March 7, 2009
PRINCETON, N.J. - The Bulldogs wrapped up competition at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships hosted by Princeton at DeNunzio Pool with another day of record breaking performances and impressive times. The Bulldogs broke a further four school records, including the two oldest records in Yale history. Senior captain Alex Righi also showed the swimming world why he is a contender for titles at the NCAA Championships by swimming the third-fastest time in the country in the 100-yard freestyle event. He has now swum three top-four national times in three days. The Bulldogs finished in fourth as a team with 1,033.5 points. Princeton won with 1,663.5 points.
Undoubtedly, this will go down as one of the most memorable meets and seasons in history. The Bulldogs turned in some of their fastest performances in history over the span of the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships. Each day included multiple school records, with three falling on the first day, five on the second day and four on the third day. As well, the Bulldogs also narrowly missed missing school records in multiple events. In the last meet for all the seniors except for Righi, the class continued their rewriting of the record book. Swimmers on the current team have combined to set all except for seven of the records on the books.
The meet is also the conclusion of Ivy League portion of the storied career of Righi, who has won more individual Ivy League titles than any other Yale swimmer in history. His 11 individual titles includes a win every year in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles as well as wins in the 100-yard backstroke the past three years.
Robert J. H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Frank Keefe was very pleased with the results of the meet.
"It ended up as a great meet," Keefe said. "We broke 11 Yale records and were very fast in every event. While we didn't take third as we had hoped, I have to give a lot of credit to Cornell as they swam very well and were at one point were only five points behind Harvard for second. Their distance swimmers did a great job in the mile, where they had four student-athletes versus our two. Overall, though, this was a great meet for the team, a great way to end the season. We swam even better than I expected."
While most of the excitement in the most meets takes place in the event finals, the Ivy League Championships were a thrilling meet even in the preliminaries. The Bulldogs set the first two school records of the day on the preliminary round.
The Bulldogs started out the third day of competition at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships with three strong performances in the 200-yard backstroke event. Two Bulldogs qualified for the A finals of the race while another Bulldog became the top-seeded swimmer in the C finals. Junior Thomas Robinson led the Bulldogs in the qualifying round of competition, taking second in a time of 1:45.25. This is only one-half of a second off of the Yale record. With Robinson so close to the record, his performance in the event finals in the evening session meant a great chance to reset the record book. The current record is 1:44.73 set in 2001 by George Gleason, one of Yale's most decorated swimmers. Gleason competed at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics for his native U.S. Virgin Islands and was an All-American swimmer in 2001 after placing 11th at the NCAA Championships in the 200-yard backstroke. Senior Dennen McCloskey also swam a great race to place fifth in the preliminaries with a time of 1:46.49. Robinson was third in the event last year while McCloskey was 14th last year. McCarthy was 17th in a time of 1:50.17, but did not compete at the Championships last year.
Righi, coming off of two school, meet, pool and Ivy League Records in two days, was not about to slow down. Instead, he went faster than he has all season in the 100-yard freestyle event, a race that he took second in at the NCAA Championships last year. Righi swam to a time of 42.18, a new pool, meet and Ivy League record. This was also an NCAA A cut time, the third of the meet for Righi. This time is the fifth fastest in the nation this year, beating his previous fifth-place time with of 42.31. As he has done all meet, Righi got out to a fast start and never relinquished the lead. Freshman Goksu Bicer also turned in a great performance to make it to the B finals in the event, with a 10th-place finish in a time of 44.82. Sophomore Kyle Veatch made it to the C finals with a 17th-place finish in a time of 45.62 while sophomore Lugar Choi made it into the C finals with a 23rd-place result (46.22). This was a great event for the Bulldogs to make up points on Cornell in the finals, as the Big Red did not have any swimmers make it to the A finals and they only have one student-athlete seeded ahead of Bicer in the B finals.
