El Camino High School campus

In the News: El Camino High Senior Calista Lynch is SM Daily Journal's Athlete of the Week

San Mateo Daily Journal recognizes El Camino High senior Calista Lynch as Athlete of the Week for 5-1-2023.
El Camino High Senior Calista Lynch is SM Daily Journal's Athlete of the Week
By Terry Bernal Daily Journal staff
May 2, 2023
El Camino senior Calista Lynch enjoyed quite a Saturday.
Lynch — the Daily Journal Athlete of the Week — was the standout of the meet at the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division swimming championships at Oceana High School. She won three individual titles, including a girls’ 200 individual medley triumph in which she broke her own meet record, one she initially set last season, and Monday was named the Rick Longyear Swimmer of the Meet.
That was just a warmup for the senior, however, as Lynch hightailed it out of Saturday’s meet before she could even collect her medals. The reason? Prom night! Specifically, her boyfriend’s prom for Palo Alto High School.
“We were worried about the timeline,” El Camino head coach Jeff Vitale said. “She’s that kid, she was going to come here no matter what, even if it was just her and one other person. She was still going to come here and finish out for high school.”
El Camino needed all the manpower it could muster. Approximately half the girls’ team wasn’t in attendance due to scheduling conflicts. The Lady Colts ultimately settled for fifth place at the eight-team meet, scoring 129 points, behind Half Moon Bay (first place, 297 points); Hillsdale (second, 201); Westmoor (third, 160); and Terra Nova (fourth, 140).
Lynch was the biggest contributor to El Camino’s point total.
“I’m feeling great,” Lynch said. “I think I had a really good meet and I’m really happy with how I swam. I really surprised myself, especially in my [200] IM. Yeah, it was a solid day of racing.”
With a 200 IM time of 2 minutes, 6.51 seconds, Lynch obliterated her previous PAL Ocean Division record by nearly two seconds. The improvement wasn’t a given, seeing as Lynch downshifted this year from the hyper-competitive approach to focus on having fun her senior year.

“I definitely wanted that going into the meet, but I didn’t know if it was really a possibility,” Lynch said. “Then the time was kind of a little off my best from my club season. But I kept my head in the game and tried to stay focused.”
For many high school students of Lynch’s generation, focus has been an ongoing struggle. As a senior, she is part of the COVID generation, with her freshman season being canceled entirely, and her sophomore season being relegated to remote meets, meaning she didn’t compete head-to-head for the first time until her junior year.

Lynch has used her time wisely, though. In addition to being a dedicated club swimmer — where she typically swims longer IM events than the maximum 200-yard iteration on the varsity circuit — she brings her work ethic to the El Camino pool every day. The payoff? She is committed to swim at New York University next season.
“She’s very persevering,” said Gabby Lai, an El Camino junior who also earned three individual PAL Ocean championships Saturday. “She goes to practice every single day. She always tries. She’s a really great athlete.”
Winding down her Saturday dancing the night away at the prom was the perfect complement to Lynch’s outlook this season. Sure, maybe it’s right in line with the old adage — work hard, play hard — but, for Lynch, it’s probably more appropriate to quote that old Cyndi Lauper song about girls just wanna have fun.
“This year during my high school season, I’ve tried to have a lot more fun,” Lynch said. “Just stay more relaxed. I’ve been a lot more tense, these last three years of my high school swimming. So, I just tried to have a lot more fun this year.”
That carried over to her 200 IM performance as well.
“I felt relaxed and really focused before the race,” Lynch said. “So, I just felt like I was in a good place.
“Everything just kind of clicked together,” she said. “I love when that happens in a race, where you just feel smooth, and it’s just an easy, fast pace. I was very surprised by the time at the end.”
It should come as no surprise Lynch broke the Ocean Division record in the event. But evidently it did come as something of a surprise — to her.
“We didn’t talk about the record today,” Vitale said. “We didn’t talk about any of that. And she finished, and she looked at the board — she looked two or three times at it and didn’t believe what was on there.”
Lynch also claimed the title in the 100 back with a time of 59.50. She also swam for the first-place 200 free relay team, along with Lai, senior Alyssa Chui and senior Jolie Jumanan. The same relay quartet also took fourth in the 200 medley relay in 2:07.85.
But even with the more laid-back mindset, Lynch was still a machine in the pool.
“The improvement from last year to this year is huge,” Vitale said. “Even the improvement from the beginning of the year to now is build, build, build. It basically all culminated here with her breaking her own record.”