The most dominant run in Central Coast Section history is expected to continue Saturday at the section swimming and diving championships when Bellarmine College Prep will be favored to win its 30th consecutive team title.
"They not only have top-end kids, they also have great depth," St. Francis coach Terry O'Donnell said. "That kind of depth makes it extremely difficult for anybody to challenge them.''
Does any team have a chance of preventing the Bells from winning their 30th in a row?
"Paly has a great chance," O'Donnell said.
Larry Rogers, Bellarmine's coach throughout its 30-year run, agrees.
"We're sort of a dark horse this year," Rogers said. "Looking at times on the entry sheets, (Palo Alto) is 61 points ahead of us right now."
Palo Alto coach Danny Dye has a slightly different perspective.
"Maybe if all the planets align,'' Dye said.
Bellarmine's depth is a huge factor in a sport that rewards depth like no other. The top 16 individuals in each event score in swimming and a school can enter up to four individual in each event. Last year Bellarmine won all three relays and had 20 placers in the eight individual events, winning the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle.
"If swimming was scored like track, Bellarmine wouldn't have won 29 in a row," O'Donnell said.
Rick Longyear coached at Menlo-Atherton for 24 years and is now the Peninsula Athletic League's director of swimming.
"Bellarmine leaves guys home who could score," Longyear said. "Their success becomes self-perpetuating like De La Salle football because of great coaching and great talent."
A great amount of individual talent will be on display Saturday at Santa Clara International Swim Center as virtually all the individual standouts from last year's CCS finals are back. Bellarmine's Aidan Burns (200 and 500 freestyle), St. Francis' Curtis Ogren (200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke) and Palo Alto's Andrew Liang (50 free, 100 butterfly) are all returning double winners. St. Francis' Ben Ho won the 100 backstroke title last year as a freshman.
Monta Vista is the defending girls team champion and would appear to have a good shot at repeating. The Matadors return all four individuals from their winning 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams from a year ago.
Archbishop Mitty, the West Catholic Athletic League champion, should also contend for the girls team title.
Much as in the boys meet, a number of individual champions return. Sacred Heart Prep's Ally Howe was a double winner a year ago in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke. She won the 100 breast and 500 free at the West Bay Athletic League finals, winning the latter event by 36 seconds.
Other returning champions include Gunn's Jennifer Campbell (200 free), Burlingame's Leah Goldman (100 fly), Willow Glen's Catherine Ladd (100 free), Pioneer's Sandra Soe (500 free) and Castilleja's Heidi Katter (100 breast).