NEW HAVEN, Conn. – As the 2017 NCAA Men's Division I Swimming and Diving Championships nears, two Yale swimmers – juniors Aaron Greenberg and Kei Hyogo – reflect on their experiences as they prepare to dive into competition next week. The opportunity to race at the collegiate championship meet will be the culmination of the hundreds of hours they've trained in the pool, practicing and racing alongside friends and teammates.
"Being able to go to NCAAs again is truly a privilege," remarked Hyogo. "The qualifying standards have gotten much faster and a lot of people who qualified last year didn't make it."
Hyogo will be returning to NCAAs for his third consecutive season, previously placing eighth and achieving All-American honors in the 1650-yard freestyle last year. Building on his success throughout his collegiate career, Hyogo continues to strive for improvement.
"I can't be satisfied with just qualifying like I have been the past two years," he said. "I don't have specific goals in mind in terms of placing, but I would like to swim some personal best times, which I haven't been able to do at this meet yet."
While Hyogo is looking forward to racing against the best in the nation, he's also excited to reconnect with old friends.
"One of my best friends swims for Cal and I haven't seen him in three years," he said. "Being able to see him again at this national stage means quite a lot to me."
Hyogo qualified for the 1650-yard freestyle this season with his winning time of 14:47.01 at the 2017 Ivy League Championships and is seeded 12th in the event. He also plans to swim the 400-yard individual medley and 500-yard freestyle.
Greenberg has had a unique collegiate career; he took a leave-of-absence during the 2015-16 season to train with the Israeli national team for a chance to swim at the Olympics. However, the experience had its highs and lows.
"Last year was frustrating in terms of results, as I not only got injured in an accident at the national training facility, but also got pneumonia a week before the Trials," noted Greenberg. "I learned that no matter how much you put into this sport, nothing is guaranteed."
Undeterred, he returned this year with a triumphant season, winning the 50-yard freestyle at the 2017 Ivy League Championships with a time of 19:41 and qualifying for his first NCAAs.
"Aaron has always had exceptional raw speed, but this year he did a great job of recognizing he couldn't solely rely on that, so he buckled down and really focused on the specifics of his races," remarked assistant coach Kevin Norman. "To be part of this process and finally help him get there was extremely rewarding and I'm very proud of him."
For Greenberg, qualifying for this year's NCAAs has meant achieving one of his collegiate aspirations.
"My ambition walking on campus four years ago was to make NCAAs," he recalled. "And with the qualifying times getting faster and faster every year, being able to go this year is a dream come true."
"To be able to take everything I learned last year, along with the time I devoted to swimming, and to finally show that it paid off is a great feeling," he added.
Greenberg continues to set high expectations for himself, eyeing a top-16 finish:
"My goal is to be an All-American, which means a top-16 finish," he said. "If I can better my time from Ivies and make my way into the top 16, I will consider this first trip to be really successful. I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to represent Yale as an elite institution not only for academics, but also for swimming."
Greenberg is seeded 26th in the 50-yard freestyle and also plans to swim the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke.
The 2017 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships will take place from Mar. 22-25 at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind. The results, schedule, live stream and further information about the meet will be posted on IU's website found here.
Report by Neil Zheng '19, Yale Sports Publicity