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It is 6 a.m. and there is no point in trying to text or call Evan Wong.

Six days a week, while most students are still rising from bed, he is already half-an-hour into the first of his two daily practices in the pool at ‘Iolani. Wong, a state swimming champion and owner of seven HHSAA gold medals, wastes no time on his grind. He wastes no motion in the water. Every stroke, every breath is calculated to the millisecond.

The wake-up routine is economical, efficient.

5:17 a.m. “Exactly 5:17. I’ve optimized the amount of sleep I need. Fifteen minutes to put on clothes, no breakfast yet,” he said.

He grabs a banana or protein bar and eats it on the drive.

5:32 a.m. Wong drives to school. It’s a short two-mile drive to campus.

6-7:30 a.m. Practice. “Coach is there. Some people wake up every morning and some people don’t. For the people not going to high-level meets, it’s optional,” Wong said.

7:40 a.m. to 3 p.m. School. This involves three AP courses.

3:30-6 p.m. Practice. Again.

Once he gets home, Wong eats dinner and finishes any homework that is still remaining. Most of it, sometimes all, is completed during free time during the day. After four years, he dropped Mandarin language class.

“I needed more free periods to get my homework done. It was a fun class. I really liked my teachers and my classmates,” he said.

Ni hao.

9 p.m. Lights out. There are no video games or FaceTime with his girlfriend by this point. No circadian disruption through artificial light.

“I’m normally pretty dead by then,” he said.

He must, must have those 8 hours and 17 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. Deepest sleep, maximum R.E.M. Day after day. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is the price of gold. In 2021, as a freshman, Wong and his teammates had no state championship to compete for when the winter season was canceled due to pandemic restrictions. In ’22, under Ivan Batsanov, they were ready. The Raiders ended Punahou’s run of seven consecutive boys swimming and diving titles, edging the dynastic Buffanblu by a single point.

Wong earned the gold in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 42.08 seconds, He took gold in the 500 freestyle in 4:43.96.

Wong swam lead for the Raiders’ 200 medley relay. The crew of Wong, LT Stancil, Tobey Yuen and Finn Arrillaga won gold in 1:36.60. In the 400 freestyle relay, ‘Iolani’s group of Arrillaga, Wong, Kavan Weeks and Chase Douglass in 3:15.41.

Their 200 freestyle relay team placed first, but was disqualified. It’s still a painful memory for the Raiders, but winning the team title by that single point saved the day. Prior to ’22, the Raiders won state titles in ’96, ’02, and four in a row from ’02 to ’05, and again in ’09 — all under then-coach Brian Lee.

Last year, ‘Iolani repeated as boys state champions, marking their turf with a 46-point margin over runner-up Punahou, 77-31. Their 200 medley relay team of Wong, Stancil, Yuen and Arrillaga broke an HHSAA record with a time of 1:35.05, shaving off nearly two minutes from their time in ’21.

Their team of Stone Miller, Arrillaga, Wong and Stancil also won the 400 freestyle relay (3:58.59). Wong again secured two individual gold medals by winning the 200 freestyle (1:40.04) and 500 freestyle (4:37.33).

“The 200 is always a more painful event, a minute and a half of sprinting. You can’t truly sprint for that long. If you go out too fast, you’ll die by the end. That’s always an event I train for,” Wong said.

The 200 relay is a 50-yard split sprint for him.

“The 50, I don’t breathe, It’s only 20 seconds, so it’s less efficient if you breathe,” he said. “For the 200 and 500 (individual races), I breathe every other stroke pretty much.”

Not all gold-medal swimmers are fish to water at the beginning. Wong was barely into elementary school, still living in the Bay Area, when he first tried it.

“Scary. I was jumping into a completely new sport. I was actually afraid of the water during swim lessons,” he recalled.

Wong began swimming competitively only after moving to Honolulu with his family. He was 7. Coach Batsanov was his first and only coach. In his phone, the coach has Wong’s number preserved as “Little Evan.”

