SANTA CLARA -- It all came down to the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Bellarmine College Prep, going for its 30th consecutive Central Coast Section swim championship, had a six-point lead over Palo Alto. The Bells had the fastest qualifying time in the event, Palo Alto the second-fastest.
The difference between a first- and second-place finish? Six points. So if the Vikings could somehow find a way to beat out Bellarmine for first place in the event they would share the team title.
It wasn't to be. The Bellarmine team of Cooper Burrill, Timothy Kuo, Michael Messner and Aidan Burns swam with purpose and single-minded dedication, knowing the weight of the program's tradition was on their shoulders. And when the race concluded the Bells came in first place in 3:02.36, Palo Alto was second (3:04.12) and the 30th CCS title in a row, an unprecedented achievement in any CCS sport, was in the books.
"This was really important,'' Messner said. "All the alumni was cheering us on, sharing their stories with us.''
Bellarmine's depth wasn't as overpowering as usual in the meet at the Santa Clara International Swim Center, but it was enough to make the difference.
"There wasn't a single kid who didn't surpass what he'd done before,'' Bellarmine coach Larry Rogers said. "Even if we lost it would've been fine because the kids gave everything they had.''
Burns, a repeat double winner in the 200 free (1:37.15) and 500 free (4:23.36) as well as anchoring both winning relay teams (the 200 free relay as well as the 400 free), was the team's individual standout.
Andrew Liang was a double winner for Palo Alto in the 50 free (20.41) and 100 butterfly (47.44).
St. Francis senior Curtis Ogren was the top performer in the boys meet, winning the 200 individual medley (1:44.90) and the 100 breaststroke (53.81), breaking his own CCS record in each. He also broke his own national independent school record in the IM.
Ben Ho, a sophomore at St. Francis, won the 100 free (45.22) and the 100 backstroke (49.56).
Monta Vista was a repeat winner for the girls team title with 226 points. Archbishop Mitty was second with 182.5 and Gunn third with 182.
Sacred Heart Prep's Ally Howe broke the CCS record held by Palo Alto's Jasmine Tosky in the 200 IM with a time of 1:57.75 and broke her own CCS and national independent school record in the 100 back (51.54).
Howe had set a new national standard in Friday's preliminaries when she broke the record set by Missy Franklin with a time of 51.84.
Palo Alto freshman Grace Zhou was the other double winner in the girls meet, winning the 50 free (23.26) and the 100 breast (1:02.58).
"She's such a nice kid,'' Palo Alto coach Danny Dye said. "Everybody on the team adores her. But she's a racer. When she gets up on the blocks everything changes.''
Gunn's Jennifer Campbell (200 free, 1:47.10), Burlingame's Leah Goldman (100 fly, 54.06), Willow Glen's Catherine Ladd (100 free, 50.26) and Pioneer's Sandra Soe (500 free, 4:47.39) all defended the individual titles they captured last year.