The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: St. Joe’s swimmer lapping up personal bests

Maya Kirie,12, takes a break at Aqua Crest pool

in Delray Beach. She swims for the East Coast Aquatic Club.

Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Steve Pike

    Maya Kirie gently pressed her head on the left shoulder of her mother, Joanna Malin.
    “She’s exhausted,’’ Malin said Aug. 22 after watching her daughter swim for two hours in the East Coast Aquatic Club’s swim-athon at the Lake Worth community pool.
    But if you know anything about Maya Kirie, a 12-year-old resident of the county pocket, you know she wouldn’t want it any other way.
    A sixth-grader at St. Joseph’s Episcopal School in Boynton Beach, Kirie has sped up the charts of the ECAC since she joined the club this past May after spending 2½ years at boarding school in her mother’s native England. So much so that she posted five personal-best times this past July at the Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympics in Plantation and has emerged as one of the ECAC’s most promising young swimmers.
    “Since she’s been back she’s really gotten into swimming like crazy,’’ said Malin, who achieved a personal best of her own Aug. 21 when she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
    Kirie, by the way, raised more than $1,800 in the swim-athon. ECAC head coach John Steen Kjaerulff said the club expected to raise between $13,000 and $15,000 overall, which goes to support its equipment and activities, which includes an invitational meet this November in the Dominican Republic. The final tally won’t be known until after Sept. 4.
    “I couldn’t imagine not swimming,’’ said Kirie, who practices two hours per day, six days per week primarily at Aqua Crest pool in Delray Beach under the tutelage of coach Barbara Bertram. “It’s very important to me.’’
    Kirie’s power in the water belies her 5-foot-1, 105-pound frame, which makes her ideal for swimming the “long’’ course, 50-meter and longer races versus the shorter 25-yard races.
    “I prefer long course,’’ Kirie said. “It’s just different and you don’t have as many flip-turns. But I like the short course, too. After the long course, you realize how short the pool really is.’’
    Kirie is one of 160 competitive swimmers for ECAC, which Kjaerulff founded two years ago. Like Kirie, it hasn’t taken much time for the club to make its mark. The club’s girls and boys teams each finished second at the FGC Junior Olympics — good enough for a combined second-place overall finish.
    Kjaerulff, a native of the Canary Islands, was a member of three state championship swim teams at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton and was an All-America at Florida Atlantic University, so there is no doubt he knows swimming and swimming talent. But he admits that Kirie took him a bit by surprise.
    “When Joanna brought Maya for tryout, I could see she could definitely swim,’’ Kjaerulff said. “I was hesitant but thought she could pick up quickly. Little did I know it was quicker than I thought it would be.
    “She can swim pretty much anything and everything. She has a very smooth stroke but is very raw because she is new to competitive swimming. There is huge room for improvement, but she is improving daily.’’

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