By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Danny Dye had it all figured out. His Palo Alto girls' swim team would win the opening 200 medley relay and go on to claim the third Central Coast Section championship in school history. By his computations, the Vikings would beat long-time nemesis by 24 points.
Dye's plan looked great when senior Sarah Liang overhauled her Mitty counterpart to give Paly a victory to start the meet. What Dye didn't plan on, however, happened next.
Two officials ruled that Liang had left a tad too early on her anchor leg, thus disqualifying the Vikings and taking away the 40 points they had just won. That 40 points turned out to be decisive as Mitty went on to win the team title with 274 points with Palo Alto settling for second with 255 on Saturday at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara.
Had the Vikings finished even seventh in the opening relay, they would have earned 24 points – still enough for the championship.
"I'm disgusted," Dye said of the official decision, after looking at a videotape of the race and not being able to discern whether Liang had left early. Another swim coach look at the tape frame and frame after the meet and believed there was no reason for disqualification.
Dye agreed that the second-place finish is now the most frustrating in his seven years as head coach, replacing the three-point loss to Mitty two years ago.
"It was just bothersome," Paly junior Jasmine Tosky said of the relay disqualification. "But, it was nobody's fault. Sarah has such amazing starts. We've been to national meets before and she's never been DQ'd . . . We really wanted to get first."
The DQ marred an otherwise successful day for local swimmers at the section finals. The Gunn girls finished fourth with 210 points, matching last year's finish. Sacred Heart Prep moved up from 13th to sixth with 116 points and Menlo-Atherton duplicated last year's 19th place.
In the boys' meet, Bellarmine won its 27th straight CCS title. Palo Alto gained a moral victory with a second-place finish of 192 points after finishing sixth last season. Los Gatos (161.50) was third and Sacred Heart Prep fourth (148.50). Menlo-Atherton moved up from ninth to seventh (121.50) with Gunn 19th and Menlo School 28th, both improvements over last season.
Palo Alto's Tosky was expected to be the star of the meet after setting a Girls Public High School national record during the 100 fly prelims on Friday. She became the first prep girl in history to break 52 seconds in the race with a 51.92 clocking that broke Misty Hyman's 52.41 from 1996. Hyman went on to star at Stanford and win an Olympic gold medal.
While she defended her CCS titles in both the 100 fly (52.30) and 200 free (1:44.20) with automatic All-American marks, her winning times on Saturday weren't as exciting as her national mark on Friday.
"I was not concentrating on the 100 fly at all for this meet," she admitted. "I was really focusing on the 200 free. I didn't even think I'd get a best time (in the fly). Maybe I should think that way more often. It was a nice highlight to the meet."
While Tosky came up short of lowering her own CCS records, Sacred Heart Prep's Tom Kremer and Ally Howe helped pick up the slack in the record-breaking department.
Kremer, a junior, shattered the section mark while defending his title in the 200 free with a 1:36.72 that made him the first under 1:37.00. He also defended his 100 back title with a sizzling school record of 48.50. Both his times were automatic All-American clockings.
"It's pretty cool," Kremer said of his CCS record. "Yesterday I felt really good (in the prelims). It wasn't too much of a surprise. (But) It's a great time."
Kremer actually wanted something closer to a 1:35, but he still has another year to get it. Howe, a freshman, has three more years to improve.
Howe set herself up for the future by setting a school record for the second straight day while winning the 200 IM in 2:00.24. She really starred in the 100 back as she broke her own CCS record from the prelims (53.95) with a sizzling 53.31 in the finals. She also earned automatic All-American status with her swims.
"I was even surprised with my swim yesterday," Howe said of her 100 back marks. "To drop my time again was really satisfying. My back(stroke) is really good."
"Ally and Tom making CCS records was fantastic," said SHP coach Kevin Morris, who is looking forward to having both back next year for good reason.
Kremer also led off SHP's 400 free relay that won in a sizzling 3:07.36, second-fastest in school history and an automatic All-American time. Andrew Savage, Kyle Koenig and Bret Hinrichs finished off the relay after Kremer started it off with a 45.12 leg, which would have won the open 100 free.
Howe also swam on the third-place 200 medley relay team that set a school record of 1:48.35. Erica Myers, Selby Sturzennegger and Erin Sheridan rounded out the team.
Other local CCS winners included the Palo Alto girls' 200 free relay team of Margaret Wenzlau, Jayna Wittenbrink, Liang and Tosky that won in a school record of 1:34.50. Tosky started the anchor leg in third but clocked a remarkable 22.24 to overtake Gunn (third in 1:36.25) and St. Francis (1:35.85).
The Gunn girls' all-junior 400 free relay team of Rachael Acker, Julia Ama, Christine Prior and Casey Lincoln broke the school record for the second straight day with an automatic All-American clocking of 3:26.24. Paly was third in 3:27.99 as Tosky anchored in 48.15, which would have tied the national record had it been on the leadoff leg.
The Gunn girls had a very good meet, considering its top sprinters had to go against Stanford-bound St. Francis senior Maddy Schaefer, who defended her 50 and 100 free titles without setting a national record as she did last year in the 50.
Acker had the most success, taking second in the 50 in 22.91 after setting a school mark of 22.78 in the prelims. Acker also took second in the 100 free in 49.40, again setting a school mark of 49.03 in the prelims, showing how fast the athletes had to push themselves just to make the finals. Ama was fourth in the 50 and fifth in the 100, with personal-best times in the prelims.
Lincoln added a third in the 500 free (4:58.51) while senior Emily Watkins broke her school mark from Friday with an automatic All-American time of 1:03.89 for third in the 100 breast.
Paly's Liang was second in the 100 breast (1:02.95) and fourth in the 200 IM after suffering through the tough DQ in the opening relay. Other Paly finalists included senior Grace Greenwood, second in the diving; junior Margaret Wenzlau, senior Sabrina Lee, sophomore Molly Zebker and freshman Jayna Wittenbrink.
The Menlo-Atherton boys had their best CCS meet in years as senior Nick Henze led the way with a second in the 100 free, a school-record 46.44, and a sixth in the 200 free (1:41.31) after setting a school record of 1:41.12 in the prelims. Henze also anchored the fourth-place 400 free relay team to a school record of 3:09.54 with a fast 45.62 anchor.
Seniors Evan Navarro and Kei Masuda joined junior Max Wilder on the final relay.
The Palo Alto boys also had some record setting. Freshman Andrew Liang broke his 50 free school mark from the prelims with a 21.30 for third place in the finals. Liang also finished fifth in the 100 fly in 50.51, second-fastest in school history, and led off the 400 free relay that took fifth in 3:10.32 after going a season-best 3:09.15 in the prelims. Sophomore Cole Plambeck was fourth in diving on Friday.
Junior Byron Sanborn anchored the Paly relay in 45.42 in addition to taking third in the 200 IM 1:50.55 – his 1:50.07 in the prelims is No. 2 in school history – and third in a close 100 breast (56.88) after clocking a PR of 56.47 in the prelims. He also swam on the fourth-place 200 medley relay team (1:36.46), a finish the Paly girls would have loved to have on Saturday.