Bulldogs Top Brown on Senior Day

Feb. 15, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldog men's swimming and diving team closed out the regular season with a big win over Ivy League foe Brown on Sunday afternoon. The Bulldog squad, which is now 4-3 in the Ivy League, beat Brown by a score of 186-114. The Bulldogs, who have defeated Brown every year since 2001, swam strongly in every event and set two new pool records. This was the last meet for the seniors at the Robert J. H. Kiphuth Exhibition Pool.

The Bulldogs displayed both strong performances at the top as well as great depth in the meet. The team won 10 of the 16 events contested and captured the top three spots in three events. The Eli swimmers also captured the top two places in a further two events. For the seniors on the team, it was a great day, with the class winning eight of the 10 events won by the team.

The day in the pool started off with a win for the team in the 200-yard medley relay. The team of senior Alex Righi, senior Matt Sweitzer, freshman Goksu Bicer and senior Chris Pool finished in 1:30.44, more than two seconds ahead of the next team. The team got off to an early lead on the first leg, extended the lead on the second leg, were almost one full-length ahead by the third leg and finished almost two lengths ahead of the next team. This performance earned the team 11 points and was an improvement over the 200-yard medley relay's winning time last year by more than two-and-one-half seconds.

In the 1000-yard freestyle, the Bulldogs did not capture the top spot but did have an impressive display of depth with the team capturing second, third and fourth. The top Bulldog was senior Ilya Byzov in a time of 9:46.45, good enough for four points. He was followed by sophomore Matt Lee in third (9:47.49) and senior Paolo Benvenuto in fourth (9:47.49). Ryan Kikuchi from Brown won the event in an impressive time of 9:36.89.

Sophomore Lugar Choi turned in a great performance to win the 200-yard freestyle event in a time of 1:42.03, earning the team nine points. Sophomore Kyle Veatch also earned points for the Bulldogs in the event, taking fifth in a time of 1:44.78, only seven-one-hundredths behind the fourth-place finisher from Brown. Choi and the other competitors were tightly bunched for much of the race, until Choi started to pull away and build a large lead with 50-yards left in the race.

Righi next led the Bulldogs to a one-two-three finish in the 100-yard backstroke while setting a new pool record. Righi led the race from the start to the finish and had a full length lead by 50-yards left in the race. He finished in a time of 48.45, beating his previous pool record by just more than one second. He was followed by junior Thomas Robinson in second (50.53) and senior Dennen McCloskey in third (51.04).

Another win greeted the Bulldogs in the 100-yard breaststroke event. Led by breaststroke specialist Sweitzer, the team finished first, fourth and fifth in the event, picking up 12 points. Sweitzer won the race by just five-one-hundredths and was just 16-one-hundredths ahead of sophomore Sam Goldsmith, the fourth place finisher for the Bulldogs, who finished in a time of 58.48. Senior Kyle McElroy also picked up points for the team by taking fifth in 59.58.

The next one-two-three finish of the day for the Bulldogs came in the 200-yard butterfly event. Yale record holder Chris Pool again showed those in attendance why he is the Yale record holder. Pool burst off the blocks to take an early lead that he never relinquished. By 50-yards into the race, Pool had a lead of almost three-fourths of a length. He never let up in his race and went on to win by more than three seconds. His time of 1:49.69 was good for nine points for the Bulldogs. Senior Tyler Scheid was next for the team in second (1:52.94). Freshman Scott Shinton showed that the team will still be strong following the graduation of the exceptional senior class by taking third in 1:53.68, beating the top swimmer from Brown by more than one second.

The next race of the day again showed that the younger classes will be able to fill the void left by the graduation of the senior class, especially after they continue to mature and train. In the 50-yard freestyle, Righi took second in a time of 21.13. Bicer showed that he could be Yale's future in the event by taking third in a time of 21.67. The event was won by Brown's Dan Ricketts in a time of 20.95.

While Righi did not win the event, which he took second at the NCAA Championships last year, it should be noted that the he was trying to accomplish an unheard of feat, Keefe said.

"Alex Righi's double that he attempted today was impossible against any team with good competition," Keefe said. "It is very hard to swim the 100-yard backstroke and then, less than five minutes later, swim the 50-yard freestyle. His effort was a good help later in the season as he tested the limits of his body today."

After a number of exhibition heats and the diving break, however, Righi was rested and ready to swim fast. Righi's last race at Yale was a fast one as he set a new pool record in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 44.03, breaking his old pool record from last year of 44.16. This helped avenge his earlier loss to Ricketts, who this time finished second. Pool was third in a time of 45.80 while Bicer again showed why he will be looked to score next year in the sprint freestyle events by swimming 46.94.

