Kalani swimmer Paulina Ruelas sometimes wonders what it’s like to not be busy with schoolwork or practice.
“There’s a few times I go to the mall and be a regular teenager who is not involved in school so much,” she said. “In those moments, I say, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like.’ If I could I would hang out with friends and go to the beach and just relax. When we go to the beach, it’s usually for practice at Ala Moana.”
Another time Ruelas went to the beach, she won the women’s overall title in the Duke Kahanamoku One-Mile Ocean Swim last summer.
“I wasn’t going to swim it,” she said. “(Teammate) Mari Yasumi gave me that spot. She realized she had to work that day but had already signed up. I had to do all the papers and switch it to my name.”
Ruelas, who will swim for the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota starting in the fall and who already has 28 college credits because of her studiousness, won four gold medals in the recent OIA championships (200 individual medley, 200 freestyle, 200 IM relay and 200 freestyle relay) while helping the Falcons to the team title to break Kaiser’s streak of 10 in a row. She’s preparing for the K. Mark Takai/HHSAA State Swimming Championships on Friday and Saturday in Kihei on Maui.
Ruelas, a four-year Kalani swimmer, also participated in bowling for four years, track and field (shot put and discus) for two and marching band for two. And, she is the subject of a feature story in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Before moving to Hawaii from the mainland and enrolling at Kalani, Ruelas was in a mood to quit swimming after a particularly bad performance at a state (club) meet. And although it took a little while to warm up to a new scene in Hawaii after she arrived, meeting friends — “lifelong friends” as she described them at a Thursday practice — helped her realize just how much she loves the sport.
And it is also how Ruelas met her boyfriend.
“Sophomore year was the first year Rayne (Duhaylonsod) came to the team from Japan,” she said. “I didn’t know that I liked him. I thought, he’s kind of cute, but I can’t understand Japanese so I can’t really help him there. I tried talking to him anyways. When I first met him, I helped him to understand how to read (English) heat sheets. Two of my friends, who both speak Japanese, were always talking to him and always looking at me and sitting on the bleachers whispering. I asked what they were whispering about and they would say, ‘Nothing.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Well, we went to states on Maui and they asked me, ‘What about Rayne?’ I would say he’s my friend. And they would be poking fun at me and I was sure that (what they were hinting about) was never going to happen. It’s funny, though, because in three months, in May, we were dating.”
Ruelas finished her career with nine OIA gold medals and is looking for her first win in states.