His love for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers hasn’t waned over the past decade. Wong is now almost 6 feet tall.

“He’s catching up to me,” Batsanov said.

“When I first met him, I was less than half his height,” Wong said. “I’m getting there.”

All the double-practice days have been about math. Loyalty. Dedication. One Team. The rewards are multiplied when they are shared with his friends and teammates for life. There’s also the gift of swimming at the next level.

Wong committed to West Virginia, accepting a combination of athletic and academic scholarship funding. His 4.22 grade-point average certainly helped, and the school offers opportunities to study biomedical engineering and aeronautical engineering.

“I want to major in something engineering. I probably want to be in the field, making airplanes and weapons, or body parts and machines,” Wong said.

He considered Saint Louis University and a couple of small colleges.

“Toward the end of summer, I decided I want to focus on Division I. It’s a public university, so it’s a lot cheaper than private ones,” he said.

Planes are part of competitive swimming. Swimmers, coaches, parents all board the winged tubes and jet. Over the weekend, it was Westmont, Ill., where the nation’s top prep swimmers gathered. Wong qualified as a top-20 swimmer in his event.

“He set his personal best. We’re going to move on to the high school season, then the summer,” Batsanov said.

The longtime coach has been part of ‘Iolani Swim Club since 2012. He became head coach in ’14, and later was hired as the school’s head coach in ’17. Wong has been there all along.

“I’ve known him since he was 7 years old. It’s built into his character, his skills, his biomechanics. He’s still growing in terms of his cardiovascular, growing as a human being,” Batsanov said. “Everyone can handle success, but moving forward it’s how you handle failure and defeat, as well, and he embraces that. He knows how to control it.”

On Sunday, flying home from Chicago, there was time, Wong’s most valued currency.

“I see Evan right after the flight. Is everything OK? ‘Oh yeah, coach, I’m good, I’m a little tired,’” Batsanov said.

If there’s a reason how and why Wong achieved a 4.75 GPA in the fall, he doesn’t explain much. He just does it.

“He got seven hours of homework done on the plane,” Batsanov said.

Kenny Smith, the former pro basketball player who appears regularly on “The NBA on TNT”, once met a psychologist during a flight. She explained that because of altitude, the brain becomes more efficient and productive. Smith then wrote the first few chapters of his book.

Wong didn’t quite pen a volume, but all ‘Iolani students understand that the work is truly voluminous.

“First, I did my AP Micro Economics. Then Calculus BC,” Wong said.

The latter could’ve been Calculus Before Christ, but it’s not quite that. Calculus AB is the equivalent of one semester of college Calculus. BC is the equivalent of one year. He finished off his AP Chemistry homework before the plane landed in good, ol’ HNL. He finds a way to maximize what most people fret over. He makes time work. It is a form, in a nonlinear way, of time travel, living a life that is busy enough for two people, let alone a high school senior. Soon, he will march at graduation, then board a plane to a different place: Morgantown, W.V.

“I took a visit in October. One of the biggest things for me is they’re in a Power 5 conference, the Big 12. It’s a very competitive conference. I want to swim with the best of the best. They just built a new pool, it’s two years old,” Wong said. “It’s really nice. They have a solid mid-distance team.”

To Batsanov, a swimmer’s combination of success in the classroom and in the water is priceless.

“He’s an All-American,” the coach said.

Wong clarifies.

“That’s Scholastic All-American. You need a certain time and GPA,” he said. “There are only three Hawaii kids who made it. Me, Sage Miller (of Mililani) and a Kauai kid.”

All the sacrifice, shaving seconds off in the pool, scalping a minute here and there during a busy school day to do homework, it’s all connected.

“Swimming is exciting. I think it’s just having that competitive swimming, the one to two minutes of you in the water and you against the clock, whoever you’re racing against. That environment,” he said. “Each event is like a different relationship. Sometimes you don’t really want to swim that 500. It’s a love-hate relationship, but it’s one of the events I’m good at. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s painful.”

