The Hawai'i Preparatory Academy (HPA) swim program has come a long way from the days where students would travel to a makeshift pool in a corner of Kawaihae Harbor, a short 15 minute drive from the campus, to practice, hold swim meets, and even play water polo.
Today, our students train and compete year-round in the Herbert M. and Laura Dowsett Pool, an outdoor, solar-heated 25-meter venue with two one-meter diving boards. Swimming has become one of HPA's most successful sports, attracting athletes from around the world to train and compete at the school's facility.
Situated on an island, it is no wonder that HPA produces top swimmers and divers, and that our swim teams are a consistently competitive force at both the island and state levels. HPA offers two programs: the Academy Swim Club (ASC) provides an opportunity for students from kindergarten to high school to train and compete year-round, and the high school varsity team that competes seasonally. This year alone, the ASC varsity team is made up of HPA students from 13 countries. It's not all about swimming either as ASC swimmers have gone on to receive the prestigious USA Swimming Scholar-Athlete Awards, including one current team member.
"As the head coach, my philosophy is to develop teammates who support each other yet are passionately competitive. We work on the mental game of competition to pair with the physical training," said Coach Mark Noetzel (also the Dean of Campus), a master swim coach who has been training athletes at HPA since 1992. He also is a former All-America swimmer and assistant coach at the University of Michigan.
HPA swimmers are known at the competitive league level, twice winning the State Championships, the girls team come in second for the past two years at the state meet and they make up an impressive list of athletes who have earned National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) All - America Awards, ranking our swimmers with the best in the country. HPA swimmers have also gone on to compete and excel in NCAA Division I, II and III Championships. "Simply put," says Coach Noetzel, "we train our students to be their very best in mind and skill so that they can reach their goals and advance to the next level in competition."
In January 2018, the HPA swim program invited three-time Olympic competitor and four-time Olympic medalist, Anthony Ervin to speak and train with members of the ASC ranging in age from 7 – 18 years. Ervin, who competed and won gold and silver medals in the 2000 Olympics, and won two gold medals at the 2016 Olympics, spoke to students about his passion for the sport and his journey to becoming an Olympic athlete. Ervin encouraged the student-athletes to constantly be evolving as a swimmer and as a person. Even after competing in two Olympics, Ervin was willing to break down and study his dive, and through that process discovered a more efficient diving technique that helped propel him onto the podium again in 2016. So in a quest to evolve, Ervin learned from scratch how to dive again.
"To get to better than 100% of what you have ever been, you have to take apart the things that you know work and the things that don't work and put it back together again."
He attributes his success at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he was named the fastest swimmer on the planet at the age of 35, to his open mindedness and willingness to look at things from different perspectives. "We can always do better. There is always more potential, and when the best of us can recognize that, that means everybody has so much further we can go. You should never be down on yourself or give up, because no matter where you are, or where you have come from, there is always so much more you can go to, it's a great thing."
This is not the first time that HPA has welcomed an Olympian or a highly accomplished swimmer to our campus to assist with training with our students. "Our goal," states Coach Noetzel "in bringing in elite champion athletes, is to expose as many of our athletes to a higher element of competitive swimming and help them hone their skill and technique."