Pau Hana uses long reach to support cancer research through Jill Griesse Memoria

Pau Hana uses long reach to support cancer research through Jill Griesse Memorial



Pau Hana is hosting the annual Jill Griesse Memorial at Denison on June 14-16. Kurt Snyder, Reporter


GRANVILLE - This weekend's meet will not be like any other for Caroline Holmes.

Holmes, a senior at Tri-Valley this fall, will swim with her Pau Hana teammates this weekend during the annual Jill Griesse Memorial at Denison University's Trumbull Aquatics Center. The meet raises money for cancer research.

"I know every time I step up on the blocks, I think of my grandma, who passed away from cancer this year, and I had another relative who passed away from pancreatic cancer," said Holmes, who also has family who will ride later in the summer as a part of Pau Hana's Pelotonia entry.

"Because we are doing that, the meet has a really positive energy, and everybody has good vibes," Holmes added. "Everybody knows someone that's been affected. That's what is really cool about it. We are all on different teams, but we are all united together because of that core issue."

The Griesse Memorial began in 2015 as a way to remember Griesse, the club's founder in 1968. Griesse, a national champion and a Hall of Famer, died in 2014 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The event began as a fund-raiser for pancreatic cancer research, but all donations now will go to Pelotonia.

The meet will feature more than 800 athletes representing teams from across Ohio and neighboring states. It begins Friday evening at 5 p.m. and continues with both morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

"We wanted to do all cancers," Pau Hana coach Teresa Fightmaster said. "That's local, and 100% of what you raise goes back to cancer research at (Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital). ... Last year was the first time Pau Hana had a team ride in Pelotonia. This year, we have six riders and are looking to add maybe two or three more."


The event also provides the added benefit of allowing Pau Hana a rare opportunity to compete at home.

"Being a home meet completely changes the game," Holmes said. "We get super fired up about all of our races. Just the pride of being at home and representing our home pool is really fun."

Lydia Sturgeon, a 12-year-old who has had multiple siblings swim for Pau Hana, added, "I like it here. I just love this place."


The meet has raised more than $22,000 since 2015. Fans are asked to make a donation in lieu of admission this weekend, and several local businesses have donated money or supplies.

"The neat thing is we call it the Pau Hana Ohana, which is Hawaiian for family," Fightmaster said. "We have former swimmers, who are battling cancer. We have parents on the team that are battling cancer and relatives that have passed. Everyone has been affected, so we want to honor them, and it's important that these kids learn to give back. Until there's a cure, we are going to continue to do what we can to support Pelotonia and cancer research."

When Fightmaster opens registration for the meet each year, the entries are filled within minutes.

"We are a very proud program to be able to host it at this great facility, one of the top 10 in the country," Fightmaster said. "Denison has been very generous, and people want to be here. If it closes out in three minutes, you know it's something pretty big."


Pau Hana has a smaller group in the summer because many of the athletes also participate in their local Tri-County Aquatic League teams, but more than 40 of all ages will be competing this weekend.

That group includes All-Ohioans Gabrielle Brust and Riley Bunstine for the girls and Licking County League champions Issaac Hansen and Bryson Caparanis for the boys.

"It's really cool because I am following in my sisters' footsteps," Sturgeon said. "They inspire me to do well every meet."

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