One team won its first and another its fifth straight, yet it was a first for both.
When the Palisades High School girls swim team won its fifth straight Los Angeles City championship last week and the Palisades boys took their first, it was the first time in the history of the championships that girls and boys from the same school captured titles at the same time.
Both are coached by Dave Anderson, a Palisades swim coach for 15 years, and Rick Goeden, who has coached with Anderson since 1979 and is also aquatics director of the Palisades-Malibu YMCA.
The Dolphin girls won the hard way. Although led by the near-peerless Michelle Saxer (beaten once in three years), Palisades had only 12 team members and was an underdog to El Camino Real, which had 18.
Touch of Vengeance
Saxer did her part--and then some. She won the 200-yard individual medley in a record time of 2:11.41, breaking the mark of 2:11.84 she set last year. She also took first in the 100 butterfly in 58.91.
But the meet winner wasn't resolved till the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, and it took a superb effort by Saxer on the first leg and a revenge plot to complete the Palisades victory.
Saxer's chief foe on the first leg was El Camino Real's Kristin Underwood, who had won the 100 freestyle in 54.58. Saxer swam her 100-yard leg in 53.77, one second ahead of Underwood, and the Pali relay team (including sophomores Sarah Silverman and Kim Nordlinger and junior Juliet Stell) took first in 3:53.23.
The points earned by the 400 relay team gave Palisades 247 for the night, while El Camino Real had 240. Venice finished third with 169.
Saxer enjoyed satisfaction not only in helping her team to the championship but also in beating Underwood on the relay leg. Underwood became the only girl to defeat Saxer in three years of City competition last year when she took first in the 500 free.
Dethroned Longtime Champ
As the Palisades girls continued their dynasty, the Dolphin boys may have begun one.
They ended the eight-year rule of El Camino Real, appropriately nicknamed the Conquistadores. And they did it in convincing fashion, routing second-place El Camino, 242-186. Birmingham was third with 137.
It seems hard to believe that this was the first time that the Palisades boys had won a City title, especially since teams coached by Anderson and Goeden and a previous coach, John Apgar, have finished second so often.
Anderson said the closest the Palisades boys had come to a championship, besides finishing second about 10 times, was in 1974 when the Dolphins tied Chatsworth for the title. Anderson's water polo teams also won eight City championships before that sport was discontinued.
The top Dolphin boy was senior Kevin Shepherd, who also stars in volleyball (at the same time as swimming) for Coach Howard Enstedt's perennial City champions.
Shepherd Wins 50
Shepherd did all right for someone who has to ration his time between swimming and volleyball, finishing first in the 50 freestyle in 21.83 and swimming anchor on the winning 200 medley relay team, which posted a 1:42.98.
Saxer signed a letter of intent with UC Santa Barbara after the championships, and Coach Anderson said Shepherd is hoping to go to USC next fall, where he may have to decide to concentrate on either volleyball or swimming.
Anderson said Shepherd is a "great volleyball player and is interested in both sports. He is so good that, with a little bit of training, he could make the Olympics in swimming."
Other senior boys who are graduating are Russell Whitten (said by Anderson to be another NCAA Division I swimming prospect), Tristan Nordhoff, Tim McNulty, Chase Watts and Russell Silver. They earned a lot of points for Palisades, as did the other senior girls, Joelle Bower and Sandy Taylor.
Talented Girls Returning
Top swimmers returning for the girls include Silverman, Nordlinger, Stell and junior Katie Arnold. Arnold won the 100 backstroke at the City meet in 1:08. Another returning star is junior Karina Salenger, who placed second in the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Top boys who will be back include juniors Grant Wilson, Ernie Hoftyzer, Jelmer Erkens and Dave Gohdes and sophomore Greg Robbins.
Anderson said his teams have a chance of making it a double double next year, with both the boys and girls repeating as champions. "I think our boys team will be strong, though the girls team will be losing an awful lot. We'll see what happens. I thought the girls lost a lot last year (when six graduated).
"I think we have a good shot to repeat next year. The boys will be right there, and, if the girls get a few swimmers, they will be right back into it."
YMCA Program Credited
Coach Goeden said that "the boys have a lot of depth; we carried about 24 going into the finals." He said that the Palisades-Malibu YMCA has the only age-group swimming program in Pacific Palisades and that it has served as a feeder for both Palisades teams.
Though only nine swimmers are expected back for the girls next year, said Goeden, "we've got a few age-group kids from the Y team who should help out. Hopefully, the girls will have a little bit better depth next year."
Saxer, Shepherd and the others who are graduating may go on to greater heights, as did several swimmers from Anderson's 1974 co-champions, including Les Wulk, who was an All-American water polo player at USC, and Fred Kitchener, who had a strong swimming career at UC Irvine.
But this year's swimmers gave Anderson his best memory in 15 years of coaching, he said. "This was the pinnacle. We hadn't won the boys championship, the girls weren't supposed to win this year, and it was the first time any teams had won championships together."