Liang's record setting helps Paly boys defend swim title

Palo Alto senior Andrew Liang had a meet that most swimmers could only dream about, having a hand in three meet records and one school mark while helping his team defend its title at the SCVAL De Anza Division Championships at Gunn High on Friday.

Yet, Liang seemed unfulfilled.

"I think I set the hardest goals for myself," Liang said. (But) We have a week . . . it's motivation."

Up next for Liang and his teammates will be the Central Coast Section Championships next weekend at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara. Given Liang's desire for improvement, his final meet should be a good one.

Liang started the league finals by winning the 50 free in 20.33, breaking the meet record of 20.50 set by Joe Bottom in 1973. It was the oldest meet mark left on the books. Liang also erased his school record and earned automatic All-American status while recording one of the fastest times in CCS history.

"I was relatively pleased with that," Liang said. "On Wednesday (at the trials) I wasn't feeling it at all."

Just a short while later, Liang splashed to victory in the 100 fly in 47.74, lowering his own meet record of 47.88 when he knocked the legendary Mark Spitz out of the record books last season. That, too, was an automatic All-American time.

"I was a little disappointed," Liang said of his fly. "I felt like something was off."

Liang returned in the 200 free relay, where he anchored the Vikings to a meet record of 1:25.91, the No. 2 time in school history that erased the 1:26.21 time Paly set last year.

Finally, Liang anchored the 400 free relay to victory in 3:07.50, fastest in the CCS this season. He clocked 45.21 on his leg as the team of senior William Lee, junior Winston Wang and freshman Alex Liang earned All-American consideration.

That wrapped up a 504-point effort for Paly, which won its fourth straight league meet title. Gunn was second with 400.

Palo Alto also won the opening 200 medley relay with a meet record of 1:35.48. Andrew Cho, Scott Powell, Alex Liang and Winston Wang made up the squad. Andrew Liang will compete on that team at CCS.

Lee added a victory in the 200 IM (1:52.84) and set a meet record of 50.22 in the 100 back, in addition to swimming on the 200 free and 400 free relays. Cho swam on two record-setting relays and took second in the 100 back (52.46).

Alex Liang prepared to follow in his older brother's footsteps by taking second in the 200 free (1:42.00) and 500 free (4:32.96), making him the fastest freshman in school history in those events.

Gunn was led by sophomore Daichi Matsuda, who set a school record of 4:32.60 while winning the 500 free. Matsuda set another school mark while taking second in the 100 fly in 49.56, an automatic All-American time.

The Titans also got solid efforts from Joao Ama in the 50 free (21.12) and 100 free (47.76).

In the girls' meet, Monta Vista swam away with the title with 414 points and Palo Alto was a surprising second with 398.50. Defending champion Gunn was third with 394 as only 20 points separated the top three teams.

The individual standout was Gunn junior Jenna Campbell, who won the 200 free in 1:47.37 and broke her own school record in the 500 free with a 4:49.73 clocking. Both were automatic All-American times.

"I was happy with both, especially the 500," Campbell said. "I wasn't expecting to go that fast. This just builds confidence, knowing that I can go faster."

Campbell also swam a leg on the winning 200 medley relay team that clocked 1:48.73 and led off the second-place 400 free relay (3:29.74). Senior Gabrielle Bethke won the 100 free in 51.42 and swam on two runner-up relay teams.

Palo Alto freshman Grace Zhao also stood out. She won the 50 free in a season-best 23.56 -- defeating Bethke's best of 23.84 -- and took the 100 breast in 1:03.98.

"And she can go faster at CCS," said Paly coach Danny Dye, who was brimming with excitement after watching his teams Friday.

"The girls are young," said Dye. "I think today was a huge wake- up call for them. The boys were just fantastic."


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