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Preteens among 21 making Lanai-Maui swim


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POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

Stinging jellyfish didn't keep 21 swimmers, mostly members of the Aulea Swim Club in Kailua, from completing a post-Thanksgiving swim from Lanai to Lahaina, Maui, 8.9 miles across the Auau Channel.

Clay Stoddard, 10, did the swim in five hours and 24 minutes. He's the youngest person known to complete the crossing, said Dr. Mark Baker, who led the swim for the fourth year.

Stoddard said he thought about “;being the youngest kid to do it”; when he felt like quitting and that kept him going. “;I wanted to finish.”; Despite “;stingy things,”; he said, “;It was easier than I thought it was gonna be.”;

The first thing he wanted when he reached shore was ice cream, said the St. Anthony School fifth-grader. “;Then a bunch of us went to a hot tub.”;

Baker said, “;Unlike any other year, we had a large number of jellyfish that were unusual for that channel.”; Most of the swimmers were experienced with men-of-war in Kailua and the jellyfish weren't as painful, he said. “;Nevertheless, they were a mental obstacle.”;

The fastest swimmer was Ian White, a 16-year-old sophomore at Le Jardin Academy, who crossed the channel in four hours and 25 minutes.

Because of safety concerns, the swim isn't a race, said Baker, an emergency room physician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi and past president of the Aulea Swim Club.

Three motorized boats, three personal watercraft and eight kayaks supported the group. Team parents also assisted, including a Coast Guard captain, three doctors, and Army and Marine officers.

Dr. Tricia Wright, professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, was in one of the kayaks while her daughter, Ellen Olson, 13, made the swim.

“;It was a wonderful day and we're all really proud of the kids,”; she said, adding that their hard training “;really paid off.”; It was the largest group of solo swimmers to complete the crossing at one time, Wright said.

Baker said the swimmers had hydration stops every half-hour and every hour they were given a GU energy drink, but otherwise they received no support. “;Somebody throws you a water bottle, and you drink it and throw it back.”;

He said the group finished the swim about one hour and 45 minutes earlier than last year because of better conditions.

Wright said “;relief”; was the biggest reaction to finishing the event, with one swimmer saying, “;At least I know I'm alive because my neck hurts so much.”;

The swim is usually held the day after Thanksgiving, but it was postponed until yesterday because of more favorable weather, said Allie Stoddard, Clay's mother. “;It was a perfect day. The channel was flat and beautiful.”;

She said she was concerned about Clay's participation, but experienced swimmers and parents of swimmers reassured her throughout training.

“;But again, he is only 10 years old. A mother's job is to be a little nervous. He did great. I'm real proud of him,”; she said.

Clay Stoddard has been swimming since he was old enough at 6 to join a team, his mother said.

He said he's going to set another goal for himself as big as swimming nearly nine miles across a channel. “;But I just don't know what it is now.”;