Swimming and Diving - Girls & Boys



Propelled by a history as one of HPA's most successful sports, swimming attracts athletes of all levels to HPA. The program has grown tremendously since the school’s early days, when swimmers commuted daily to a makeshift pool constructed of telephone poles chained together in a corner of Kawaihae Harbor. The construction of the school’s on-campus solar-heated Dowsett Pool and the addition of a girls swim team marked early expansions of swimming that helped build today’s powerhouse program.

With a solid foundation paralleling the school’s own growth, HPA’s swim teams are a competitive force at both the island and state levels, with a record of accomplishment that any school in the world would be proud to own.

Mark Noetzel, the school?s dean of citizenship, honor, and security, is the HPA swim team?s head coach. Noetzel, who earned All-America status at the University of Michigan as a collegiate athlete, also coaches the year-round swim program, the Academy Swim Club, based at the Dowsett Pool and practices after the school’s team. Of course, all swim lanes lead to the winter season of statewide school competition at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation (BIIF) and Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) levels.

The HPA swim team is open to swimmers willing to make a commitment to long hours of conditioning practice and day-long competition at both home and away meets. At HPA, swimmers of all levels will find themselves challenged to meet and reach goals they might not have thought possible—a rewarding experience for all.


The HPA divers are happy to welcome athletes new to the sport. Kids who love dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, and trampoline often find they love diving, but athletes with none of those experiences can excel, too. Different athletes can achieve success by capitalizing on different capabilities - some excel due to strength, others due to flexibility, or timing, or grace, or guts. What defines the diving team is consistency and grit.

As the season progresses, divers in practice step up their diving repetitions, from four or five early on to as many as several dozen near season’s end. To qualify for the state meet, divers must master 11 dives in five categories, with scoring adjusted for difficulty. “That’s two dives in each category, plus one,” she says.

In HPA’s first year of diving, Kassis had three of her four divers qualify for the state meet, with sixth, eleventh, and thirteenth place finishes, a respectable showing against teams that have maintained diving teams for generations of students. “The best part about diving, though, is it feels good!” Kassis says.

“There’s really nothing like it when it’s all working. Physics works. Divers can succeed and have fun doing it.”


Head Swimming Coach-Mark Noetzel

Few coaches in the history of the Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy (HPA) have been as influential as Mark Noetzel. After 22 years at HPA, the master swim coach has built an all-encompassing program that ranges from early-childhood swim teams to varsity coaching at the highest level to continued contact with swimmers of seasons past who’ve long since graduated from college.

This spark of Noetzel’s lifelong connection with HPA’s student athletes begins at the pool, where all the universe condenses to swimmers “ripping the water.” At the Dowsett Pool, there is as much noise poolside as there is competition in the lanes. If you’re on Noetzel’s team, you’re part of something special.

“If it isn’t fun to watch, it isn’t going to be fun for the athletes to compete—they feed off that,” Noetzel says.

HPA swimmers can expect to spend many hours training. Not all swimmers who compete on the varsity team enter the program as experienced competitors. Noetzel’s training regimens benefit from his experiences as a swimmer and as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan where he earned All-America status as an undergraduate.

Every aspect is covered in training, from pre-visualization to starting stance to breathing, stroke, turns, conditioning, finish, and much more.

For novice swimmers, training can begin by learning to not plow the water. For accomplished competitors, swimming can be the realization that, as Noetzel says, “sometimes the best coach is in the lane next to you.” There is power, and there is grace in the water.

For HPA swimmers, their pool, their team, and their sport become a central focus that helps them better reach their own academic goals. For Coach Noetzel, swimming is more than a job.

“I think I get more out of it than the kids do.”

Head Diving Coach Patricia Kassis

With the return of diving to interscholastic competition, HPA could not find a better coach than Patricia Kassis to work with the school’s one-meter springboard athletes.

After all, who better to break down the precision work of perfecting a dive than a diver who began as a pre-teen and competed and then coached at the intercollegiate level while earning a Master of Science in math and physics from MIT?

“Diving has those aspects, yes,” Kassis says. “But diving really comes down to one basic idea: of being afraid of something, like diving headfirst into water, and then doing it, over and over again.”

That progression is not always linear. The first practices are gauged to measure a diver’s ability to accomplish one task, like entering the water cleanly. Sometimes those practices require divers to wear sweatshirts for protection in case the water slaps back.

“The best part about diving, though, is it feels good!” Kassis says. “There’s really nothing like it when it’s all working. Physics works. Divers can succeed and have fun doing it.”


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