Local swimmers are heading to first-ever CIF state meet


In many ways, the 50th annual Central Coast Section Swimming and Diving Championships for boys was no different than the previous 49 as Bellarmine defended its title for the 31st straight time.

The same could be said for the 42nd girls' meet, which was won by Mitty for the 11th time with Palo Alto finishing second for the eighth time.

But, the 2015 section meet also was different in many ways.

In the boys' meet, Bellarmine won only one individual event while taking two relays but still scored 292 points. Gunn had its highest finish ever, taking second with 214 while losing to the Bells by just 78 points. Palo Alto was third with 210 points while six teams scored 150 points or more in one of the more balanced meets in years.

For the girls, new schools emerged and four teams were in the running before Mitty finally wrapped things up with 250 points with Paly second with 222 and Cupertino a surprising third with 184 points.

The real difference in the 2015 meet, however, was the emphasis on second and third place, plus fast times.

The top three finishers in each event, plus those meeting at-large qualifying standards, are advancing to the inaugural CIF State Swimming & Diving Championships, presented by Farmers, set for May 22-23 at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex at Clovis West High.

Thus, seven local girls plus seven relays will be heading to the state championships while five local boys and six relay teams will be moving on, as well.

Gunn senior Jenna Campbell and Palo Alto sophomore Grace Zhao were the individual standouts among local girls as both earned two individual berths for the state meet. Zhao also helped the Vikings' 200 free and 400 relays qualify.

Campbell won her third straight title in the 200-yard free with a season best of 1:46.92, an automatic All-American time that just missed her personal best (1:46.35) from two years ago.

Campbell came back to win her first section title in the 500 free, breaking her own school record with an automatic All-American time of 4:45.83. That victory ended a two-year run by Sandra Soe of Pioneer and was the second-fastest winning time in section history.

Following the meet, Campbell was named CCS Swimmer of the Year.

Zhao was equally impressive as she defended her titles in the 50 free (23.18) and 100 breast (1:02.04), earning automatic All-American times in both events. Her 100 breast time was the second-fastest time in section history. She also led off the winning 200 free relay team in 23.14 that clocked 1:35.77 with junior Kayleigh Svensson, freshman Peyton Wang and freshman Claire Lin following Zhao in an automatic All-American time.

The Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo-Atherton girls benefited from the at-large qualifying time for the state meet as the Gators were fourth in 1:37.21 and the Bears seventh in a school record of 1:38.25. A year ago, swimmers on both teams would be done with high school swimming following the CCS meet.

The Sacred Heart Prep 400 free relay team of Kayla Holman, Matte Snow, Kathryn Bower and freshman Corinne Charlton earned their way to the state meet with a victory in 3:29.53. Palo Alto joined the Gators by taking third in 3:30.11.

Castilleja freshman Izzi Henig also earned a berth by taking second in the 100 free in 50.11.

Also moving on was a trio of divers -- Palo Alto's Mimi Lin and Menlo-Atherton sisters Mia and Talbott Paulsen. They finished one, two, three with Lin capturing her first section title on Friday with 482.60 points.

Palo Alto freshman Sofia Sigrist was seventh in the 500 free in 5:00.65, but also advanced to the state meet due to scratches in her event.

The Gunn boys, meanwhile, gave Bellarmine a chase throughout the meet. The Titans were within 50 points after the 500 free that saw Daichi Matsuda (4:34.48) take fifth and Michael Lincoln sixth (4:38.81). Matsuda earned a state meet berth on time, as well as in the 100 fly with a fifth-place time of 50.18 after setting a school record of 49.52 in the prelims.

Joining Matsuda in the state meet was a handful of teammates, including junior Joao Ama. He finished second in the 50 free in 21.32 after setting a school record of 21.14 in the prelims. In the 100 free, Ama tied his own school mark of 46.07 set in the prelims, which broke the previous Gunn record set in 1970. Despite finishing fourth, Ama moved on to the state meet with a qualifying time. However, he later scratched from the race.

Ama also helped the Gunn 200 free and 400 free relays qualify as the Titans clocked 1:27.17 (sixth place) and 3:10.82 (fifth). Gunn junior Trent Tosky was seventh in the 200 IM, but his 1:53.29 time also earned a state berth. His 1:52.97 in the prelims was a school record.

Tosky, Ama and Matsuda joined with Maximillian Pokutta on the 200 medley relay that tied Bellarmine for third in 1:34.03, which set a school mark for the Titans. Paly qualified on time, finishing fifth in 1:34.44.

Sophomore Alex Liang swam on the medley relay in addition to taking second in the 200 IM (a school record of 1:47.41) and second in the 100 fly (48.29). Both were automatic All-American times. He also led off the 400 free relay team in 46.07. The squad included Andrew Cho, Daniel Sing and Winston Wang and clocked 3:05.90 for second.

Also headed to the state meet is Paly junior diver Reed Merritt, who finished second on Saturday morning with a 496.60 total. He lost the title when he was passed in the final round.

NOTES: The Gunn girls' 200 medley relay team of Campbell, Nia Gardner, Maria Wu and Sam Acker finished seventh, but clocked a school record of 1:46.71.

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