A great day for the senior class continued in the 200-yard backstroke. McCloskey earned the team nine points by winning the event in a time of 1:49.60. Sophomore Colin McCarthy earned the team three points by finishing third in 1:52.80 while Robinson was fourth for two points (1:55.87).

Goldsmith showed that he has a good chance for making up for the loss of Sweitzer in the breaststroke next year by just edging out Sweitzer for the win in the 200-yard breaststroke, 2:07.43 to 2:07.61. McElroy also picked up two points for the team by placing fourth in 2:08.82.

The last sweep of the top three spots for the team came in the 500-yard freestyle event. Senior Sebastian Cousins was the top swimmer in the event, taking first in a time of 4:38.82. Just behind him was Lee in 4:38.99 and Byzov finished off the scoring by earning the team three points with his third-place finish (4:43.68).

Pool closed his time swimming in home meets at Yale with a win in the 100-yard butterfly, an event in which he is the Yale record holder. Pool earned the team nine points by winning in a time of 48.91. Bicer was second in the event in 51.22 while Schied also picked up a point for the Eli squad by placing fifth (51.76).

The last individual event of the day saw the Bulldogs finish two-three-four. Choi took second in the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 1:54.22. McCloskey was close behind in 1:54.89 and McElroy was fourth in 1:56.83. Kikiuchi from Brown won in 1:53.49.

The 400-yard freestyle relay was the last chance for the senior athletes to compete at home and they did it together. The team of seniors Cousins, McCloskey, Scheid and Dan Li led the Elis by taking third with a time of 3:14.26, earning two points towards the overall standings. Brown won in 3:09.22.

The team also fared well in the diving events, going two-three-four in both the one- and three-meter events. The squad started off the day with the three-meter event, in which sophomore Eric Olson took second with a score of 289.25. He was followed by junior Drew Teer in third (283.50) and freshman Colton Staab in fourth (265.79). Success also came through in the one-meter event, but the finishing order was slightly different. In the one-meter, Staab was the top performer, taking second with a score of 271.64. He was followed by Teer in third (262.94) and Olson in fourth (254.47). None of the Bulldog divers are graduating and each diver has won a diving event at meets this year, so the team should be in good shape following the graduation of the senior class.

Keefe was proud of the team in its last meet at home for the year.

"I thought that the guys ended on a positive note," Keefe said. "Brown is a talented team and gave us some good races. We had some kids, like Sam Goldsmith and Dennen McCloskey, who really stepped it up today. We have a few weeks before our next meet and now it is rest time. I feel that we are on target to achieve our goals. We want everyone to swim lifetime best times because we don't have control over the times that other teams swim."

Prior to the meet, the entire senior class was honored in a brief ceremony led by Robert J. H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Frank Keefe. The senior class is one of the most decorated in the past few decades, having played a part in setting eight school records. Three of the seniors also qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials last year and senior captain Alex Righi took second place in two events at last year's NCAA Championships. The seniors on the team are Righi, Paolo Benvenuto, Ilya Byzov, Sebastian Cousins, Dan Li, Dennen McCloskey, Kyle McElroy, Chris Pool, Alex Righi, Tyler Scheid and Matt Sweitzer.

While Keefe is sad to see the seniors go, he recognizes they have made a large impact on the team.

"I am glad our seniors ended their careers on a winning streak," Keefe said. "This program is all about our student-athletes and not about the coaching staff. The staff learns to appreciate our swimmers and their dedication to Yale. Our goal is that they enjoy themselves while they are swimming. Our kids are so unique--they are all very intelligent and continually amaze us. It has been a joy to have these kids on the team the past four years. Next year, we will have a new group and we hope that we get the right kinds of kids. We like to ask, `What do you want in college?' and we make sure that the kids we get have the right reasons. These seniors were great and had the right reasons. Alex Righi could have gone to any school, but he chose to come to Yale and did not sacrifice anything because of it. He is one of the few High School Swimmers of the Year who has continued to perform well under the pressure of college. Yale provides a great opportunity to get an education that will be fulfilling life-long. Athletes are disciplined and they know how to win and know how to deal with losses, which makes them very attractive in the job market."

For some of the seniors on the team, the end of their collegiate swimming careers is very close. After resting, the team is next in action at the ECAC Championships hosted by Harvard starting on Feb. 27. The meet will continue until Mar. 1.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity


Video by Charles Moore '10, Yale Sports Publicity