By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Central Coast Section Swimming Championships is considered as one of the fastest meets in the nation, year in and out. Who can argue with such alumni as Olympians Mark Spitz, Carrie Steinseifer, Brian Job, John Naber and Pablo Morales.
Thus, the meet is a fitting stage for the final acts of seniors Jasmine Tosky of Palo Alto, Tom Kremer of Sacred Heart Prep and Rachael Acker of Gunn.
Like the great swimmers before them, all three have aspirations of some day swimming in the Olympic Games -- if not this summer then in 2016.
Their focus right now, however, is on Friday's trials and Saturday's finals at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara.
The boys' diving finals will be Friday at 9 a.m., with the girls' diving held Saturday at the same time. Then, it's time for Tosky, Kremer and Acker to take center stage at 1:30 p.m., in what should be yet another competitive affair.
Tosky is the most accomplished of the trio, having won six individual CCS titles the past three seasons while leading Paly to runner-up team finishes each time. She currently holds CCS meet records in the 200 IM, 100 fly, 200 free and 500 free. Her 100 fly time of 51.92 from last year's prelims is also the national record for public schools.
"Jasmine has been a great representation of what it means to be a Palo Alto Viking," said Paly coach Danny Dye. "She has always been a great swimmer and, in her four years at Paly, she has grown into a wonderful young lady. She has the determination, drive and commitment to succeed at the highest levels. Yet, at the same time is very down to earth, cares about her team and teammates, is willing to do whatever is necessary to help them and can laugh and joke with the best of them.
"I could write forever on what Jasmine has accomplished in the pool, and I am as proud as anyone of those accomplishments. But how she has grown as a person is probably where I am most proud. The team loves her, she relates to them. She has grown up with them and cares about them. She has never let her talent change her; she accepts her talent and works to improve. But she is smart enough to realize that there is a life outside of the pool."
Tosky currently holds Paly records in the 100 free, 200 free, 200 IM, 100 fly, 500 free and is part of three school record-setting relays.
"Many people will look at the records and see that Jasmine is a great swimmer, and she is," said Dye. "But, her biggest impact on the Palo Alto High School team has been Jasmine Tosky the person. She has set an example of hard work, competitiveness, compassion and friendship that, while it will leave a lasting impact on the record book at Paly, it will leave an even bigger lasting impression on the hearts of her teammates and coaches!"
Sacred Heart Prep coach Kevin Morris feels pretty much the same about Kremer, who got his feet wet at the 2009 CCS finals by taking fifth in the 200 IM and fourth in the 500 free. Since then, he's been pretty much unbeatable. This weekend, Kremer will go after his fifth and sixth titles.
"Tom has meant so much to our program," said Morris. "Just having Tom on our team made our practice so much more intense this year. Even when he wasn't there, it was always lurking out there that the fastest three guys would end up on a relay with him, and our training intensity this year was the best it has ever been."
Kremer holds school records in the 200 free, 100 fly, 100 back and on the 200 and 400 free relays. The 400 mark of 3:07.36 came at last year's CCS meet, earning the Gators a victory and a fourth place team finish. The Gators were third at CCS in 2010 and eighth in Kremer's freshman year.
"I also have had the luxury to teach Tom this year in my AP Computer Science class (he took the AP exam Tuesday), and, yes, he is an amazing swimmer, but he is also an absolutely amazing student," said Morris. "He is one of the most brilliant students in the senior class; he took AP Calculus BC last year as a junior. I couldn't be prouder to have Tom be the 'face' of our program. I want people to look at the SHP swim team and see all the values Tom embodies: a great athlete, a fantastic student, a really nice guy, and a great teammate."
Acker is a relative newcomer to swimming and hasn't piled up the accolades that Tosky and Kremer have earned. Yet, she's just as competitive and has re-written the Gunn record book while helping elevate the program among the section's elite.
"Rachael was obviously a game-changer for our program," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "She's a once-in-a-very-long-time type of talent, but she also works extremely hard. Given her background in ballet, it's no surprise that she's a creature of precision; and as she's developed, she's also become a creature of controlled aggression."
Acker, who will join Tosky at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, currently holds five individual school records and is a member of three record-setting relays. She handed Tosky her first-ever individual loss this season as Gunn beat Paly in a dual meet.
"What's especially exciting about Rachael is how relatively new she is to the sport," said Hernandez. "She's nowhere near her ceiling, and it's not at all clear where that ceiling even is. That makes me optimistic for how well she'll do at CCS, because she's very capable of doing something she's never done before."
Last week, the Palo Alto girls won their 10th straight SCVAL De Anza Division league-meet title, 508-499, over the Titans but Paly held a 54-point diving advantage before the meet began. Gunn scored more points in swimming and is among the favorites for Saturday's section title.
"CCS ought to be very exciting," said Dye. "I think anyone of four schools can win the title for the girls. I would have to give the edge to Gunn, but Mitty, St. Francis and us have a chance. It really will be an exciting meet."
With last year's 50 and 100 free winner (Maddy Schaefer) now swimming for Stanford, Acker is the heir apparent in those races after finishing second in both last year. The Titans also have to be favored in the 400 free relay and either the 200 medley or 200 free relay, whichever one Hernandez wants to go after.
"It's certainly nice to be considered one of the favorites, but I've been to enough of these things to know not to fall in love with seed times," Hernandez said. "We just need to perform at our best, and get ourselves into as many championship spots as possible, and then go out and swim faster on Saturday.
"Of the top contenders, I think we lost the fewest points to graduation. Maddy Shaeffer's absence helps us a lot, and we have some new, young scorers in this meet. So, though we do have a few holes, we'll put a lot of points on the board. At that point, it will come down to us winning close races."
No matter what happens, Tosky, Kremer and Acker are all set for their final bows. Their curtain calls could come later this summer on the international stage.