After setting a new school record in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday night, junior Craig Steen showed no signs up letting up in the preliminary round of the 200-yard breaststroke. Steen got off to a strong start in the event by breaking the oldest record in the Yale record books. Steen swam a time of 2:01.76 to earn an 11th-place finish and a spot in the B finals of the event. The previous record of 2:01.90 was set by Tom Mintz '83 on Mar. 7, 1981 at Dartmouth. Mintz went on to become an All-American in the event that year. Two other Bulldogs also swam fast times and qualified for the C finals of the event. Senior Kyle McElroy was 20th in a time of 2:03.73 while Sweitzer, who set a new 100-yard breaststroke record Friday that was then broken by Steen, was 22nd on 2:04.25.
At a meet where it seems that the record books are all being reset, it was no surprise that a new record was set in the 200-yard butterfly event. Senior Tyler Scheid swam a very fast race to take fifth in the preliminary round in a time of 1:46.75. This breaks the old school record, set last year by senior Chris Pool, by .05 seconds. Pool, however, was not far behind Scheid, taking seventh in 1:46.98. The finals promised to be a fast race with the top swimmer in preliminary round finishing in the nation's 10th-fastest time of 1:42.87. Scheid and Pool have lanes next to each other in the finals, so there would be no surprise to either of them how the other is doing in the final and who would take home the final Yale record for the season. Freshman Scott Shinton qualified for the B finals in the event with a 15th-place finish (1:50.20).
The first event of the finals on Saturday evening was the 1650-yard freestyle event. The top finisher for the Bulldogs was sophomore Matt Lee in 14th with a time of 15:45.01. His performance earned the Bulldogs 13 points. Senior Ilya Byzov was right behind him, taking 15th (15:48.64), earning the team 12 points. Lee matched his performance from last year while Byzov moved up from 21st last year.
After swimming a great 200-meter backstroke race, just missing the school record in the preliminary round, Robinson was ready to continue his success in the event finals. Robinson was consistent throughout the race, touching the wall third after the first 50 yards. In the next 50 yards, however, Robinson made his move, passing Harvard's Jordan Diekema to move into second. He swam a fast next 50 yards before closing with the fastest last 50 yards in the finals to take second in a time of 1:45.55. While he missed the school record that he came close to in the preliminary round, he will have another chance next year as he is only a junior. McCloskey closed out his individual event career with a very impressive race. McCloskey took fifth for the Bulldogs in a time of 1:47.14, earning the team 25 points. This is an improvement for both swimmers as Robinson was third and McCloskey 14th last year. McCarthy also contributed points for the Bulldogs, taking 19th in a time of 1:50.46.
Keefe thinks that the performance by Robinson shows that he is ready to lead the team in the backstroke events next year.
"Thomas Robinson had a great meet and has his confidence back," Keefe said. "That is one large reason he is doing so much better now. It will be exciting for him next year as both Righi and McCloskey are graduating, so he will be looked to lead the team in both backstroke events."
Outstanding. That could be the most simple way to describe Righi's last individual event of his career at the Ivy League Championships. After a meet of great races for Righi, it could hardly be a surprise that he would impress the swimming world one more time at the League Championships. Righi, who has won the 100-yard freestyle at the Ivy League Championship every year since entering college in 2005, continued his streak of wins in the event to four with another impressive win. One of the big questions was how fast Righi, who set a new pool, meet and Ivy League record in the preliminary round, could go in the finals. The 2008 Mid Major Swimmer of the Year showed the swimming world that he was prepared to reset all the records again and break his own school record in the finals. With his impressive win in a time of 41.91, he broke his own school record from his second-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Championships by .03 seconds. Righi won in impressive fashion, bursting off the blocks to an early lead, with only three swimmers within one second after the first 50 yards. From there, though, Righi did not let up but kept on extending his lead until he finished 1.26 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. Even more impressively, his time is the third-fastest mark in the country this year. Bicer also turned in a great performance, winning the B finals of the event in a time 44.54. His ninth-place finish earned the Bulldogs 20 points. Veatch won the C finals to take 17th (45.42) while Choi was 20th (45.71).
