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May 18, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

For Paly, a Champion to the end For Paly, a Champion to the end (May 18, 2005)

Senior Remy Champion shakes off tough season to help Vikings win section championship

by Keith Peters

It was perhaps fitting that Remy Champion was holding the trophy when the Palo Alto girls' swimming and diving team stood up on the podium as the 2005 Central Coast Section champions.

Champion, for one, epitomized the kind of effort it took for the Vikings to win their first section championship since 1995 with a superlative effort Saturday at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. The senior did not win an individual title. In fact, she didn't even reach the finals in any individual event.

Champion's contribution came on the relays and in the consolation finals. She scored 22 points. Palo Alto totaled 226 points to edge two-time defending champion Mitty, which had 206. The difference was 20 points.

"It's just an awesome end to the season," said Champion, who has earned a water polo scholarship to Cal next fall. "I didn't have much in the way of expectations for the season, with being injured. So, it really just caps off my season."

Palo Alto's championship performance was a culmination of things. The Vikings had big point scorers in freshman Liv Jensen (50 points), senior Monika Friedman (47 1/2) and junior Becky Wenzlau (45). Jensen set a school record and clocked an All-American time of 23.71 in the 50 free. Friedman was third in the 100 fly (a PR 57.51) and second in the 500 free in an All-American time of 4:57.82. Wenzlau swam a PR of 1:52.37 for second in the 200 free.

Paly picked up 27 valuable diving points from Jenny Reese and Nicole Przybyla. And, the Vikings received points on the relays from Louisa Zuo, Erica Westly, Donna Kremer and Phoebe Champion.

Palo Alto also spent the season without a home pool, having to travel to six dual meets while a new facility was under construction at home. The team trained at Stanford, from 6-8 p.m., which caused all sorts of logistical problems.

"There were so many things that went wrong for them this season," said first-year Paly coach Danny Dye. "No pool. No morning practices, injuries, a new coach. I told them before the meet to take care of what they control and everything would fall into place. They did."

If there was a question mark in the plan, it was Remy Champion. She suffered through shoulder problems throughout the season and even doubted she'd make any contribution to the team this season.

"I thought my season was pretty much over," Champion said of the weeks of doing nothing but kicking in practice. "But, I was one of the team captains and I knew I should finish it up."

Champion got back into swimming competitively midway through the dual-meet season and pretty much surprised herself because she was fresh was the low yardage in practice.

"I thought I was going to be slower than I was," she said. She picked up her CCS qualifying time in the 50 free early on but didn't get her 100 free until the final dual meet of the season. Her performance at the De Anza Division meet was nothing special, giving her reason to doubt her chances at CCS.

"I really didn't think I was going to final at CCS," she said. "And I didn't think I was going to be on the relays."

Dye didn't inform Champion of her spot on the 200 free and 400 free relays until after the CCS prelims last Friday night.

"I made the move with Remy (over junior Donna Kremer) for three reasons," Dye said. "One, she swam the faster time in the 50 freestyle event. Two, she is a senior and the times were going to be almost identical. And three, Remy's history is that of a big meet swimmer. I knew she had experience and would come through.

"Donna swam a great meet and did an awesome job on the (200 medley) relay," Dye added. "I talked with her about the change and she agreed with it and was a true team player about the whole thing, understanding Remy being a senior and swimming so well.

"She (Remy) was not the big point scorer, but what she was able to add to those relays was huge. It allowed them to swim those times."

Champion swam a personal record of 53.69 to finish fourth in the consolation finals of the 100 free to gain five points. She swam the second leg of the 200 free relay that set a school record of 1:37.99 and earned automatic All-American recognition. That team included Wenzlau, Phoebe Champion and Jensen.

Holding a 26-point lead over Mitty going into the final 400 free relay, Remy swam 53.86 on her third leg to help the Vikings finish second in an All-American time of 3:33.16. Wenzlau, Friedman and Jensen rounded out the squad.

Then, it was time to celebrate. Dye was pushed into the pool and assistants Jeff Peterson, Aileen Delaney and Jon Barnea were thrown in. It was Delaney's second CCS title. She swam on Paly's first section championship squad in 1995.

"It's a phenomenal feeling," Dye said after the title clinching and dunking. "Those girls, doing what they did this year . . . I'm in awe."

