getting first in both of my events. (Going undefeated) is really big for me. It was a great experience.”;

Earlier in the competition, the Buffanblu girls finished one-two in the 1-meter diving. Chelaine Eliazar picked up the gold with a score of 392.55 and Kathryn Chinn finished second with 370.50 points. Punahou freshman Spencer Madanay won the boys side with 438.70 points.