The Bellarmine Prep swim team has won the past 29 Central Coast Section team titles. The Bells will go for No. 30 next month.
Whether that milestone is reached may depend on the Palo Alto boys, who have finished second at CCS the past three seasons and eight times in the past 15 years.
Should history be made by the Vikings in May, it could be traced back to April and Saturday's performance by host Paly at the annual Section Challenge at the Mackenzie Family Aquatics Complex.
The Vikings scored 178 points and finished second while Bellarmine scored 171 and took fourth. Obviously, things will be different at CCS since the Section Challenge was loaded with talented teams from the North Coast and San Joaquin sections. San Ramon Valley won the title with 193 points and Davis was third with 176 in the closest meet yet.
While finishing ahead of Bellarmine on Saturday might not mean a lot right now for Paly -- neither team played their strongest hand -- the Vikings must realize that if the Bells are ever going to be beaten at CCS, it might have to be this year.
The Vikings are heavy with seniors like Andrew Liang, William Lee, and Scott Powell and all had big roles Saturday along with sophomore Andrew Cho and freshman Alex Liang.
Stanford-bound Andrew Liang was the main point-getter as he won the 100 fly by nearly three seconds in 49.92 (his school record is 47.19), took second in the 50 free in 21.14, swam the third leg of the 200 medley relay that clocked a season-best 1:36.77 and led off the 400 free relay with a 49.35 leg that led to a third-place time of 3:13.17, also a season best.
Liang finished with 41.5 points in his four events.
Most important about those two relays, the Vikings finished ahead of Bellarmine (seventh and fifth, respectively). The Bells gained some measure of revenge by winning the 200 free relay in 1:28.09 with Paly fourth in 1:29.09.
Palo Alto's Cho was the team's only other swim winner as he took the 100 back in 53.77. Bellarmine's closest swimmer was fifth. Scott Hillen took the 1-meter diving event on Friday with a season best of 398.00 for 11 dives.
Alex Liang, Andrew's brother, was second in the 200 free in 1:45.05 with Cho fifth in 1:47.76. Both finished ahead of Bellarmine's two finalists. Alex also swam a leg on the 200 free relay and 400 free relay with Cho anchoring the final race.
In other races, Paly junior Winston Wang was sixth in the 200 IM (2:01.21) and Powell was fifth in the 100 breast in 1:01.16.
The Sacred Heart Prep boys finished 10th out of 11 teams, scoring 57 points. In the girls' meet, San Ramon Valley also took home the title with 325 points with Sacred Heart Prep fifth with 111.5 points and Palo Alto sixth with 98.
Chris Hinrichs of SHP clocked a season best of 1:47.92 while taking sixth in the 200 free. He took fifth in the 500 free in 4:57.10 and swam the second leg on the Gators' 400 free relay that clocked 3:19.77 for sixth.
The SHP girls competed without Stanford-bound senior Ally Howe, who is competing at the USA Swimming Grand Prix Series stop in Mesa, Ariz. She was fourth in the 200-meter back and 11th in the 200 free. On Saturday, she made the finals in the 200 fly and the consolation finals in the 100 back and finished fifth and 11th, respectively.
The SHP girls nonetheless took third in the 200 medley relay in 1:53.77, sixth in the 200 free relay (1:45.44) and sixth in the 400 free relay (3:46.80). Senior Selby Sturzenegger had the best individual finish, a third in the 100 back in 59.26. She also swam on the medley and 200 free relays.
The Paly girls were fourth in the 200 medley relay (1:54.24), freshman Grace Zhao was fifth in the 50 free in a season-best 24.82, Phoebe So was fourth in diving with 307.20 points, and senior Jayna Wittenbrink was sixth in the 100 fly (59.50) to highlight the Vikings' efforts.