A tradition returns: Sakamoto Invitational set for this weekend
A Valley Isle sports tradition will return this weekend when the 46th annual Coach Soichi Sakamoto Invitational swimming meet returns to the pool in Wailuku that bears the legendary coach’s name. For the first time since 2019, because of the pandemic, the only invitational swim meet annually on Maui will be back. The Sakamoto meet started nearly five decades ago when Maui Swim Club coach Spencer Shiraishi, a deceased legendary coach himself, started the meet. Matsumoto said that several off-island clubs have swimmers entered and that the total number of swimmers entered is 143, including 28 from the host team. “We have a a few clubs coming from Oahu — we’ve got Splash Aquatics, Pearl City Aquatics, we’ve got Kamehameha — and we also have Swim Kauai,” Matsumoto said.
The meet has been a Memorial Day weekend tradition on Maui since the mid-1970s. “It’s super important, it’s the only swimming invitational on the island all year,” Matsumoto said. One of the MSC swimmers planning to swim is Kaimi Matsumoto, Kiki’s daughter who is a former Maui Interscholastic League Girl Swimmer of the Year and now a rising senior scholarship swimmer at Indiana State. “She’s swimming because her coach wants her swimming meets when she’s here,” Kiki Matsumoto said. Since some of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, MSC has been involved in Maui County meets, the state championships in Pahoa on Hawaii island in February, and regionals in California in March.
Ryan Ong, an MSC competitor in the 11-12 boys age group, tied for the high-point scorer in his age division at the state championships. “Our swimmers did extremely well (at state) and then we went to California and we swam in a regional — we took five swimmers and went over, all of the kids that went made finals,” Matsumoto said. Matsumoto said this type of meet wouldn’t be possible to pull off without lots of help. “Special thanks to the Maui Swim Club families, Maui Age Group Swim Association, coaches, officials, community supporters, and the County of Maui for helping to make this meet happen this year,” Matsumoto said in a text to The Maui News. There will be an hour break for lunch and the afternoon sessions will begin around noon each day.
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