ATHERTON -- Breaking Missy Franklin's national independent school record in the 100 backstroke may have been Ally Howe's signature accomplishment at the Central Coast Section swim championships.

But it wasn't the most fun and exciting. That distinction would go to the role Howe played on Sacred Heart Prep's two winning relay teams.

Howe, who in addition to setting CCS and national records in the 100 back with a time of 51.54 and setting a CCS record in the 200 individual medley in 1:57.75, swam the leadoff leg on SHP's 200 medley relay team, which took first place and set a CCS record in the process.

"We surprised ourselves," Howe said. "We dropped quite a few seconds from league. Going into CCS, we thought we had a good chance to win or finish in the top three. We had no idea we would break a CCS record."

Then in the 400 freestyle relay, Howe got a chance to swim the anchor leg. Now we're talking fun.

"I like chasing people," Howe said. "You get the adrenaline going. It's the last race at CCS, the crowd is cheering."

Howe was in third place when she hit the water. By the time she touched the wall at the end of her leg, the Gators were in first.

Howe's split was 48.47, a time that would have won the 100 free by almost two full seconds.

"We had our superhero at the end," SHP coach Kevin Morris said.

Howe, who will swim at Stanford, is the Mercury News girls swimmer of the year for the second year in a row.

Howe concludes her career at Sacred Heart Prep as the school record-holder in all eight individual events.

"At the WBAL meet, we put Ally in her two worst events," Morris said. "She swam 4:44 in the 500 free, lapping the rest of the field on a time that would've won CCS. And then she broke the school record in the 100 breaststroke, the one school record I thought she would never break."

That record was held by Sarah Liang, who competed for SHP as a freshman before transferring to Palo Alto, where she set a CCS record in the event.

At the team's end-of-the-season pasta feed, some of the girls asked Morris how long he thought it would be before Howe's school records would be broken.

"I said I hope it happens," said Morris, a 1990 SHP graduate. "But I don't think I'll be coaching any more when it does."

GIRLS SWIM TEAM
Individual event winners at CCS finals were chosen
Jennifer Campbell, Gunn, junior
Leah Goldman,
Burlingame, senior
Ally Howe, Sacred Heart Prep, senior
Catherine Ladd,
Willow Glen, senior
Sandra Soe, Pioneer, junior
Grace Zhao, Palo Alto, freshman
DIVING
Alexa Cacao, Milpitas, senior