The record at states in the 200 medley relay was a thrill, and it’ll be in the books for awhile. Nothing, however, matches the joy of a team championship. The veteran crew would love a three-peat.

“Every day is different,” Batsanov said. “It comes down to adding layers to the foundation that was already built. We spent time together, the routine has a different layer. They start to understand more so we add more layers to help them become better athletes and human beings.”

Wong leads through example.

“This kid is the hardest worker out there by a big margin,” Batsanov said. “In and out of the pool.”

Being perfect, Wong noted, is impossible no matter how hard he tries in school and the pool. It’s his kryptonite, his love for fried food. Chicken katsu from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. Raising Cane’s.

“It’s all junk food. Coach would not be happy,” Wong said. “A week before meets, I try not to eat super fried food.”


‘Iolani swimming • Senior

>> Top movies/shows

1. “The Wolf of Wall Street”

2. “Breaking Bad”

>> Top 3 food/snacks/drinks

1. Sushi (Genki Sushi)

2. Chicken katsu (L&L Hawaiian Barbecue)

3. Raising Cane’s

“It’s all junk food. Coach would not be happy. A week before meets, I try not to eat super fried.”

>> Top 3 homemade foods

1. Dad’s pork chops (Darren Wong)

2. Dad’s steak and rice

3. Dad’s tacos

“He makes pork chops once a month. I feel like I could learn, but I don’t have time.”

>> Top 3 music artists (and your favorite song by each)

1. Tyler, The Creator – “CORSO”

2. Kanye West – “Homecoming”

3. Kendrick Lamar – “Money Trees”

>> Favorite class: Mandarin language

“I took it couple of years in seventh grade until this past year. I would say I’m somewhat fluent. I stopped mainly because I needed more free periods because I have three AP classes. It was a fun class. I really liked my teachers and my classmates.”

>> Favorite teacher: Dr. (Steve) Borick

“I took his chemistry honors class in 10th grade and I’m taking his AP Chemistry this year. I think his lectures are really effective. He’s super chill with me and all my swimming trips and me making up all my work.”

>> Favorite athlete: Stephen Curry

“I like basketball. I lived in San Francisco area for a couple years.”

>> Favorite team: San Francisco 49ers

“The Niners haven’t won a Super Bowl in a long time. … They really have a chance to go to the Super Bowl this year.”

>> Funniest teammate: Kaiden Lee.

“He’s a freshman and he has a very outgoing personality. He’s very feisty, so we mess with him.”

>> Smartest teammate: Finn Arrillaga.

“This year, he’s in the most APs out of all my teammates and he’s doing pretty well.”

>> Favorite motto/scripture: “Pressure is a privilege.”

>> GPA: 4.75, fall quarter; 4.22 cumulative

“Honestly, I feel like (the homework is) not too terrible. I give myself a lot of free periods. I don’t take a crazy amount of classes. It’s a balance. This semester it’s only four (classes).”

>> Time machine: “I would go back and bet on sports games like they did in the ‘Back to the Future’ movies. But I don’t know if that would mess with the time continuum.”

>> Hidden talent: “I’m double-jointed in my elbows. I can pick stuff up with my elbows.”

>> New life skill: lifeguard.

“I was a lifeguard over the summer for our school for events. All of us have to be junior-lifeguard certified. It takes awhile. The biggest thing is knowing what to do in certain emergencies.”

>> Bucket list: Bungee jumping. Visit Europe — the UK and Germany. I want to drive on the Autobahn. They have no speed limit. I saw this clip on YouTube about this place in South America, they’re jumping off a bridge. It’s at least a couple hundred feet. I think there’s water underneath.”

>> If you could go back in time, what would you tell you younger self?

“Stick with it. Things will get better.”

>> Shoutouts: “Shout out to Coach Ivan, especially now that I’m committed, that was kind of the goal. He’s been with me for the past 10 years.”

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