By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The high school swim year seems to be one big tuneup after another as athletes prepare for the season-ending Central Coast Section championships, which are still a month away in Santa Clara.
The Palo Alto and Gunn boys and girls continued their tuneups Wednesday in their annual dual-meet showdowns in the SCVAL De Anza Division. The Vikings appear in good shape following a 130-56 victory by the boys and a 125-61 triumph by the girls.
"A very good tuneup," Paly coach Danny Dye said. "Everyone swam well today."
That meet, however, was just a warmup for Saturday's annual Section Challenge at Palo Alto, where the Paly girls will defend their title against some of the top teams in Northern California, including San Ramon Valley.
The Paly boys, meanwhile, stand a good chance of moving up from last year's eighth-place finish while taking on SRV and Sacred Heart Prep in the field that includes top teams from the CCS and North Coast Section.
The Section Challenge, which gets under way at 9 a.m., saw 10 meet records fall last season. Paly has two athletes who could rewrite some of those marks in junior Jasmine Tosky and freshman Andrew Liang.
Tosky won the girls' 200 free and 500 free at the 2010 Section Challenge. She set a meet record of 1:50.12 in the 200 free and just missed in the 500 free while winning in 4:51.35. She tuned up for those same events by winning them against Gunn -- clocking a sizzling 1:48.23 in the 200 and cruising to a 5:05.97 triumph in the 500.
"Her talent level is so good," Dye said, "that when she rests and tapers, she can swim anything."
And, more important, threaten just about any record. She currently holds five individual school records and swam on three relays that also established school marks. Her school marks in the 200 and 500 frees are 1:44.11 (a state record) and 4:43.96, respectively.
"Jasmine has learned so much and just applied it," Dye explained.
Following in Tosky's record-breaking swim strokes is Liang, who is just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent. Against Gunn, Liang sped to a sizzling 21.88 clocking while winning the 50 free and cruised to a 50.85 win in the 100 free.
He shattered Paly freshman records earlier this season with times of 21.72 and 48.98 in those events against Lynbrook in only his third meet.
"He still has to learn how to compete," Dye said of Liang. "He's a natural, just like Jasmine. He'll be the next great sprinter in the CCS."
Liang already is on his way toward taking down school records of 21.47 in the 50 free and 45.55 in the 100, both by 2009 grad Mark Higgins. The meet records at the Section Challenge are 21.46 for the 50 and 47.17 in the 100 (by Higgins).
Liang's 50 time against Gunn would have gotten him second in the Challenge last year. His season-best of 21.72 would have been good for fifth at CCS in 2010.
Other Paly boys figuring to make a splash Saturday include junior Byron Sanborn, junior Rollin Lau, freshman William Lee and perhaps senior D.J. Fotsch. Sanborn (200 IM, 100 breast) and Lau (200 free, 500 free) were double-winners against Gunn while Fotsch won the 100 fly and Lee took the 100 back.
Sanborn finished third at the Challenge last season in 1:00.44 and went on to win the CCS title in a personal best of 57.75 to rank No. 2 in school history behind Jeff Hopwood's CCS record of 55.91 from 1998.
Also hoping to make a splash Saturday will be Paly seniors Sabrina Lee and Sarah Liang, plus junior Margaret Wenzlau, among others. Liang (not related to Andrew) won the 200 IM (2:10.39) and 100 breast (1:08.35) against Gunn while Wenzlau took the 50 free (25.05) and 100 fly (57.78). Lee won the 100 back (1:00.51) and swam on two winning relays, including a 3:36.10 sizzler in the 400 free that was very fast for a dual meet.
Liang won 200 IM (2:05.18) and the 100 breast (1:05.73) at the Section Challenge last season while Wenzlau tied for second in the 50 free (24.87) and was third in the 100 fly while Lee was fourth in the 100 back (59.83).
The Sacred Heart Prep boys were third at the Challenge last season and return junior Tom Kremer, who set a school record and meet record while winning the 100 back in 51.33. He also took second in the 200 free before going on to win CCS titles in both events.
Sacred Heart Prep freshman Ally Howe also should make a big splash on Saturday. She already has broken four school records this season -- 2:04.68 in the 200 breast, 56.19 in the 100 fly, 57.51 in the 100 back and 1:52.39 in the 200 free.
Gunn will not be competing Saturday. The Titans wrapped up their dual-meet seasons against Paly, the girls going 5-1 while the boys finished 3-3.
Gunn was missing a handful of swimmers, out with injury or illness, and won just two of 24 events for the boys and girls combined. The Gunn victories came in the girls' 100 free, where junior Rachel Acker held off teammate Julia Ama, 52.08 to 52.93, and in the 200 free relay where the team of Acker, Christine Prior, Ama and Casey Lincoln clocked a fast 1:38.99.
Gunn junior Emily Watkins pushed Paly's Sarah Liang to the finish line in a competitive 100 breast, with Watkins second in 1:08.44, just nine hundreds of a second out of the top spot. Gunn junior Aaron McGill was second in the 200 free (1:54.85) and second in the 100 fly (57.81) to pace the boys.
The Paly girls improved to 5-0 in league (7-0 overall) while the Viking boys are now 4-1 (6-1) with a final league dual meet against visiting Saratoga next Thursday.
The SCVAL De Anza Division championships will be May 6 at Saratoga, just another tuneup before the CCS finals at the George F. Haines International Swim Center on May 21.