By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Gunn girls and Palo Alto boys were hit hard by graduation following the 2012 swim season that saw the Titans win their first-ever Central Coast Section title and the Vikings finish second to perennial champ Bellarmine.
Gone were CCS champs like Rachael Acker and Jasmine Tosky and Byron Sanborn, all of whom swam in the NCAA Championships this season.
So, where did that leave the Gunn girls and Paly boys for 2013? That was answered Friday when the Titans and Vikings met in their annual SCVAL De Anza Division dual-meet showdowns.
The Gunn girls splashed their way to a 97-89 victory while the Palo Alto boys did likewise, 99-86. Remarkably, perhaps, the girls' meet featured six events that were faster than in last year's meet while the boys saw 10 faster events.
"This meet certainly lost a lot of star power, but there's a lot of pride, a lot of tradition for both schools, and we've been pretty pleased with how well our younger swimmers -- many of whom were role players last year -- have taken it upon themselves to maintain our standards of excellence," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez.
"On the boys' side, we've had a lot of turnover," Hernandez continued. "Led by Tommy Tai, our senior class is relatively small, but we've got a lot of very young and improving talent. It'll be fun to see them swim at SCVALs and CCS in a few weeks."
Added Paly coach Danny Dye: "We swam well, they (Gunn girls) were up for the meet and swam great. It was a good meet. Today they were the better team. They had some great swims. I was proud of our kids; they swam hard, middle-of-the-season tired, it just wasn't our day. But, a fun close meet to the end -- hard fought."
The Gunn girls improved to 4-1 in the division and remained tied with Monta Vista for first place. If the teams are still tied following the dual-meet season, the Titans can win the overall title by winning the league-meet crown.
The Paly boys (3-1) trail unbeaten Monta Vista in the dual-meet standings, but still can win the overall title by defending their league-meet championship, as well.
Despite their losses to graduation, the Gunn girls and Paly boys still have plenty of talent at the top and depth overall. That surfaced Friday in the Titans' pool as both teams produced some top midseason times.
The best came from Gunn sophomore Jennifer Campbell, who last weekend won a handful of age-group titles at the Far Western Championships in Morgan Hill and then helped Gunn defeat Homestead on Wednesday.
Campbell swam the third leg on the winning 200 medley relay team (1:51.20), broke her own school record in the 200 free with a 1:49.51, captured the 500 free in 4:57.80 and led off the 400 free relay team that clocked a sizzling 3:33.85 -- faster than Gunn's winning time last year that included Acker.
"Jennifer is really coming into her own, and emerging as one of the true powers in our section," said Hernandez. "She's a lot of fun to watch, because she's so tecnically sound, and she races her plan so well. She really is one of the smartest competitors I've ever seen."
Campbell's efforts helped Gunn beat Paly for the second straight year -- for the first time ever. The Titans have beaten the Vikings only three times in the past 19 years. As in last year's meet, Gunn swept all three relays and won the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Gunn's Gabrielle Bethke took the sprints this time, clocking 24.54 and 53.40 in addition to swimming on the 200 free and 400 free relays.
The Paly girls actually held a 69-67 lead after losing the 200 free relay, but Gunn outscored the Vikings, 11-7, in the 100 back and 100 breast to take an 89-83 lead into the final relay.
The boys' meet wasn't as close won the first three events and eight of 12 overall. Junior Andrew Liang was the Vikings' individual standout as he won the 200 free in a fast 1:46.92 and took the 100 in 48.03. He also swam legs on the winning 200 free (1:30.12) and 400 free relays (3:18.68), clocking an opening 21.84 on the sprint foursome.
Paly's William Lee added victories in the 200 IM (1:57.29) and 100 back (53.60) and also swam on two winning relays.
Gunn was led by freshman standout Daichi Matsuda, who won the 100 fly in 52.13 and 500 free in 4:46.54, one of the fastest times in school history. In the 500, Matsuda paced a field that featured five freshman among the top five.
Matsuda's victory in the 500 got the Titans to within 66-59, but he Vikings outscored Gunn, 22-8 over the next two events to pull away.