7 Moments of Paly Excellence

Bridget O’Keefe lines up a shot. Photo courtesy of Bridget O’Keefe.

1: Girls Golf – Over the past few years, the girl’s golf team has been one of the best teams in Paly history — and this year they didn’t disappoint. At CCS, the team placed 2nd behind Valley Christian and was led by a stunning 68 shot performance from senior Bridget O’Keefe that was good enough to net her first place in the individual competition. At State Champs, the team finished second with a score of 382 and defeated rivals Valley Christian by a single stroke to end a sensational era of Paly girls golf as seniors Lauren and Sydney Sung and O’Keefe played their final match with the Vikings. “It finally hit me that it was the last time I would be able to compete with this team,” said Sydney Sung. “But it was a great way to end my last season on the team.” 


Cade Creighton wins a match. Photo courtesy of Keith Ferrel.

2: Wrestling – The Paly wrestling team was extremely strong this year: Senior Ella Jauregui won 2nd place at the State Championships, losing to the 2nd ranked wrestler of her weight class in the nation. Beyond that, in the quarterfinals, Jauregui beat the 1st ranked wrestler. “I’ve learned so much about discipline and what it takes to commit to a goal and see it through,” Jauregui said. “The most important thing I’ve gotten from this preparation is a level of comfort and confidence, even when I’m nervous.” Senior Cade Creighton also won 5th in States. “I got to see so many places and wrestle so many amazing athletes,” Creighton said. “Wrestling made me strong, helped me learn how to fight and made me a more capable person.”  



Junior Ethan Harrington dives into the water. Photo by Grace Gormley.

3: Boys Swimming – Boys swimming won the first CCS championship in Paly history – and it wasn’t even close. They won nine of eleven events and recorded 8 All-American performers. In the 200 IM and the 500 free, the Vikings surged with three in the top 8 finalists and a 1-2 finish in both events. The individual highlight of the meet came from junior Ethan Harrington’s stunning 19.73 50 free that broke a 13 year old CCS record and put Harrington 12th all-time in the 15-16 age group – faster than seven-time olympic medalist Caeleb Dressel was at his age. Victory was already assured prior to the final relay of the meet, but the Vikings weren’t done yet. They closed with a 3:00.26 in the 400 freestyle relay that shattered the CCS record and eclipsed the CA state championship meet record in the same event. The team is currently seeded second heading into the CA state meet. All four Paly swim teams also swept SCVAL League Championships. More photos of Paly at the CCS finals meet can be found in the gallery below. 

The boys also got 3rd at the State Championship. Curious about the swimmers’ triumphant season? Listen to this Audio Interview with swimmer Eric Gabbassof by David Gormley. 


Sophomore Grant Morgenfeld during a race. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Slaney.

4: Boys Cross Country – The boys cross country team won the El Camino division of SCVAL and Division 1 of CCS for the first time in two decades. While cross country is typically seen as an individual endeavor, the CCS victory was anything but. Traditionally, the top 5 athletes score for each team – which leaves all but the top runners racing for themselves. But as the top five runners from Paly and rival Bellermine crossed the line, the teams found themselves tied at 49 – which made the 6th place runner from each team the tiebreaker. With the race of his life, Paly’s own Kenji Tella crossed the line just six seconds ahead of Bellermine’s Jack Frida to clinch a CCS title for the Vikings for the first time in 31 years.


Junior Hillary Studdert is now 14th fastest of high school girls in the 800. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Slaney.

5: Track – At the Arcadia invitational, the biggest high school meet in the US with 622 schools from 29 states represented, Paly track shined. First, the boys 4*800m relay finished 3rd in the seeded heat. They followed up the performance with a stellar finish in the 4*1600 – which is rarely contested at the high school level –  where they took 5th overall in 17:40: an average of 4:25 per mile. In the distance medley relay, where each member of the team races a different distance, they placed 2nd in the open heat. At the Stanford invitational, another elite invitational where high school stars compete alongside the best in the NCAA, Paly shined in the individual races with junior Hillary Studdert lit up the track with a 2:10.41 in the 800 – good enough for 14th among all high school girls in the US. Sophomore Grant Morgenfeld – who was a key leg in the relays at Arcadia – jumped to second in the nation in the mile after putting up a 4:14. At the CCS Top 8 invitational Studdert built on her long list of accolades with a 4:51 mile that broke a 22 year-old Paly record. 


Sophomore Rachel Ho practices the pom routine. Photo by Grace Li.

6: Dance – The Paly dance team has also excelled this season. They won 3rd place for their extra small contemporary routine at the regional competition, got 1st for their pom routine at the West Coast Elite competitions, and won 3rd in nationals for their character piece. The piece is Disney themed and Coach Alana Williamson said that “it is our most fun piece for sure, and I’m so proud of how [the dancers] have been executing it.” The dancers have come out strong from a year without getting to practice together due to social distancing. Sophomore Rachel Ho said, “I was really pleasantly surprised by how well the team has done this season. After an entire year of dancing in my room and having little to no space to turn, jump, or dance with full range of motion, it’s been so nice to get back into the studio and fall into a far more normal routine.”  

The girls basketball team gathers during a game. Photo courtesy of Karen Hickey.

7: Girls Basketball – To say the girls basketball team was dominant this year would be an understatement. They cruised through the SCVAL league with a record of 11-1 and became the first team to win a game in the open division of CCS in Paly history after they defeated Sacred Heart Cathedral in their final game of CCS play. The team was led by freshman superstar Vienn Sheng’s three-point shooting to secure a rare win against an elite private school. The team’s performance came in part as a result of a unique leadership strategy: the team had no defined captains and every player was expected to lead. Though unorthodox, the approach proved to be successful for the Vikes.