Lileikis Ohana Gets Along Swimmingly
For Hawaii Kai’s Joe Lileikis, 1985 was quite a year. A senior at University of Hawaii at the time, Joe, along with his younger brother, Tom, who was a freshman UH swimmer that year, helped lead the ‘Bows to the WAC Championship. Soon after winning the title, Joe went on to NCAA and U.S. National championships, where he earned Top 10 finishes.
By the time he returned to Hawaii, he was swimming at his peak, and he set the state open record in the 200 freestyle in a meet held at UH’s Duke Kahanamoku pool — a record that would stand for more than 29 years.
Flash forward to last month, December 2014, at the Hawaii state meet in Kihei, Maui.
Participating in that meet was 17-year-old Aukai Lileikis, Joe’s nephew and Tom’s son, and an outstanding age group swimmer, as well as a water polo/swimming star at Punahou. Swimming in the open division, Aukai blazed to victories in the 100 and 200 freestyle, as well as the 200 individual medley. When his time of 44.1 seconds flashed on the board at the conclusion of the 200 freestyle, Tom immediately knew that his son had broken the record his older brother had held for almost three decades.
“Whenever a record is broken, the time and record time are announced. My wife and I were there, and it was very exciting,” Tom recalls. “I just remember Joe swimming so fast. Who would have thought that record would stand for almost 30 years? It’s an odd thing that his own family member would finally break the record.”
Joe was equally ecstatic. “I remember thinking before the meet was held, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Aukai can break it?’ And he did! After 29 years, for the record to go from family member to family member is so amazing,” Joe says.
The new record staying in the family was all the more satisfying to Joe because of all he has gone through in the past few years. A longtime teacher in Niu Valley, Joe underwent chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma a few years ago and ultimately beat the deadly disease. Then, two years ago, he fell from a tree and suffered 16 broken bones, including 10 broken ribs.
“I’m doing well now, thanks for asking,” he says enthusiastically.
Those who know Joe aren’t surprised by his ever-positive attitude.
“(After the longtime record was broken), it was really neat to see and hear from so many folks who knew Joe from the time the record was set,” Tom says. “They’re so happy for him.”
Both brothers are still very involved in the local swimming world. Joe is coach and program director for Hawaii Masters program at The Oahu Club. Tom, who also lives in Hawaii Kai with his family, is coach of Sunshine Aquatics Club.
Aukai may be the latest Lileikis swimming sensation, but he won’t be the last. His younger sister Nohea, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, is a record-setter, too. She broke the state record in her age group in the 200-backstroke in the same meet that Aukai broke his uncle’s record.
“I’m so proud of Aukai and Nohea,” Joe says. “Aukai is an outstanding water polo player and is really making progress in the pool. He’s just a junior, so these next few years are really big for him. And Nohea is doing really great — she could be the next big record-breaker of the family.”
For the extended Lileikis ohana, the records just keep on coming.