A lot of the local coaches were probably thinking the same thing after Saturday's meet in a perfect setting and on a weather-perfect day.

The Sacred Heart Prep boys had their best CCS meet ever, scoring 150 points to finish third. The Gators accounted for six All-American consideration times and set school records in just about everything them swam for coaches Kevin Morris and Diane Campbell.

Sophomore Kameron Flores-Maxfield was the individual standout, taking third in the 100 breast (after swimming a school record of 58.88 in the prelims) and fourth in the 200 IM (1:55.25) with another school mark. Freshman Alex Navarro also was outstanding with school-record 1:43.34 for sixth in the 200 free and a school mark of 4:38.77 for third in the 500 free.

Both also swam legs on the Gators' third-place 200 medley (1:39.76) and third-place 400 free (3:13.65 in prelims) relay teams that set school records.

"Besides those two obvious stars, we had three boys who stepped up to make the difference between third place and probably fifth or sixth," said Campbell.

Junior Randy Ang swam on all three relays, while senior Douglas Wigley and junior Campbell Browne also contributed points.

"Douglas was our only scoring senior," Campbell said, "making the future look pretty bright."

The future is indeed bright for the Menlo-Atherton girls, who scored 152 points and finished fifth overall. All the points were scored by underclassmen.

The Bears won their first CCS event since 1978 when the foursome of juniors Kelly Eaton, Danielle Hildebrandt and Heidi Kucera teamed with sophomore Kaitlyn Sitts to clock an All-American and school-record time of 1:48.27.

"It was a fantastic swim from all four girls," said M-A coach Rick Longyear. "We did it without a false start, which is even better."

The Bears lost potentially big points when their CCS-leading 400 free and 200 free relay teams both were disqualified in the prelims for leaving early.

M-A got some of those points back when Kucera was elevated from second to first in the 100 breast after winner Maryann Hiller was disqualified for using a dolphin kick off the third turn. Hiller did swim a school-record and All-American time of 1:03.26 in the prelims.

Despite getting the win with a school-record and All-American time of 1:04.48, Kucera showed her respect for Hiller by refusing to step onto the first-place podium.

Eaton added a third place in the 100 back, setting a school record of 56.96 that gave her automatic All-American status. Hildebrandt set school records of 59.53 in the 100 fly (prelims) and 1:54.55 (prelims) while taking fourth in the 200 free.

Menlo School finished sixth in the girls' competition with 139, losing those 20 points on Hiller's disappointing DQ in the 100 breast that would have been enough to move the Knights ahead of the Bears.

The race between the rivals was as close as the 200 medley relay, where Menlo took second in 1:48.56 to set a school record with an All-American time. Angie McPhaul, Whitney Allen and Kiki Hiller - all underclassmen - joined Maryann Hiller on the relay.

The Hillers, McPhaul and sophomore Camy Sullivan later added another school record with a fourth-place time of 1:39.04 in the 200 free relay.

The Gunn girls finished 13th with 70 points while the Sacred Heart Prep girls were 14th with 57. Both have young teams that will be back stronger next season.

Gunn freshman Casey Barnes-Waychus led the Titans with a PR of 5:04.21 for fourth in the 500 free in addition to taking seventh in the 200 free in 1:56.12. Junior Tiffany Yim (eighth in 200 IM), sophomore Katie Sutherland (school record of 5:11.10 in the 500 free) and sophomore Megan Maurano (100 breast) stood out for SHP.

For the boys, Palo Alto finished fourth with 147 points and Gunn tied for fifth with Valley Christian with 106. Menlo was 18th with 29.

Paly junior Edward Morrison finished fifth in the 200 free in 1:43.25, going out in a blistering 49-second first 100 and holding the lead for 150 until faltering in the final 50. He also finished seventh in the 100 free in 47.90 (a PR of 47.29 in the prelims). Sophomore Peter Lo was fourth in the 100 breast (59.90) and eighth in the 200 IM (a PR of 1:58.95).

Gunn junior Matt Prior also made two finals. He was sixth in the 200 IM (a PR of 1:58.95) and was seventh in the 100 back (54.30). He also led off the Titans' fourth-place 200 free relay team (1:29.26). Gunn also clocked a season best of 3:16.31 for seventh in the 400 free relay.

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