Gunn High gave us the high school story of the year at last May's Central Coast Section swimming and diving championships when the boys team wrenched the title from Bellarmine Prep after 31 years.
The Titans were comprised by a group of determined, battle-tested seniors who clinched the championship in the meet's final event; the 400 free relay. Gunn set a school record in winning the event by .02 seconds over Palo Alto.
Gunn and Palo Alto have produced significant performances over the years and their dual meet, which gets underway Friday at 3:45 p.m. at Gunn, usually creates a high-energy atmosphere.
Both schools concentrate on the SCVAL and CCS meet but the dual meet remains a special time on the schedule.
"A lot of our athletes train together during the off season, and they are very passionate about the sport," Palo Alto coach Danny Dye wrote in an e-mail. "This is one of the attributes that helps to make this rivalry so strong, they are used to pushing each other."
Gunn returns top swimmers like school record holders Michael Lincoln and Max Pokutta, along with David Shau and Michael Chen.
Palo Alto school record holder Alex Liang, who will be swimming at Stanford next year, gives the Vikings a solid foundation along with CCS veterans Matthew Liang, Jack Callaghan, Thibault Collignon, Andrew Jozefov, Austin Cheok, Alex Beaudry and Ethan Bundy.
"When they get the opportunity to represent their school in the sport they are most passionate about, against friends who they have trained with and known for a long time, it really makes it fun," Dye wrote.
It's the same on the girls' side, where the competition figures to be closer. Both teams were fairly young last year, with Palo Alto edging Gunn for the CCS title, 231-190. The Vikings went on to finish second at the state meet.
Gunn's all-freshmen relay team of Ashley Stahmer, Sarah Snyder, Clara Schultz, and Grace Tramack recorded a third-place finish in last year's CCS 400 free relay and placed seventh in the 200 free relay. Marisa Agarwal is one of the top divers in the CCS.
Paly's Zoe Lusk, Grace Zhao, Peyton Wang,Claire Lin, Kayleigh Svensson and Sofia Sigrist all return from championship final relays.