Swimming: Varsity girls place fourth at League Finals May 9, 2018 — by Connie Liang and Kaylene Morrison Varsity Girls' Swimming places fourth in Finals. As the sun set at Palo Alto High School after the Santa Clara Valley League (SCVAL) finals on April 27, dozens of teams crowded around the edges of the pool deck, under brightly colored tents and in groups taking team pictures and celebrating their accomplishments. At the highly competitive meet, the varsity swim team ended up placing fourth. Varsity coach Christian Bonner was pleasantly surprised at how well the team fared. “We’re in the upper division of one of the hardest leagues in the area,” Bonner said. “When you look at the JV girls team, there was just a lot of individual improvement across the board. So the way we ended up finishing was a lot better than where we started off at the beginning of the season.” Freshman varsity swimmer Neeti Badve noticed this gradual but massive improvement in her own swimming and attributed it to the fact that many of the varsity girls on the team this year were freshmen who were unaccustomed to high school meets. “I got off to a rocky start, but the last two meets at Los Altos and Leagues went really well,” Badve said. At the CCS meet, which will take place May 11 and 12 at the International Swim Center in Santa Clara, Badve will be swimming the 200-yard freestyle, the 500 yard freestyle, the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay. “I surprised myself this season because I got four CCS cuts [times which were short enough to qualify for CCS] and I didn’t think that I could do that,” Badve said. “So next year, I want to get those CCS cuts again and maybe add a couple more.” Other CCS individual event qualifiers include juniors Lei Otsuka, Madeline Stuart, and Jeanette Khowong and freshman Neeyati Devanagondi. Freshman swimmer Grace Stuart said that despite placing last in the JV division because of a smaller team size, the JV girls still performed well. “Even though we didn't have as many swimmers as other teams, many of us placed in the top eight or 16, which is awesome in my opinion,” Stuart said. Stuart had swam as a JV swimmer at every meet up until Leagues, for which she was moved up to varsity due to significant drops in time in many of her races, mainly the 500-yard freestyle. During league finals, Stuart was able to achieve a personal record of 5:35 in this event, which is only six seconds slower than the CCS cut of 5:28.99. “This season I felt that I did pretty well,” Stuart said. “I worked really hard during each practice even though practices were pretty challenging.” The lengthy 45-minute long, 3,000 yard sets doled out day after day by Bonner often resulted in complete exhaustion. On the other hand, sophomore varsity swimmer Jinsu Yim said that before the meet, she had already expected varsity to place around fourth or fifth place among the seven teams in the SCVAL including Monta Vista, Homestead and Los Gatos. “The other schools lost good swimmers, so the fact that we held out and got fourth over Los Gatos by a handful of points is really great,” Yim said. For Yim, one of the toughest obstacles throughout the season was the lack of team spirit. She said that while her brother, freshman Taesu Yim, swam the 500 freestyle, there were more swimmers from other schools cheering him on than there were Saratoga students. “Speed is something we can train for, and spirit is something that we’ll have to ingrain in ourselves,” Jinsu said.