Well-traveled Hermanson back home on Valley Isle

KIHEI – Hannah Hermanson has not won an event at the 2013 Hawaii State Long Course Swimming Championships. In fact, she has never won a state crown.

Her story, however, is one of the most interesting among the hundreds of age-group swimmers in the meet that ends today at the Kihei Aquatic Center.

Hermanson, 12, was born and raised on Maui and competes for Hawaii Swim Club.

She spent the last school year in Spain and will return there in the fall. She is back for the summer with a 13-year-old friend from Spain, Natalia Ortega-Gomez. The pair met while swimming for Club Natacio Sabadell in Spain.

Hermanson has racked up second-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles, was third in the 100 backstroke, and took fifth in the 50 backstroke and 400 free at this meet.

She is most likely the only swimmer here who has also competed in Spain.

“My dad has been wanting us to learn a new language for a long time because it would open up new opportunities,” Hermanson said moments after finishing the 50 back in 34.45 seconds on Saturday.

Later this summer, she will compete in the Western Zone Swimming Championships for the second time.

Hermanson traveled to Spain with mother Tess, father Michael, and older sister Alexandria, 15.

Her parents own Naturally Birkenstock and can run their company online, so they take the opportunity to travel.

“I have been to Japan, although (Spain) is the first foreign country I have lived in,” Hannah said. “It was awesome. It was so fun learning all of the new things and seeing how their people live.”

Tess and Michael Hermanson left it up to their girls to take the responsibility of being at swim practice on time – with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call.

Hannah says having her sister around for workouts and kinship was key to living in a foreign land.

“Oh yeah, I don’t think I would have been able to do it as well without her,” she said. “She is just my best friend.”

Hannah now speaks two different Spanish dialects. She has learned a lot more than that.

“Even though we might speak different languages and live in different countries, we are all human and we’re all the same, pretty much,” she said.

Hannah’s summer activities include showing Ortega-Gomez around Maui and sharing her homeland.

“It is awesome to be home for the summer, I get to see all my friends.” Hermanson said.

Hermanson has been under the guidance of HSC coach Rodney Hayashi since she was 8, but she will move out of his group in a year or two. He will miss the youngster he remembers doing the backstroke forward as a beginner.

“I love coaching her, she is a really wonderful girl,” Hayashi said. “Hawaii should be proud to have her as one of our Hawaiian people.”

Hannah wants to be an astronomer someday. It will come with a worn-out passport.

“I would like to take physics in college and I definitely want to swim,” she said. “We will go back to Spain and then I’m sure my dad would like us to learn other languages, like French or German.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com