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Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Gunn-Paly sports rivalry sparks friendly competition

Karis Lau, Aeron Man

It’s a classic image: fans on one side of the stadium screaming for their school while the other side chants for theirs. The players are deep in the game, both sides hoping to emerge as the champion and bring the coveted title to their side of town.

Although the local rivalry between Gunn and Paly doesn’t quite bring this level of drama — barring incidents like September 2022’s football game, which was canceled due to student misbehavior — Gunn athletes find that it has its own intensity and competitive spirit.

When it comes to basketball, boys varsity team co-captain senior Ethan Fu feels that the larger crowds that rivalry games attract create an immense pressure to win.

“The crowd is always huge (when we play) Paly, and it’s disorienting at first,” he said. “But the pressure from the crowd isn’t just pressure to represent my school, but also pressure to show (up) for my friends and family who are there watching me.”

Varsity point guard junior Sam Little also highlighted the benefits of playing to an audience.

“The fan turnout definitely makes our team play better,” he said. “It keeps us alert and more in touch.”

Although Little acknowledges the idea of home-court advantage, he believes his wins and losses mean more when they happen at Paly.

“Especially when we play Paly at their home court, there’s this feeling of, ‘I want to crush this team in front of their own support, on their own home turf,’” Little said. “Above all, the game just feels more competitive.”

Both Fu and Little also emphasized how being the underdogs — Gunn is usually projected to lose matchups against Paly — imbues a game with extra emotional charge. While Paly has to defend their previous wins, Gunn is able to fight from the bottom up.

“When we win, it’s especially gratifying,” Fu said. “(It) feels like we’ve beaten the odds.”

Girls varsity lacrosse team member junior Sophia Howell finds an opposite dynamic to be true for her team, which has won every game against Paly since the 2021 season.

“Most of the pressure the team faces when it comes to playing Paly is around maintaining our winning streak,” she said. “But at the same time, having wins behind us alleviates pressure while playing.”

According to Howell, there isn’t much of a difference in crowd size when their team plays against Paly, so spectators don’t play a role in raising the stakes. However, similar to the competitiveness the Gunn boys basketball team brings as the underdogs, Paly girls varsity lacrosse brings its own spirit, fighting to break Gunn’s winning streak.

“We play a pretty clean game and tend to keep our cool (as a team), but when Paly is down (on the score-board), the game gets more physical and they sometimes commit petty fouls,” she said.

Fu sees a similar pattern in basketball.

“Both our team and Paly’s are pretty well disciplined, so I don’t think a fight or anything would ever break out, but it gets chippy out there sometimes,” he said. “It gets more physical, harder fouls, harder defense, but it’s all part of the game. That’s what makes it fun.”

For girls varsity track-and-field member senior Avery Adelman, the Gunn-Paly rivalry manifests itself differently due to the nature of her sport. Adelman competes in the 400-meter dash and 300-meter hurdles — both non-contact, individual events — which present a new kind of competition.

“For track, it’s less about racing your opponents and more about racing for time,” Adelman said.

Even so, she found that competing against Paly with the rest of the varsity girls team brought them together in a special way.

“In the last season, varsity girls beat Paly and we were all so excited on the way home,” Adelman said. “It definitely would’ve been a different feeling if we beat (another high school) or something, but we beat our cross-town rivals, so it felt like a big deal.”

However, the cross-town rivalry runs deeper. Last season, Paly runner Hillary Studdert — who is the sister of this article’s author — was one of Adelman’s biggest competitors.

“In the 400(-meter dash), Hillary had times that were similar to mine, so I was always really nervous before we (met) with Paly,” she said. “I was also just really excited to race because I knew she would push me to run a fast time whether she beat me or not. It was all good energy and she was a great competitor.”

Adelman feels that the local aspect of the rivalry makes the competition more personal.

“The girls who I run against from Paly, I’ve mainly ran against before,” she said. “We get to talk here and there, so there’s always a kind of sense that I know who I’m running against, which makes me want to compete harder.”

Fu also finds a sense of familiarity among his Paly opponents.

“A lot of the kids that I grew up playing club basketball with now play for Paly, so I’m friends with basically the whole team,” he said. “It adds a mix of intensity and fun, which you can’t find really with any other team.”

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About the Contributor
Vivian Studdert
Vivian Studdert, Sports Editor
Vivian Studdert is a senior and a sports editor for The Oracle. Outside of school, Vivian enjoys reading, swimming and traversing the supermarket.
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