SHP's Howe sets national record at CCS swim prelims

Sacred Heart Prep senior Ally Howe came oh so close to setting a national record in the 100-yard backstroke at last year's Central Coast Section Swimming and Diving Championships.

Howe made up for that by breaking the national mark on Friday during the section prelims at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara.

Howe was the top qualifier for Saturday's finals in a remarkable 51.84. That erased 2012 Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin from the record books. Franklin swam 52.30 to set the National Independent Schools record in 2011. Howe, of course, broke own own CCS record of 52.32, which she swam last year.

"I wasn't surprised she swam that fast today," said SHP coach Kevin Morris. "We had our team pasta feed at her house yesterday, and I've never seen her so relaxed and ready."

Howe wasn't done for the day as she led off the Gators' 400 free relay with a school record of 50.12 for the 100 free. SHP was the top qualifier in 3:27.14, a school record. Relay members included Selby Sturzenegger, Kayla Holman and Kathryn Bower.

Howe holds all eight individual school records and is a member of all three relays that hold school marks.

The SHP girls started the day by being the top qualifier in the 200 medley relay, clocking 1:44.01 to break the CCS record of 1:44.17 set by Burlingame in 2012. Sturzenegger, Holman and Bower joined Howe on the record-breaking swim.

"An incredible day for Ally, and for our team," said Morris. "The plan today was to go after the back record today and save a bit for the 200 IM. She'll go after Jasmine Tosky's 200 IM record tomorrow.

"It was so exciting for us to break the medley relay record. I thought we might have a shot if we hit all the splits we needed, and we did. The girls were floating on air for a long time after that race. It was so great to have a race like that right off the bat, because it sends the message to everyone 'hey, we hit our taper, and we're swimming fast today.'

"A crazy day for freshman Kathryn Bower. Her first race as a freshman she's on a relay that breaks the CCS record. Tough to top that."

Palo Alto senior Andrew Liang, meanwhile, also rewrote the CCS record book on Friday.

Liang accomplished one of his goals for the meet by lowering the CCS record in the 100-yard butterfly to 47.09. That broke his own school mark of 47.19 and erased the section record of 47.12 set by Tom Kremer of Sacred Heart Prep in 2012.

Liang and Kremer will be swim teammates at Stanford this fall.

Liang tuned up for the fly by lowering his school record in the 50 free with a sizzling 20.14. He was the top qualifier there, as well, clocking automatic All-American times in both events.

The CCS finals will be Saturday, starting at 2:30 p.m.

The Palo Alto boys, shooting to end Bellarmine's streak of 29 straight CCS titles, shot blanks in the 100 free by failing to have a swimmer among the top 16. The Vikings, however, grabbed an early 31-0 lead after the diving competition that saw Paly's Reed Merrit take second with 474.85 points and Scott Hillen finish fourth with 391.25 points.

The Vikings also came up with a number of fine prelims efforts, including the top time in the 200 medley relay and having senior William Lee lead four Paly swimmers into the 100 back finals.

Lee was the top qualifiers in 49.49, breaking his own school record. Bellarmine had no finalists in the 100 back.

Lee joined Liang in the 400 free relay prelims, which saw the Vikings set a school record of 3:06.34 while taking second. Liang led off in 44.25, breaking his own school record.

"The kids started off a little nervous, but once the butterflies were gone they were great," said Paly coach Danny Dye.

And for breaking Bellarmine's record?

"Let's just say for the first time in 29 years, the meet tomorrow for boys means something," Dye said.

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports


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