If the swim coaches at Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo-Atherton were wondering if their athletes were ready for this weekend's Central Coast Section championships, they received an emphatic answer during their respective league meets last week.
At the West Bay Athletic League finals at Harker School, the Sacred Heart Prep boys (260) and girls (199) swept the team titles. Two days later in Burlingame, the Menlo-Atherton boys (474) and girls (460) also swept titles in the Peninsula Athletic League finals.
Athletes from those meets with CCS qualifying times, along with those from Palo Alto and Gunn, will converge on the George F.Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara on Friday for the section trials at 2 p.m. Finals will be held Saturday at the same time.
The Sacred Heart Prep boys were eighth at last season's CCS meet while the SHP girls were 12. The M-A boys were 35th and the girls 31st. The goal for all four, of course, is to move up.
Depth was a factor in all four teams winning league titles. The SHP boys, for example, had five of the top seven times in the 100 free and 200 free while the SHP girls had five finalists in the 100 free plus three in the 200 free and 50 free. The M-A girls had four finalists in the 200 free and three each in the 50 free, 100 free and 500 free while the M-A boys had three finalists in the 100 free, 100 back and 500 free plus two in just about every other race.
While depth will be important at the CCS, relays and big points will be crucial. Both SHP and M-A had enough of both at their respective league meets.
The SHP boys won the 200 free relay (1:28.06) and 400 free relay (3:16.05) both in meet records. The foursome of senior David Culpan, sophomore Tom Kremer, junior Philip Bamberg and junior Andrew Savage made up both squads.
Kremer was a double winner, taking the 200 IM (1:54.68) and 100 free (46.62) with meet records. The 100 time ranks No. 2 in school history for non-relay splits. Culpan won the 100 back with a lifetime best and meet record of 54.11 to rank third in school history. Culpan also took second in the 200 free (1:44.48) with another personal best. Bamberg was second in the 50 free in 22.12 to rank fifth all-time in school while Savage went 48.81 for third in the 100 free and now ranks among the top five in SHP history.
The Sacred Heart Prep boys also got some strong contributions from Bret Hinrichs, Connor Still, Robert Dunlevie, Joe Wise, Kyle Koenig and Alex Swart.
In other boys' events, Jack Foley won the 100 fly in 56.52 to help Menlo finish third with 135 points. Foley also swam a leg on the 200 medley relay that included Sasha Badrenkov, Luke Carrino and Chris Akin and finished second in 1:43.86
In the WBAL girls' competition, Sacred Heart Prep had only one individual winner in sophomore Erin Sheridan, who won the 50 free in a season-best 24.71. Freshman Erica Myers was second in the 200 free (1:59.97) and 100 back (1:02.07). Sheridan also swam on the winning 200 free relay squad that clocked a meet record of 1:41.32.
That relay proved to be the thriller of the meet. The Gators held a slight lead going into the final leg, but Harker standout Jessica Khojasteh (winner of the 200 IM and 100 free) was anchoring. SHP countered with senior Katie Howard, who has been battling illness this season and been unable to approach last season's times. Howard, however, held off Khojasteh with a solid split of 24.39 as the Gators won by 0.25 of a second.
That finish helped SHP maintain what would be a 36-point winning margin as the Gators won their first-ever league meet.
In other girls' events, Stephanie Lim of Pinewood won the 200 free in 1:54.00, breaking her own meet record of 1:54.58 from last season. Lim also broke her own meet record in the 100 fly (58.06) by clocking a 57.34 for the victory. Marisa Martinson of Priory won the 500 free in 5:24.04.
At the PAL Championships on Saturday, the Menlo-Atherton boys successfully defended their league meet title by holding off host Burlingame by 40 points. The Bears also beat the Panthers to win the dual-meet season.
Menlo-Atherton used a combination of depth and first-place points to score its impressive triumph. The Bears won the 200 medley and 200 free relays, the latter in a meet record of 1:29.56 with Scott Swartz, Nick Henze, Kei Masuda and Graham McClelland taking the medley with Max Wilder and Eric Wright joining with Swartz and McClelland on the 200 free team.
The Bears also won three individual events as Masuda took the 200 IM in 1:58.91, Henze won the 100 free in a season-best 47.97 and Swartz won the 100 back in 55.47, another season best. Masuda also took second in the 100 fly in a personal best of 52.39 that ranks second in school history.
M-A also had solid contributions from Emery Welton (200 free, 500 free), Wilder (second in the 50 free at 22.37), Jed Springer (100 fly), and Alex Gow (200 IM, 100 back).
In the PAL girls' meet, M-A senior Sarah Winters set a school record in the 200 free and her teammates provided plenty of depth as the Bears avenged their dual-meet loss to Burlingame by winning the league meet.
Winters was the only M-A winner, individual or relay, as she clocked a 1:54.14 to break the school record of 1:54.55 by Danielle Hildebrandt in 2005. Winters also swam on two relay teams that finished second in addition to taking third in the 500 free. The Bears had three events in which they had three finalists and put four in the 200 free when they went 1-3-4-8 to get the meet off to a good start.
Other big contributors included Vanessa Lane (200 free. 500 free), Holly Chen (200 IM, 100 free), Becca Dorst (100 free, second in 50 free), Danielle Flanagan (50 free, 100 free), Emily Dorst, Brittany Krappe, Ryanne Haught and Sophia Hommes.