Palo Alto girls defend state relay title with another record


After preseason trailing, six SCVAL De Anza Division dual meets, prelims and finals at league and section meets, the Palo Alto girls still had something left for the 2016 CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships that wrapped up Saturday at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex at Clovis West High.

Boy, did they ever as Paly won two relay titles and one individual event to finish second in the state to Crean Lutheran of Orange County.

"The kids did great," said Paly coach Danny Dye, who had scored his girls' team to finish third and his boys fourth, which is exactly where they finished thanks to a pair of state titles. "It was a great meet and I'm very proud of the girls and boys."

First off, senior Mimi Lin won her first state title on the 1-meter board by scoring 498.65 points for her 11 dives. That was well off her winning total of 525.00 at the CCS finals, which set a section record. Had Lin duplicated that effort, she would have set a state meet mark.

The state title capped a sensational final season that saw Lin win her fourth straight title at the SCVAL De Anza Division finals and her second straight section crown.

Lin got the Paly girls rolling into the swimming competition in the afternoon. The Vikings kept the momentum going by winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1:42.41, just off the state meet mark of 1:42.23 by Crean Lutheran last year. Paly, however, did lower its own school record with a team of sophomore Zoe Lusk, junior Grace Zhao, senior Katie Francis and sophomore Claire Lin.

The Paly girls also defended their state title in the 200 free relay in 1:33.64, which broke the Vikings' state meet record of 1:33.80 from a year ago. That also stood as the school record until Saturday. Zhao, Lusk, sophomore Peyton Wang and Lin made up the team, which will return next season for a shot at a third straight title. Lin's 23.02 split on the final leg was the fastest of her Paly career.

Zhao added a fourth in the 50 free (23.38) and a third in the 100 breast in 1:01.54. Zhao's winning time of 1:00.85 at CCS would have given her the state crown Saturday.

The Paly boys, meanwhile, had their best finish at the state finals while scoring xx points for fourth. Junior Alex Liang was sensational for Paly as he won the 200 free in 1:36.65, breaking the state meet record and his own school mark of 1:36.85 from CCS.

Liang came back to win the 500 free in a personal best of 4:23.41, another state meet record and faster than he swam at CCS. Despite swimming the first 100 in 49.79, Liang trailed through 400 yards before taking the lead.

Liang also swam a leg on the third-place 200 medley relay team that clocked 1:33.57 and was the fastest CCS finisher. The team also included seniors Andrew Cho and Robert Cheng plus freshman Matthew Liang.

Cho added a fifth in the 100 back in 49.97 and the Vikings were 15th in the 400 free relay (3:15.80).

Elsewhere for the boys, Gunn missed two key members of its team -- juniors Michael Lincoln and Max Pokutta -- and was unable to generate the times and effort that earned the Titans their first CCS title last week. Gunn, however, did close its championship season by setting a school record of 1:34.50 while taking sixth in the opening 200 medley relay. The team was an all-senior squad of Daichi Matsuda, Trent Tosky, Brian Lei and Joao Ama.

"Michael was at Yale for his sister's graduation; our top breaststroker, Max Pokutta, wasn't at the state meet, either, as he prepares to make an Olympic Trials cut," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez. "With two of our top five best swimmers gone, our lineup wasn't nearly as strong as it was at CCS.

"Our boys looked like they had won the biggest meet of their lives a week before. They definitely competed, though, and it was a nice opportunity to have the boys together for one last meet."

Matsuda (50.18) and Tosky (50.27) were 10th and 11th, respectively, in the 100 fly. Ama was 10th in the 100 free (45.82) and 14th in the 50 free (21.32), Matsuda was 12th in the 200 IM (1:52.68) the Titans were 16th in the 200 free relay (1:27.17).

Other local swimming efforts saw:

Menlo-Atherton sophomore Izzi Henig was second in the girls' 50 free in 22.82. Her school-record time of 22.73 from the prelims would have won her the title. Henig also was second in the 100 free in 49.16 and led off the 200 free relay team that clocked a school record of 1:34.98 and included junior Sophie Murff, senior Maddie Worden and junior Kate Denend.

The Bears also were 12th in the 400 free relay (3:31.14) with a team of freshman Haley Arrington, Murff, Denend and Henig.

M-A junior Mia Paulsen was ninth in diving (445.75) with Gunn's Marisa Agarwal 15th (427.45). M-A senior Vincent Busque was 14th in the 500 free in 4:35.14; the Gunn girls had an all-freshman team of Sarah Snyder, Ashley Stahmer, Grace Tarmac and Milan Hilde-Jones take 14th in the 200 free relay (1:37.23), Los Altos senior Albert Gwo defended his state title in the boys' 50 free (20.07) and took second in the 100 free (44.05), Woodside senior Karl Arvidsson was third in the 100 breast (55.30) and third in the 200 IM (1:50.51) with Natalie Tuck of Castilleja finishing seventh in the girls' 200 IM in 2:03.59.

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports

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