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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 23, 2006

Beauchan inspired by late grandfather

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

"When I go out there I think about my grandpa (Frank Beauchan) and how I wish he could be there to watch me," Brittany Beauchan says.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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WHERE: Kamehameha Schools, Kea'au, Big Island

WHEN: Trials tomorrow, finals Saturday

HISTORY: Boys—Iolani boys have won past four state team titles; Punahou has won 39 total, including the first 29 (from 1958 to 1986). The Buffanblu last won in 2001. Girls—Iolani girls have won the past two state titles. Punahou has won 41 overall, including the first 15 and 37 of the first 38. The Buffanblu last won in 2001.

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She remembers his stories of oil-filled water, the way chains needed to be wrapped around the bodies of sailors being removed from the USS Arizona, and how he had to swim to the bottom of ships to salvage whatever he could.

But that's not all Brittany Beauchan's grandfather passed along to her.

The Punahou junior also learned about and picked up his love of the water despite the stories Frank Beauchan relayed to her before he died a few years ago.

"He told me how he could hear the knocking (by the sailors still on the ships)," Beauchan said of her grandfather, a civilian welder at Pearl Harbor who was also a diver after it was attacked in 1941. "He enjoyed being around the water. I was very close to him."

Beauchan combines a family history of success in the pool — swimming is also prevalent on her mother's side — and natural talent, and takes that to the pool this week for the Local Motion/HHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships at the Naeole Aquatics Facility on the Kamehameha-Hawai'i campus.

The trials are set for tomorrow and the finals Saturday.

It seems that ever since Beauchan first jumped into the pool as a 10-year-old, picking it up because of too many gymnastics injuries, she has found success.

"She can swim in just about anything," Punahou coach Jeff Meister said. "She's strengthened our individual and relay events. It gives us an opportunity to move kids around."

Beauchan is the top qualifier in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:04:12) — with a four-second gap between her and her nearest competitor — and the 200 individual medley (2:11.49).

She set an ILH record in the 100 breaststroke, breaking the mark of 1:06.20 set by Carly Omizo of Iolani in 2002, and should she swim that fast this week she has a chance of breaking the state record of 1:04.84, set by Pearl City's Nadine Takai in 1988.

"When I go out there I think about my grandpa and how I wish he could be there to watch me," Beauchan says. "I know water is an important part of my family."

Her love of family is also leading her to lean toward attending college in the Southwest, where she would like to major in Native American Studies.

Because she is part Yaqui, she would be "really passionate" about working in some sort of social services department on a reservation.

Beauchan also would like to attend a college with a coach who could help with her ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympics.

She participated in the National and Junior National Championships in Irvine, Calif., last year.

"I know I wasn't going to make the team, but I wanted to see all the Olympians," Beauchan said. "A lot of major swimmers showed up. I was like, 'Look at who I'm swimming against.' "

She qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2008 in the 100 breaststroke.

Beauchan earned All-America honors as a freshman at Kalaheo High, then switched to Punahou as a sophomore and had to sit out last year because of a transfer rule.

"It was frustrating. I went to the state championships and just sat there," she said. "But it was good to get a break. I could cheer for other people."

This weekend, she will feel the pressure of the "legacy of Punahou behind me." The Buffanblu won all but seven state titles since 1958, but hasn't captured one since 2001.

"I know I'm really a part of a tradition of excellence," she said.

Meister said Beauchan is adding to that tradition, but said it isn't only her physical talents that have been welcomed by the team.

He called her "a crack-up all the time."

"The fun thing about her that I didn't know is what a funny, happy kid she is," he said.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Correction: Brittany Beauchan's grandfather told her about recovering bodies of sailors killed in the attack on the USS Arizona. A previous version of this story contained information that was incorrect.