Sports

Gunn boys, Paly girls splash to league meet swim crowns

 

The Gunn boys and Palo Alto girls were perfect during the SCVAL De Anza Division dual-meet swim season as both teams compiled 6-0 records.

Thus, both squads had to perform poorly at Friday's league championship meet at Saratoga High in order to lose their overall league titles.

Neither did. The Gunn boys scored a whopping 523 points to end Palo Alto's streak of five straight league crowns. Meanwhile, the Palo Alto girls won their first overall title since 2012 by scoring 471 points to defeat defending champ Monta Vista (359. Gunn was fourth with 297.

For the Gunn boys, it was their first league meet title since 2005 and their first overall championship since 2004, when they won the dual-meet and league crowns.

"We first knew we had a shot at the end of last season," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "We knew we had a good core group returning, and we also knew that to a person, they were committed to getting better. And they did. Most of our best swimmers spent the past year with some of the best club coaches in the area, with a concerted goal of doing well this May -- in the league, CCS, and state meets.

"We thus knew that our job would be to get our sprinters good enough so that our specialists could do what they did best. My co-head coach, Kyle Accornero, came up with a great season plan, and executed it to perfection. He deserves a lot of credit for that."

Perhaps appropriately, the Gunn boys chanted before the meet began: "We believe that we will win."

Strengthened by a roster of 60, the most ever for Hernandez, the Titans lived up to their beliefs.

"Gunn swam a great meet," said Paly coach Danny Dye. "Our guys did really well today and made up ground, but Gunn just had a solid team top to bottom. My hats off to them, they did great and were good sports about it."

Added Hernandez: "Our talented stars gave us a chance, but Palo Alto is a very good team, and ours is a very good league -- probably the best public school league in the section -- and you can't win our league meet without strength in numbers."

Gunn trailed Paly by 10 points after Tuesday's diving, which was won by the Vikings' Reed Merritt for a third straight year.

The Titans still trailed after the opening 200 medley relay that saw Paly's team of Andrew Cho, Robert Cheng, Alex Liang and Winston Wang set a meet record of 1:33.90, an automatic All-American time.

"I'll take that time at CCS," said Dye, whose relay team ranks No. 1 in the section.

Palo Alto was still technically in the lead after Liang, a sophomore, won the 200 IM in a meet record of 1:49.23 with Gunn's Trent Tosky setting a school record of 1:53.87. Then, Gunn surged into the lead.

Junior Joao Ama led a one-two Gunn finish in the 50 free with a 21.76 leading teammate Luke Chui's 22.36. Gunn junior Daichi Matsuda won the 100 fly in 49.90 and Ama came back to win the 100 free in 47.19 over Paly's Wang (47.67).

An anticipated showdown between Ama and Albert Gwo of Los Altos never materialized as Gwo was delayed after having to take AP tests. He swam in only the 200 and 400 free relays.

With the diving totals added in after the 50 free, Gunn held a 289-217 lead over the Vikings following the 100 free.

Paly's Liang ended Gunn's streak of victories by setting a personal best of 4:29.99 to win the 500 free while Gunn's Michael Lincoln was second with a PR of 4:39.44.

Gunn then all but wrapped up the meet by edging Palo Alto in the 200 free relay, 1:28.21 to 1:28.22, with the team of Ama, Lincoln, Chui and Christian Znidarsic.

"Ugh, we had it," Dye said of the relay, "but, again, they did great."

Gunn set a school record of 3:09.39 in the closing 400 free relay, but Paly held the trump card with a 3:06.59 that earned the Vikings automatic All-American status. That just missed the meet record of 3:05.80 set by Santa Clara in 1971, the second-oldest remaining varsity record.

"Loved our 400 free relay, .7 off of the league record that has been around forever!" Dye said.

In the girls' meet, Palo Alto won four individual events and two relays. Much like the Gunn boys, depth was the difference.

"Girls did great, had some super swims," Dye said.

Remarkably, Palo Alto had not one point from a senior. The Vikings' individual wins came from sophomore Grace Zhao and freshman Sofia Sigrist.

Zhao, the defending CCS champ in the 50 free and 100 breast, showed she's ready to defend those titles by winning in season bests of 23.25 and 1:02.11, respectively. The 100 breast time set a meet record. Both clockings were automatic All-American times.

Zhao also swam leadoff legs on the winning 200 free (1:37.59) and 400 free (3:34.14) relays.

Sigrist, a transfer from Brazil, won the 200 free in 1:54.57 and came back to take the 500 free in 5:03.01.

Gunn senior Jenna Campbell, the defending champ in both the 500 free and 200 free, didn't swim either on Friday but still came away as a double winner. She took the 200 IM with a school record of 2:03.04 and 100 free in 50.35, in addition to swimming leadoff on the winning 200 medley relay team that set a meet record of 1:47.41.

Campbell swam "off" events because of the addition of the State Championships this year. Hernandez didn't want Campbell swimming the same events three straight meets.

Next up will be the CCS Championships, with trials on Friday and finals Saturday (May 16) at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara.

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