Boys and Girls Swimming Season Recap


David Gormley and Vijay Homan

The first two days of racing brought a flurry of fast swims as athletes competed to get their CCS section cuts with the hope that they would be allowed to swim at the championship meet. Note: Because each of the three consecutive meets followed the same event lineup, the results from night one and two will be reported as if they were overlaid.
The dynamic juniors of Harrison Williams and Eric ‘Tank’ Gabbassof opened with strong showings in the 200 freestyle as both swimmers posted 1:42s. The two employed varying strategies to reach similar results as Gabbassof opened fast and hung on while Williams cruised a solid first 100 and charged home. In the 200 IM, the sophomore trio of Henry Gibbs, Arthur Balva, and Ethan Harrington posted strong swims under 1:56. Next senior Tyler Stoen recorded a 48.08 to place 1st in the 100 free. Sophomore Julien Chow finished just behind and earned his first CCS cut by 0.1 in 49.59. In the final two events of the evening, junior Jack Galetti took the 100 backstroke in 55.09 to lead fellow classmate David Gormley who touched in 55.99 to earn his first cut. The 100 breaststroke marked strong finishes from established leaders as senior Diego Mazzon clocked a 58.2 and junior Yurak Jung recorded a 57.5.
On day three, with most of the swimmers having already achieved their primary CCS cuts, the meet was about relay records. The boy’s varsity team is historically strong this season, but many of the relay records are owned in part by the Liang brothers, Alex and Andrew, who both went on to swim at Stanford where they placed highly at NCAAs. While the expectation was that no individual swimmer would be able to match the times of the Liang brothers, the consistency of the team gave this year’s boys a shot to topple some records.
On the boy’s side, the quest for a new record board looked far more possible after sophomore Harrington and Gabbassof posted blazing times of 20.97 and 21.12 in the 50 freestyle respectively. Following the early fireworks, senior and captain Matthew Clark posted a brisk 50.26 100 butterfly. Considering that Clark has battled a broken kneecap this season, the swim was remarkable.
The first record up for grabs was the 200 freestyle relay. With CCS, and as a result the season itself, an uncertainty, the Paly deck sensed that this could be the only chance this strong boys squad would have to make their mark. Harrington fed off of the energy to lead off in 20.87, even quicker than his individual swim. Senior James Fetter and Gabbassof crushed a solid middle two legs in 21.06 and 20.73 which left the final swim up to junior Harrison Williams. He smashed a 20.6 final leg, which was over 1.5 seconds faster than his individual 50 had been the previous day, to bring the Vikes home in 1:23.31 to set a new record by nearly two seconds.
In the 400 freestyle relay, the final race of the day and perhaps the season, the boys faced an even tougher record to break. It would require extreme consistency across the board where each swimmer was faster than their lifetime best. Gabbassof led of the team in epic fashion, crushing a 45.61, the fastest any Viking has swum a 100 in over three years. Fetter then followed the swim up with a solid 47.39, a performance that may have been slightly hindered by a great cross-country race the day before. Next was Harrington in 46.13 to set up Williams for the record once again. Looking at the clock, it was evident that he would need to have the swim of his life to challenge the mark. While his 45:47 was unable to lead his team to a second record of the day, it was an impressive result for Williams and the relay squad.
However, the JV boys team wouldn’t be left out on the record-breaking fun. They knocked off the 200 free record in 1:32.51 as a result of a fantastic final leg by sophomore JJ Stoen in 21.82. This week, Stoen also cracked strong boys’ JV records in the individual 50 free (22.56), 100 free (49.18), 200 free (1:47.73), 500 free (4:58.30) and 100 IM (57.63). Sophomore Ian Johnson added the 50 fly (24.96) to the list of JV records.
On the girl’s side, sophomore Elizabeth Fetter opened day one with a quick 2:14.69 200 IM. As an interesting note, while Fetter did not compete on the day of the second meet, the times achieved on the first day were allowed to be ‘used’ in the second meet day given the virtual nature of the competition. Day one also brought strong swims by senior and captain Sophie Kadifa who posted a 2:00.61 in the 200 free and earned her CCS cut with a lifetime best of 54.97 in the 100 free. Kadifa led a strong group of young freestyle sprinters including star sophomores Mila Cleveringa and Alden Backstrand. While neither achieved their CCS cut, both posted a flurry of strong performances in the 100 and 50 freestyles over the three days.
On day three, Backstrand started the final session with a strong 2:02.93 to take the 200 freestyle. Following Backstrand’s performance, Senior Jules Steil swam a solid 2:19.27 to take the 200 IM in what may have been one of her last performances as a Paly Viking. In the 50 free, senior Sophie Kadifa closed out a highly successful set of meets by taking the splash and dash in 25.02, a new lifetime best. In the 100 fly, sophomore sensation Elizabeth Fetter and captain Hana Erickson battled it out. Erickson took the race out hard with a 27.88 of the first 50 and was able to fend off a charging Fetter who closed faster over the second 50. Erickson swam the 100 fly on all three days and saved her best for last as she nearly cracked in the 1:00 barrier in 1:00.08. She was back in the water just a few minutes later for the 100 freestyle. The fatigue from the previous swim cost her in the final 50 as Junior Audrey Teo closed fast in 29.87. In the 500, senior Grace Lindstrom had a solid race where she touched in under 6:00 to close out a strong career with the Vikes. The final relays brought a mixed bag of emotions, particularly for the seniors. While the opportunity to race at all had brought much-needed excitement to the Paly pool deck, it was bittersweet as many finished their final swims with the Paly team.