The Vikings, who have lost only three times in the past 23 years and who have won 15 of the past 17 titles, will have their streak tested by rival Gunn in what should be a highly competitive meet.
The Titans have finished second the past two seasons but captured the dual-meet title this season with a 6-0 mark, beating Paly two weeks ago, 97-89, without two of their top swimmers —Casey Lincoln and Julia Ama.
Both are back in the lineup and will provide coach Mark Hernandez with perhaps his deepest, most-talented lineup ever. But, that still may not be enough after Tuesday's diving finals at Palo Alto High.
"Out outlook got a little less bright yesterday," Hernandez said.
Palo Alto's Emma Miller, Serena Yee and Nadye Nee swept the top three places. The Vikings added a ninth place to score 62 points. Gunn managed just eight.
"In all honesty, this may be too big a hole for us to climb out of," Hernandez said. "I have no doubt that our swimmers will score more points than theirs (Paly's), but I don't know if we can score 54 points more. The real trouble is that the rest of the league isn't good enough to give us much help.
"In the dual meet, we had sole responsibility for keeping the Palo Alto swimmers from scoring well, and that formula worked well. But now, (Paly) swimmers who scored no points in the dual meet are going to score at least a few points. We just hope not too many."
Gunn won only three individual races last year — 50 free, 100 free and 100 breast — and lost all three relays to the Vikings. The Titans have the ability for a much different finish this time.
Gunn won all three relays in the dual-meet win over Paly and probably need to duplicate that to end the Vikings' streak of league crowns.
Lincoln, Ama and fellow seniors Rachael Acker, Christine Prior and Maggie McKenna lead a veteran group for Gunn. Sophomores Fiona Hon and Gabrielle Bethke plus freshmen Nia Gardner and Jenna Campbell help make the Titans tough to beat.
Palo Alto, of course, has All-American Jasmine Tosky. She has never lost an individual race in the league finals and, in the past, made the Vikings nearly untouchable in the relays.
The loss to Gunn, which included Tosky's first-ever individual defeat in her high school career — to Acker in the 100 free — has opened the door for the Titans. In last year's league meet, Tosky took away points from Gunn by beating Acker in the 200 free and Lincoln in the 500 free.
In previous years, whatever Tosky swam she won. Acker's win two weeks ago now throws doubt on that scenario. Tosky is the national public school recordholder in the 100 fly and has been unbeatable in the 200 free, so those seem obvious events for her. The crucial races, however, will be the relays.
"We all know Jasmine should win her events," Hernandez said. "But, we should place higher in every other event she's not swimming. There's not much we can do to keep their better swimmers out of the top eight — the championship finals —but we need to fight to get as many as we can in the top four and keep them down in spots 5-8."
Paly will need seniors Margaret Wenzlau and Laura Cui, junior Molly Zebker, sophomore Jayna Wittenbrink, a strong diving group and a host of others to step it up in order to keep the streak alive.
The Paly divers, of course, may already have done that.
"I think the girls have a chance," said Paly coach Danny Dye. "I was very happy with the diving. We'll see, but I'm optimistic."
In the boys' meet, Palo Alto looks to defend. The Vikings also got a big boost from their divers as Cole Plambeck won the individual title on Tuesday with 476.65 points. Paly scored 59 diving points for a nice head start.
As for swimming, the Vikings are fairly deep and very talented with seniors Byron Sanborn, Corso Rosati and Rollin Lau, juniors Eren Kiris and Alex Francis, and sophomores Andrew Liang and William Lee.
Sanborn is the defending league champ in the 200 IM and 100 breast and a key relay member. Lee won the 100 back last season and Liang could win whatever events he competes in. His range is from the 50 free to the 500 free. In a recent dual meet, Liang went 50.77 in the 100 fly, the No. 2 time in school history.
Lee, meanwhile, ranks No. 2 in school history in the 100 back (52.23) off his winning time in the league meet last year.
During Wednesday's trials, Sanborn won the 100 breast in 57.03 to break the league record of 57.10 by Brian Job of Santa Clara in 1969. Liang, meanwhile, broke his own school record (21.47) in the 50 free with a 21.46 clocking.
Gunn, meanwhile, will be looking to move up from last season's fifth-place finish. Senior Will Thorson, junior Tommy Tai, sophomore Jarrod Mock all made finals last season and will carry much of the load on Friday.
While the Paly boys and girls are trying to defend their titles, the Sacred Heart Prep boys and girls will be doing the same at the West Bay Athletic League Championships in the Gators' pool.
"I guess we are the favorites to repeat, especially on the boys' side since we won every dual meet on the boys' side by over 40 points," said SHP coach Kevin Morris. "And, I guess we are a bit deeper than the other schools."
The SHP boys, for instance, have the top three times in the 200 free, the top four times in the 500 free plus the best all-around swimmer in the league in senior Tom Kremer. The Gators won seven of 11 events last year while scoring 559 points. Kremer won the 200 IM and 100 fly with meet records and could do that again no matter what he swims — likely the 200 IM and 100 back on Friday.
Kremer also swims on two relays. The Gators swept all three last season.
Harrison Enright, Kyle Koenig, Chris Hinrichs, Bret Hinrichs, Scott Jollymour, Alex Swart and Sloane Sturzenegger are among the many standouts the Gators can count upon.
"The girls' meet should be quite a bit closer," said Morris, "since King's Academy has a pretty strong team, with quite a few solid, fast swimmers — many of whom are freshmen. They are a real threat at CCS to crack into the top five, I think."
SHP will be led by sophomore Ally Howe, the defending league champ in the 200 IM and 100 fly. She has the league's top times in those events this season, 2:07.27 in the IM and 56.11 in the fly. She owns the school records in those events, as well.
Senior Erin Sheridan leads the league in the 50 free (24.87) and 100 free (53.83) and is the defending champ in both races.
Also hoping to make waves for the Gators will be junior Erica Myers, Selby Sturzenegger, Pippa Temple, Lauren Glasby and Teresa Tiso.
The Menlo boys finished second last season and once again won't have the depth to match up with SHP. Nick Hale and Johnny Wilson lead the Knights.
Pinewood senior Ted Lim looks to have the 100 fly to himself with Kremer entered elsewhere. His season best is 56.11.
In the girls' meet, Priory freshman Megan O'Neill has the top time in the 500 free (5:31.58) while Castilleja's Josie Furbershaw will help carry her team's hopes in the 50 free and 100 back.
The Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division finals will be held Saturday at Burlingame High starting at 1 p.m.
The Menlo-Atherton boys and Burlingame girls are the defending champs.
The Bears will battle it out with the Burlingame boys. Those teams tied in the season-ending dual meet. The M-A sprinters will score big but the Panthers' specialists will do so, as well.
In the girls' meet, Burlingame is the big favorite after swamping M-A in their dual meet. Both teams were undefeated before their showdown last week. The Panthers will flourish because there's not enough help from the rest of the league in keeping Burlingame's non-stars from scoring.
Nicole Zanolli, Maddie Pont, Kindle Van Linge and Danielle Flanagan hope to lead the M-A girls while Max Wilder, Alex Gow, Emory Welton and Jake Bassin should help the M-A boys score well.
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