NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Last season was a season of transition for the Yale men's swimming and diving team. Tim Wise, Yale's Robert J.H. Kiphuth Head Coach of Men's Swimming and Diving, and assistant Kevin Norman took over the reigns and immediately made an impact, leading a Bulldog team that had finished in the bottom half of the Ivy League a season before to a fourth-place finish at the Ancient Eight's 2011 Championship meet.
If transition equates to improvement, the Bulldogs are certainly hoping for another transition year in 2011-2012. Harvard and Princeton have dominated the Ivy League swimming scene for the past few season, and Coach Wise and a young Bulldog team hope this is the year that dominant duo is restored to the traditional trio: H-Y-P.
Senior Christopher Luu follows in the footsteps of Kyle Veatch '11 as the captain of the Bulldogs. Luu is one of Yale's best breaststrokers, posting top-20 finishes in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke at last year's Ivy League Championships. The Monterrey Park, Calif., native won both those events against Big East power UConn last season, and had 11 combined top-three showings in the two events in 2010-11.
Luu will have help from a small senior class in leading this year's squad. Alex Benz, Goksu Bicer and Matt Boone have all been major contributors throughout their careers, and will be integral components of this year's team, as well. Benz joins Luu in the Bulldog breaststroking corps, having posted top-20 finishes in the 200-yard and 100-yard breaststroke events at some of Yale's biggest meets last year, including a ninth-place showing in the 100-yard event at H-Y-P.
Bicer has been one of Yale's top sprinters throughout his career as a dominant force in the 100-yard freestyle and butterfly. Last season, Bicer was the Ivy League Champion in the 100-yard fly, and event in which he finished third as a sophomore. He made an NCAA 'B' cut in that event last season and took home titles against UMass, Cornell, Penn and Dartmouth, Navy and UConn. Add that to his sixth-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle, and Bicer is poised to have a massive season as the anchor of Yale's sprinting squad in 2011-2012.
Boone also posted a top-20 finish in the 100-yard butterfly at the Ivy League Championships and Terrier Invitational last season. He has also contributed in the 100-yard freestyle over his career, and posted top-20 finishes in the 200- and 100-yard backstroke at the ECAC Championships as a freshman.
The loss of Veatch and Matt Lee '11 to graduation leaves the Bulldogs needing to fill voids in both the sprint and distance teams, but a talented group of underclassmen should have no trouble stepping up.
One of the top options in both areas will be junior Mike Dominski, who has been one of the Bulldogs' most versatile and effective weapons since stepping on campus as a freshman. Last season, he earned an NCAA 'B' Cut in the 500-yard freestyle at the Ivy League Championships where he finished fifth overall. He also finished second in the 100-yard butterfly at that meet, earning second-team All-Ivy honors and another NCAA 'B' cut. Dominski was an honorable mention All-American in the 500-yard freestyle as a freshman.
Similarly versatile is Dominski's classmate Jared Lovett, who has been a rock in the 400-yard and 200-yard Individual Medley during his first two years. Lovett posted a top-20 finish in the 400-yard event at last year's Ivy League Championships, and took home three top-three finishes in the 200-yarder last season. The Abingdon, Va. native also had strong showings in 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard breaststroke.
Of the 23 swimmers on Yale's roster for 2011-12, 17 will be sophomores and freshmen. Last year's freshmen class made a huge impact in its debut campaign. Pat Killian was an instant spark in freestyle events, taking 11th at the Ivy League Championships in the 200-yard free and 14th in the 100-yard race. Classmate Danny McDermott had a similarly big showing in his rookie season, finishing top-15 at the Ivy League Championships in both the 200-yard and 100-yard breaststroke. McDermott had seven combined top-three finishes in breaststroke events last season, and also added at stellar 12th-place showing at the Ivy League Championships in the 400-yard IM.
Sophomore West Cuthbert will be crucial as Yale looks to fill the void left by distance swimmer extraordinaire Lee, and if last year is any indication, the Bulldogs won't miss a beat. Cuthbert finished 12th in the grueling 1650-yard freestyle at the Ivy League Championships, and posted top-25 finishes at that meet in both the 1000- and 500-yard freestyle, as well. Cuthbert burst onto the scene at the Terrier Invitational – traditionally the Bulldogs' first highly competitive meet of the season – with a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle.
Ed Becker came on strong near the end of last season, turning in an eighth-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly at the Ivy League Championships, as well as top-20 finishes in both the 500- and 200-yard freestyle. Classmate Danny Clarke will also be one of Coach Wise's top freestyle options, having swum strong races in both the 1650-yard and 1000-yard freestyle throughout last season. He and Calvin Jones, another freestyle specialist, will bolster an already strong group of mid-range freestylers for the Bulldogs.
Two of Yale's sophomores are newcomers: Josh Rozner, also a freestyler, and Paschall Davis, a transfer from the SEC's Tennessee who will contribute in both butterfly and freestyle. Combined with a highly-touted class of nine freshmen, Yale's roster is nearly 50% newcomers. A geographically-diverse group, this year's freshmen come from as far as Hong Kong (breaststroke/IM-er Ronald Tsui) and as near as Wilton, Conn. (freestyler/backstroker Rob Harder). Barkin Doganay gives the Bulldogs two natives of Turkey on the squad, and the other six freshmen come from six different states. With so little experience up and down the Bulldog roster, those freshmen will have to get their bearings quickly, as they will be relied upon right away to contribute.
While Yale's swimmers will be predominantly newcomers, the divers will be slightly more experienced. Two juniors, Aaron Seriff-Cullick and Colton Staab, return to lead the way for the Bulldogs, joined by sophomore walk-on Cole Florey, who was trained as a gymnast in high school. Tyler Pramer had a strong freshman season last year, and will be an integral part of the diving corps this year, again.
The Bulldogs prep for this season's run with two scrimmages against McGill and SCSU, and then jump straight into Ivy League competition with a meet at Columbia Nov. 12. The next weekend brings the challenging Terrier Invitational, followed by an equally challenging meet against the Atlantic-10's UMass.
That sends Yale to winter break, a one-month, four-day hiatus. The Elis hit the ground running on 2012 with a home meet against Cornell Jan. 7, followed by a trip to Hanover, N.H., for the Penn/Dartmouth meet the next weekend. H-Y-P is next on the docket, this season in Cambridge. A meet at Brown rounds out the regular season schedule before the Ivy League Championships, hosted this year at Princeton, the first two days in March.
Report filed by Chelsea Janes '12, Yale Sports Publicity