Bruce Smith, a co-founder of the Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics Club some 17 years ago, is no ordinary first-year coach. He's assumed head coaching duties at Gunn and still works with long-time Gunn swim coach Mark Hernandez.
Most importantly, he's worked with most of the seniors at the club level, which made for a smooth tranistion.
At the team's first meeting of the year, Smith said defending its CCS title was at the top of the list as a goal for the season.
"Continuing the tradition was important," Smith said. "Winning a CCS title is hard and its harder to stay on top. You have to keep re-inventing yourself. Getting better requires more teamwork. Everybody has to buy in."
That's where the seniors come in.
"They're not just five fast swimmers," Smith said. "As a group of five, they are impressive. They've spent four years developing and when they come together, that's when they are amazing."
Friday's 3:30 p.m. meet with Los Gatos is Senior Day, their final dual meet (Palo Alto is also honoring its seniors Friday).
Smith may have to edit himself a bit. He can talk about all five seniors all day. Four of them will continue swimming in college. Schulz, who has not made a final college choice, said she wants to try different things.
"That's the great thing about them," Smith said. "They all bring something different."
The five seniors competed in a combined 12 championship finals last year, including all three relays. The 200 medley relay is the defending CCS champion, the 400 free relay finished second and the 200 free relay was third.
Hilde-Jones, who will swim at Northwestern in the fall, has been working with former Stanford great Dana Kirk for several years and has developed into a dependable swimmer and leader.
"She'll be a huge assest at Northwestern," Smith said. "She's a great kid with a bright future. She has a great personality. She's a versatile swimmer."
Tramack, heading to Williams & Mary, keeps Smith organized.
"She loves work. She's labor intensive," Smith said. "I call her my organization. She's a hard worker who brings positive energy all the time."
Smith calls Duke-bound Snyder a "goofball," in the best sense of the word.
"When she's in the pool she's all business," Smith said. "She's awesome. She keeps things light intimes of stress, always crackjing jokes. She's just so good at being level-headed."
Stahmer, on her way to South Carolina, would compete in every event if she were given the choice.
"She loves going fast asnd she wants to race," Smith said. "She's a hard worker and a team player."
Schulz, who completed one race last year despite getting injured, is a "great competitor and a great leader by example."
The postseason starts next week with the SCVAL diving finals at Palo Alto on Tuesday and the girls trials on Thursday, also at Palo Alto. The boys trials is Wednesday, with the combined finals next Friday.
"We look at leagues as a stepping stone toward CCS," Smith said. "CCS is the focus but we want to win the league title too."
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