(To see Patch's photo collage of San Mateo County swimmers in Friday's Central Coast Section preliminaries, click .)
Sacred Heart Prep swimming star Tom Kremer must be getting used to his perch atop the Central Coast Section. And now he has a teammate who has joined in him the rarefied air of being a double champion in a section that ranks among the nation’s elite.
In the CCS finals at the Santa Clara International Swim Center on Saturday, Kremer, a junior, successfully defended his titles in the boys 200-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke. And Ally Howe, a SHP freshman, streaked to championships in the girls 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke.
Kremer entered the finals a bit wary of his chances to repeat in the 200 freestyle – an event loaded with top-end talent. Maybe he needs to worry more often.
Kremer, who qualified first, dusted the field by finishing in 1 minute, 36.72 seconds – exactly one second in front of runner-up Adam Hinshaw of Saratoga – to break the CCS record.
“The 200 free was the one I was more nervous for,” Kremer said. “That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.”
He went on to a dominant win in the 100 backstroke in 48.50 and capped the meet by teaming with Andrew Savage, Kyle Koenig and Bret Hinrichs to win the 400 freestyle relay in 3:07.36. (That same team earlier took third in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:26.14.)
In her first CCS finals, Howe wasted no time in adding her name to the record books. One day after she set the section mark in the 100 backstroke in a personal-best 53.95, she took more than a half second off that time. Howe finished in 53.31 – over three seconds in front of her closest competitor, Mitty’s Haley Smith.
Earlier, Howe narrowly beat Woodside’s Alicia Grima in a 200 IM showdown that amounted to the race of the day. The SHP freshman won in 2:00.24, two hundredths of a second in front of Grima.
“It really came down to the last 25 (yards), and even then I thought she’d won,” said Howe, a teammate of Grima’s with Palo Alto-Stanford Aquatics. “I always kind of like close races because you and the person next to you can really push each other.”
“That’s like a blink of the eye,” Grima said of the finish. “It was pretty intense.”
Grima, a junior, later made sure there would be no dramatics in the 500 freestyle. She finished in 4:52.00 – her second straight title in the event – a victory of nearly three seconds.
Sequoia’s Megan Beach took fifth in the 500 in 5:04.55. Her teammate, Lilly Nelson, was fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.65).
Perhaps the biggest surprise among San Mateo County competitors came from Burlingame’s girls 200 medley relay team. Freshman Leah Goldman and juniors Madison Gebhard, Naomi Thomas and Kristen Brennand entered the week merely hoping to reach the final. Not only did they do that, the Panthers roared to a second-place finish in 1:47.02.
“We were all really psyched about it,” Brennand said. “Next year’s going to be awesome.”
A year after finishing second in the 100 butterfly, Thomas took fourth in that event in 55.34. She had qualified second in 55.25.
Goldman finished eighth in the 200 IM in 2:09.22. And Gebhard was eighth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.80).
The Menlo-Atherton boys team enjoyed another strong CCS showing. Senior Nick Henze capped his Bears’ career with an impressive second-place finish in the 100 freestyle (46.44), one year after taking 11th. Teammate Evan Navarro was eighth (47.39). Saratoga’s Ian Burns won in 45.83.
Henze also finished sixth in the 200 freestyle (1:41.31) and swam the anchor leg of M-A’s 400 freestyle relay team that was fourth in 3:09.54. Max Wilder, Kei Masuda and Navarro joined him on that relay.
Masuda also took eighth in the 100 butterfly in 51.50, a year after finishing tied for fifth.
San Mateo junior Ronald Chen, a double finalist for the second straight year, was sixth in the 500 freestyle (4:38.75) and eighth in the 200 IM (1:53.34).
Terra Nova sophomore Bryant Jacobs took eighth in the 500 freestyle (4:42.97).
Savage of Sacred Heart Prep finished fifth in the boys 100 freestyle (46.75). He was also eighth in the 50 freestyle (21.64) – the final five finishers were separated by 14 hundredths of a second.
The Gator girls placed in the top five in two relays. Erica Myers, Selby Sturzenegger, Erin Sheridan and Howe were third in the 200 medley relay (1:48.35) and fifth in the 400 freestyle relay (3:33.82).
Burlingame freshman Marie Maxwell teamed with Thomas, Goldman and Brennand to finish sixth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:35.81.