While Burlingame and Menlo-Atherton will likely battle for Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division supremacy in the pool at the Bay Division swimming championships Saturday, the San Mateo girls’ team will be the ones to beat at the Ocean Division championships at Hillsdale.
The Lady Bearcats won both the Ocean Division dual meet title and the team crown at the Ocean Division championships in 2013 and are looking to do the same this season.
Just like last year, the San Mateo girls went undefeated during the Ocean Division season, but co-coach Rich Farley is not ready to crown his team just yet.
“I’m not assuming anything,” Farley said.
But given the roster the Bearcats have, it would take a pretty big upset to deny them Saturday.
They dominated the regular season and now have won 16 Ocean Division dual meets in a row — 8-0 last year and 8-0 this season. And this year’s performance might have been even better.
“It was a little easier than we expected than last year,” Farley said. “Maybe we hit certain teams at the right time (this year). Our closest matches were 10 to 15 points (difference). Last year, we had much closer matches.”
What allowed the Bearcats to pull even further away from the competition this season was the addition of a talented freshman to go along with a strong core of returners.
Larissa Tam is a freshman in age only because she swims faster than her age. She will be the odds-on favorite to win the Ocean titles in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.
In listening to Farley, it would be a monumental upset if she didn’t win those races.
“She will win the 200 IM and 100 breast,” Farley said. “For the 100 breast, she might well be the best breast stroker in the PAL this year. She already has three or four CCS (qualifying) times already.”
Despite Tam’s ability, Julia Hansen remains the team’s anchor. The junior is part of both the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay teams, and is also the team’s best butterflier and one of the best freestylers.
“She’s been our leader the last three years,” Farley said.
While both those relays teams have already qualified for CCS, Hansen is still looking for a qualifying time in the 100 fly. She swam a 1:03.79 in the Bearcats’ win over Hillsdale last week, but needs a time of 1:02.99 to qualify for CCS.
“She’s like a fingernail away,” Farley said. “It unusual she hasn’t gotten [a CCS qualifying time] this year.”
While the Bearcats are still hoping to get a few more swimmers qualified for individual CCS races, the 200 medley and 200 free relay teams have already punched their ticket to the Santa Clara International Swim Center — home of the CCS championships.
Hansen leads out with the 50 backstroke in the 200 medley relay, followed by Tam (breast), Low (fly) and another freshman, Natalie Ken, anchoring the race in the freestyle.
In the 200 free, Tam and Ken swim the first two 50-yard legs, followed by junior Priscilla Law. Hansen then swims the anchor leg. The Bearcats posted their CCS qualifying times last week against Hillsdale.
As far as the Ocean Division championships are concerned, Farley believes his team’s prowess in the three relay races will help them pick up valuable points in the standings.
“[The relay results] should be huge for our team results this weekend. Winning relays is huge for us this year,” Farley said. “We haven’t lost a 200 medley relay.”
Despite the expectations, Farley does not expect to simply swim away with the title.
“It will be a challenge,” Farley said. “It won’t be easy.”