Sports

Paly boys, Gunn girls look to defend league swim titles

 

The last time the Palo Alto boys swim team was defeated at the SCVAL De Anza Division championships, it came in rival Gunn's pool in 2010.

Since then, the Vikings have splashed to victory during the past three seasons and should make it four in a row on Friday when the 2014 championships get under way.

Palo Alto, which cruised through the regular dual-meet season with a 6-0 mark, is perhaps faster and deeper than last season when it defeated runner-up Monta Vista by 101 points.

The Vikings also have a 53-point advantage over the last team to defeat them after Tuesday's diving competition that saw sophomore Reed Merritt defend his title on the 1-meter board with 461.90 points. Junior teammate Scott Hillen was second with 380.90 with Ryan Brown and Skyler Cox Koulman combining for 16 points while taking ninth and 10th.

Including Merritt, Paly returns three individual champions who accounted for five victories in addition to sweeping all three relays. The Vikings could duplicate those totals or even surpass them Friday when action gets under way at 2 p.m.

"I do think it will take something spectacular from either us or Monta Vista, combined with a major let-down from Palo Alto, for anyone to beat the Palo Alto boys," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez.

Leading the Vikings will be senior Andrew Liang, who is headed for Stanford in the fall. He dominated his events last year while setting school records in the 50 free (20.59) and 100 fly (47.88), the latter of which erased the meet record of set by the legendary Mark Spitz in 1967.

Liang also led off the winning 200 free relay that set a meet record of 1:26.21 and anchored the 400 free relay to victory.

Fellow senior William Lee is back to defend his 200 IM and 100 back titles. He set a meet and school record of 50.36 in the backstroke before lowering it at CCS.

Palo Alto coach Danny Dye also has a solid supporting cast that includes senior Scott Powell, junior Winston Wang, sophomore Andrew Cho and freshman Alex Liang.

Gunn, which finished third last season, is led by sophomore Daichi Matsuda. He's the defending champion in the 500 free (4:34.31). The Titans also have Joao Ama, Luke Chui, Michael Lincoln and Trent Tosky.

In the girls' meet, Gunn will be out to defend its title after ending Palo Alto's streak of 10 straight championships last season. Monta Vista, however, won the dual-meet title this season with a 6-0 mark.

"The girls side will be a fun and fast meet," Hernandez said. "If I read the entries correctly, Monta Vista and we will go back and forth, some events favoring us, some favoring them.

"The key, I think, will be how well we can get our third and fourth swimmers in a given event to compete. If our top swimmers can stay close with theirs, and if our role swimmers can dominate theirs, we have a shot at repeating. They (Monta Vista) are a very, very good team. If we're going to beat them, we have to have a great meet."

Gunn has a slim six-point advantage over Monta Vista following Tuesday's diving, which saw Paly sophomore Mimi Lin defend her title with 481.45 points. That moved Lin to No. 2 all-time at Paly.

Lin's effort helped the Vikings score 35 points, the same number put up by Los Gatos. Gunn was next with 32 as sophomore Vivian Zhou finished third with 465.00 points, a big improvement over her third-place mark of 417.48 last year.

In the pool, Gunn will have defending champ Jenna Campbell (200 free, 500 free) leading the way while Paly has defending champ Jayna Wittenbrink back in the 100 fly.

Campbell won her specialties last week and swam on two winning relays to help Gunn defeat Palo Alto, 110-76, and finish 5-1 in the dual-meet season. Freshman Grace Zhao paced the Vikings by winning the 50 free in a fast 24.09, one of the top five marks in school history.

In the boys' meet, Palo Alto posted a 112-71 victory as Andrew Liang won two individual events and swam on two winning relays. Gunn's Matsuda threatened his school record in the 500 free before settling for victory in 4:37.37.

The PAL Bay Division Championships will be held Saturday at Burlingame High, starting at 1 p.m. The M-A girls will defend their title after losing the dual-meet crown to Burlingame. The M-A boys finished second in last year's league finals.

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