Swim and Dive advances to State Championships after CCS win


The Palo Alto High School Girls and Boys Swim and Dive team are preparing for the California Interscholastic Federation state championships following their second Central Coast Section win in a row Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Clara Swim Club. According to sophomore Blake Wang, the supportive environment at CCS provides motivation in advancing and doing well. “I went to CCS last year as well, and it was a really competitive atmosphere,” Wang said. “There are faster swimmers to race compared to dual meets [swim meets between two teams]. CCS is all about the team, everyone cheers and hypes each other up before races [and] I also get to see many of my friends from club swimming there.” (Photo: Caleb Wong)

After emerging victorious at the Central Coast Section championships Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Clara Swim Club, the Palo Alto High School varsity swim and dive teams are preparing for the California Interscholastic Federation state championships today at the Clovis West High School.

Boys’ Swim and Dive took home first place at CCS, and the Girls’ Swim and Dive placed third at CCS this past weekend, making this the second year in a row Paly boys have won the overall section.

Senior Henry Gibbs, a second-time finalist and first-time champion at CCS in 500-yard freestyle, said the team is trying to continue the momentum it had during CCS going into state championships.

“We’re just trying to hang on to the rest that we had from last week,” Gibbs said. “I think we’ve learned from the mistakes we made last year going into states and will be faster this year. Our goal is to win one of the events like the 200 Free relay and as a team. We’re trying to finish third overall [and] we have really strong individual performances.” 

Sophomore diver Gunnar Grubbs, who placed first at CCS and the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League championships in one-meter diving, is also predicting another win at state championships.

“I was very happy that I won both [SCVAL and CCS] and can get my name on the list of CCS winners,” Grubbs said. “I broke the school record in the SCVAL championships, [and] I’m most looking forward to facing my club teammate again and seeing who will win this time, as I beat him at CCS by one point.”

According to Gibbs, the CCS first-place title gave the team more energy moving forward. 

“This [winning CCS] was the goal we kept going into last year and going into this year, so it feels good to accomplish it,” Gibbs said.

Sophomore Blake Wang attributes Paly Swim and Dive’s accomplishments to its strong teamwork and skilled members. 

“It definitely feels good to win CCS again this year,” Wang said. “Paly has lots of talented swimmers coming from nearby clubs like PASA [Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics] and Alto [Alto Swim Club]. During training over the high school season, we have a strong focus for winning CCS, and that is our goal each year. We train in different groups depending on what we swim at CCS. During workouts, we encourage each other to work hard and thus we have built a strong team bond.”

According to swim head coach Danny Dye, the preparation for CCS stretched months in advance through the entire swim season. 

“Preparing for CCS is season-long and basically it is 12 to 13 weeks of pain,” Dye said. “There’s no mercy. You train hard, you push it [and] you try to do everything you can until you’re exhausted. You learn how to swim your fastest and best when you are tired. Every swim meet is a part of the training because you’re learning how to race when your body is tired. The last week of the season leading into CCS is heaven because you’re resting, you’re getting your energy back and when you race you just feel this unbelievable amount of energy and power.”

Sophomore Llew Ladomirak, a two-time finalist at CCS, said her experience at CCS last year has helped her swimming performance. 

“My freshman experience last year was very stressful, and I had a lot of unnecessary pressure on me,” Ladomirak said. “This year, that pressure was still there, but I was swimming different events, and I was just more confident in myself. Being at CCS is scary, but once you have even just a year of that experience under your belt, the meet is so much more fun and you’re able to just enjoy racing with your friends.”

Wang said he is looking forward to continuing to compete at CCS in the upcoming years. 

“We proved that we can do it [win CCS] twice in a row,” Wang said. “I think it’s a big motivator for us to train harder and try to win again next year despite our best senior swimmers leaving.”

According to Dye, the individual members of the team is what allow the program to continue to excel. 

“The fact that the swimmers are as good as they are and yet they’re truly team players,” Dye said. “They want the team to succeed. They are friends with these people [other swimmers], they support them, they encourage them and they lead by example. Having talented swimmers with such a sense of humility is what allows this program to continue to be popular and grow.”

Dye said the accomplishment of winning CCS contributes to long-standing Paly achievements and the team’s success draws in many students.

“What they did [students winning CCS] added to the tradition [of winning],” Dye said. “Paly Swim and Dive has always been strong, and they [students] recognize that [and] they want to be a part of that tradition. They don’t want to let anybody down for their team this year, for the team last year, for the team 20 years ago or for the team 50 years ago. They want to be a part of what makes Paly stand out when you go to Swim and Dive.”