Yoshida's career going swimmingly at Fairfield
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
If Michelle Yoshida had it her way, she would only swim relays and fly under the radar.
But considering the Fairfield University swimmer and 2008 Punahou graduate already owns, or is a part of 19 school records just halfway into her sophomore year, that might not be so easy.
Yoshida's impact on the Connecticut school has been prolific. Her coach, Bill Farley, calls her a "program changer.
"Absolutely. Not only has she won races for us, but she's raised the level of our practices and that has made us a lot better," said Farley, who first coached Yoshida from 1999 to 2002, when he was head coach of the Punahou Aquatics Swim Club.
"I remember her when she was about this tall," said Farley, holding his hand slightly below his waist. "She was always fast though and that stroke looks just like it did when I first coached her."
That stroke has propelled Yoshida atop the winner's podium at every level she has competed. She was nearly unbeaten while at Punahou, winning 15 state championships and topping it off with an induction into the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association's Hall of Honor.
"We were fortunate to have a lot of great swimmers and coaches at Punahou," Yoshida said.
She had numerous scholarship offers from across the country as a high school senior, but choose the one farthest from home — undoubtedly, in part, to her relationship with Farley.
"When I was about 12, I started swimming with him for about three years and we were really close. We had practice all the time, he was really intense and I always went to him for advice," Yoshida said. "When he left, it was really sad, but luckily we always kept in touch when I was in middle school, high school and then when the whole college process happened. It just kind of worked out. It's been great to know my coach in that kind of way."
The process went fairly smoothly said Yoshida.
"(Farley) didn't apply too much pressure (to come to Fairfield), it was more like me asking him 'What do you think?' " Yoshida said. "He was always for it, he just didn't pressure me."
Still, it was a leap of faith, considering she committed to Fairfield without meeting any of her future teammates.
"I didn't actually know the team and that's really, really important —from previous recruiting trips, that was the reason why I said no — so I really had to trust Bill's word and it worked out," Yoshida said.
It didn't take long for Yoshida to make an impact. She won 17 individual races during dual meets, qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference and won gold in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle events at the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships — the first MAAC triple-winner in school history. She was also named Fairfield's Freshman of the Year.
"My main goal was just to improve my times, see how far I could take it," said Yoshida, who also is a part of four relay teams. "I haven't improved in while, so to drop that much time at the MAAC Championships was really an accomplishment. I was so excited and happy and I'm glad to be able to contribute to Fairfield swimming."
Yoshida and the Stags recently completed their annual week-long winter training trip, which was on O'ahu this year. The team held twice-a-day practices at Punahou, sandwiched around sightseeing. Last year they spent the week in Puerto Rico.
"It's nice, we're going to different places every day," Yoshida said. "We tried surfing, we're going to the North Shore one day, Hanauma Bay, we're going to hike Koko (Head) Crater."
The week culminated with a barbeque for the group of 58 at Yoshida's Kāne'ohe home.
"I'm sure it's nice to be back for her and get a chance to show her teammates around and spend some time with her family," Farley said. "She's such a great kid, works hard every day and it's just been a joy to have her."
• UNLV sophomore forward Jamie Smith ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) had 10 rebounds, nine points and two steals in a 54-49 win over Utah Saturday.
• Idaho sophomore guard Shaena Kuehu (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in a 84-81 overtime win over Boise State Saturday.
• Cal State Northridge junior forward Analee Viena-Lota (Kamehameha '07 of Honolulu) scored a team-high 15 points with eight rebounds in a 74-61 loss to UC Riverside Thursday. Freshman guard Janelle Nomura (Punahou '09 of Honolulu) had 12 points and four assists and freshman forward Violet Alama (Kalani '09 of Honolulu) added seven rebounds, three points and two steals.
• Yavapai (Ariz.) sophomore forward Kira DeMorales (Waiākea '08 of Hilo) was named Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Week Sunday. DeMorales scored 12 points in a 59-49 loss to Pima Wednesday and 20 in a 61-53 win over Mesa Saturday. It was her second weekly ACCAC honor this season.
• Linfield (Ore.) senior guard Cody Tesoro (Baldwin '05 of Kahului) had 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in a 70-61 win over Pacific (Ore.). He had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in an 84-80 win over George Fox.
• Willamette (Ore.) sophomore forward Taylor Mounts ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) had 13 points and 10 rebounds in an 87-74 loss to George Fox Friday.
• Stanford sophomore outside hitter Brad Lawson ('Iolani '08 of Honolulu) had 13 kills with five aces and senior setter Kawika Shoji ('Iolani '06 of Honolulu) recorded 37 assists, eight digs and three aces in a sweep of Hawai'i Friday. Junior outside hitter Spencer McLachlin (Punahou '07 of Honolulu) had 13 kills with nine digs and sophomore libero Erik Shoji (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) had a match-high 14 digs in Saturday's sweep.
• USC junior outside hitter Tri Bourne (Academy of the Pacific '07 of Honolulu) had 14 kills, seven digs and was in on eight blocks in last Wednesday's four-set win over UCLA. Junior setter Riley McKibbin (Punahou '07 of Honolulu) notched 49 assists and 10 digs.
TRACK & FIELD
• Dartmouth freshman Joy Piotrowski (Punahou '09 of 'Aiea) placed second in both the long jump and triple jump at Saturday's meet against Maine. She jumped 16 feet, 6 1/2 inches in the long jump and 35 feet, 3 3/4 inches in the triple jump.