Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 17, 2013

Future is bright for CCS swimmers with big points back

by Keith Peters

As good as the 2013 Central Coast Section Swimming and Diving Championships were for local teams, next year could be even better.

The five area girls teams — Menlo-Atherton, Gunn, Palo Alto, Sacred Heart Prep and Castilleja — are losing only a combined 74.5 of the 641 points they scored. For the boys, exclude Castilleja and those squads will be missing only 129.5 of the 456 tallied last Saturday.

Of the 1,097 total points scored by local boys and girls, 893 will be back in 2014. The Menlo-Atherton girls, meanwhile, return all of their 175 point while the Paly boys have 176 of their 227 coming back.

"The future does look bright for our CCS swimmers," said M-A first-year coach Lori Stenstrom.

The M-A girls definitely will challenge for a section title after finishing fourth last weekend at the George F. Haines International Aquatic Center in Santa Clara. The Paly boys also will continue their quest of unseating Bellarmine, winners of 29 straight CCS titles, after finishing second for a 10th time.

While the Bears and Vikings missed out on team honors, juniors Ally Howe of Sacred Heart Prep and Andrew Liang of Palo Alto left their marks while staking claim to even better performances next year after each swam away with two individual titles.

Howe arguably had the best individual effort in the girls' competition at the annual meet as she was involved in four school records, one section record and just missed a national mark.

Howe came within a breath of setting an Independent School (private) national record when she sped to a 52.32 clocking to win her third straight section title in the 100-yard back. The national mark of 52.30 was set by Missy Franklin of Regis Jesuit (Colorado) in 2011, one year before Franklin became a star by winning four gold medals at the London Olympics.

"I was definitely surprised," Howe said. "That (record) was more of a long-term goal."

While she missed the national record, Howe broke her own section mark of 53.11 and, of course, wiped out her school mark. Howe's winning time, though, is the second-fastest among private school girls in U.S. history.

Howe earlier made up for her second-place finish last year in the 200 IM by speeding to a 1:58.23 victory, setting a school record in the process.

Howe also anchored the 400 free relay team to third place in a school record of 3:29.65 and led off the fourth-place 200 medley relay squad that also set a school mark of 1:46.16.

The girls' team race came down to the final event, the 400 free relay, after Monta Vista scored 38 points in the 100 breast to take the lead with 183 points with just one race left. Presentation was second with a 154 points, but had no 400 relay in the finale.

Monta Vista won the final relay to win the team crown with 223 points. Menlo-Atherton, which held a two-point lead over the Matadors following the 100 back, wound up fourth with 175 points. The Bears missed third by two points and second by just 11. Defending champ Gunn was fifth with 173, Sacred Heart Prep was eighth with 135 while Palo Alto was 10th with 106.

While the Paly boys came up short in ending Bellarmine's historic win streak, Liang won his first two individual titles by taking the 50 free in 20.64 and 100 fly in 47.19.

Liang had hoped to break the CCS record of 47.12 by Sacred Heart Prep's Tom Kremer last year in the prelims, but nonetheless came away with the second-fastest time in CCS history while lowering his own school record with one of the fastest times in state history.

Both clockings by Liang were automatic All-American times. He also anchored Paly's 200 free relay to third place and a school record of 1:25.26, another automatic All-American time. Team members included William Lee, Andrew Cho and Winston Wang. None are seniors.

Liang finished off his meet with a school record of 44.96 on his leadoff leg in the 400 free relay. Paly finished third in 3:07.34, the No. 2 time in school history and an automatic All-American mark.

Lee, a junior, broke his own school record in the 100 back with a 49.76 clocking — an automatic All-American time — and added a third place (1:51.56) in the 200 IM.

Gunn finished a solid sixth with 102 points as freshman Daichi Matsuda and senior Tommy Tai had nice individual efforts. Matsuda set two school records, clocking 50.36 in the prelims of the 100 fly (he finished fourth in the finals in 50.68) and taking second in the 500 free in 4:33.41. Tai lowered his own school mark in the 100 breast from the prelims to 58.14 in addition to breaking his own school mark in the 200 IM with a 1:55.99 for 12th overall.

Other local highlights on the day included a victory in the girls' 200 free by Gunn sophomore Jenna Campbell in 1:46.35, a school record and automatic All-American time. Campbell set another school mark in the 500 free in 4:51.64, but the time got her only fourth in an event where she was among the favorites.

Castilleja's Heidi Katter was a somewhat surprising winner in the girls' 100 breast in 1:02.13, also a school record and one of the fastest times in CCS history. She also finished fourth in the 200 IM.

The Menlo-Atherton girls, fresh from their victory in the PAL Bay Division finals, made a strong run at their first title since 1978 while tying their best finish since 1986. The Bears took the lead for the first time after freshman Brooke Stenstrom finished second in the 50 free in a school record of 23.23. After Stenstrom finished fourth in the 100 free in another school record, 51.32, M-A was back in front by 14 points.

The Bears, however, finished only 12th in the 200 free relay but re-took the lead by two points after the 100 back. M-A, however, failed to score a point in the 100 breast and say its team hopes dashed.

M-A did set a school record of 1:45.50 while taking second in the 200 medley relay to get the meet rolling. Junior Kindle Van Linge also set a school mark in the 100 fly with a fourth-place finish of 55.29.

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