Next up was the 200-yard breaststroke, an event that Steen had set a new Yale record in in the preliminary round. While he did not improve on that record in the finals, he still turned in an impressive race, swimming to a 12th-place finish in a time of 2:02.01, good for 15 points. Steen ends the season as the school record holder in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events. He will have a chance to improve both records again next year. McElroy finished 20th (2:03.55) and Sweitzer was 23rd (2:05.29).
After the Yale record falling the in the 200-yard butterfly event in the preliminary round, it was certain to be a fast race in the finals, with both Scheid, the new record holder, and Pool, the old record holder, racing against each other. Scheid saved perhaps the best race of his career for last, placing sixth in a new school record time of 1:46.54. This was also an NCAA B cut time by the smallest of margins, .01 seconds. Pool was close behind with a seventh-place finish in a time of 1:47.85. Pool and Scheid, two of the top butterfly swimmers in Yale history, both leave Yale with an individual school record, with Pool holding the top mark in the 100-yard butterfly (47.41) while Scheid will leave holding the 200-yard butterfly mark with this evening's 1:46.54 performance. Scheid had a huge improvement over last year, when he placed 10th. Shinton moved up one place from his seeding from the preliminary round with a 14th-place finish in 1:50.38.
In the final race of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Bulldogs had just enough energy left to turn in one final impressive performance. The Bulldog team of Bicer, Righi, Robinson and Pool smashed the old Yale record in the event by just less than four seconds in their second-place finish in a time of 2:55.28. The old record was the second oldest in the book, having been set in 1992. The only other record older, the 200-yard breaststroke record, was also broken today at the Championships. Their time, which was also an NCAA B cut mark, dipped under the Ivy League and meet records, but Princeton, the winner of the event, will end up holding those two standards.
The divers also had a fantastic day of competition, with sophomore Eric Olson turning in an amazing series of dives to place third in the three-meter event with a score of 321.05. This is a huge improvement over the preliminary round, which took place yesterday, when Olson had a score of 287.10. Junior Drew Teer and freshman Colton Staab also really stepped up their level of performance from yesterday. Staab took 10th in the event with a score of 284.45 while Teer was 11th (271.05). Had Staab and Teer qualified for the finals, their scores would have placed them fourth and eighth, respectively. Even so, their results are particularly impressive considering that none of them have previously competed at the Ivy League Championships. Olson's dive is an NCAA Zone Diving Championships qualifying performance.
Keefe is proud of the performance that the divers turned in during the meet.
"Eric dove so well in the three-meter finals." Keefe said. "He has come a long way, along with the other divers. Colton Staab is a freshman, Drew Teer is just now getting back to diving after injuries his first two years and Eric, a sophomore, is making his first appearance at the Ivy League Championships. They all did very well, especially considering this is their first time at the meet. Eric dove so extremely well that that I think he almost did well enough to win the meet."
Olson is excited about his performance in the meet.
"I feel that I put together my best performance of the year," Olson said. "I was hoping to make it into the finals in the three-meter event after I missed the one-meter. When I made it, I knew I had to step up my performance. I missed my reverse two-and-one-half in the preliminaries, as I have done much of the season. I knew I had to make it in the finals as I knew it was my last opportunity of the year and I did just that."
Olson, who has qualified for but has chosen to not compete at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships, feels that the meet was useful for his future diving career.
"This meet gives me a lot of confidence looking forward," Olson said. "Now, I know that I am in the top-tier of divers in the league, which changes my approach to competition. Now I know that I should place among the top divers and am not satisfied being in the middle. I just really want to thank our coach, Ryan [Moehnke] for all of his work this year. He is the best coach in the Ivy League. He is very personable and laid back, which helps us stay calm in our dives. He also has so much experience."
The meet is also the conclusion of Ivy League portion of the storied career of Righi, who has won more individual Ivy League titles than any other Yale swimmer in history. His 11 individual titles includes a win every year in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles as well as wins in the 100-yard backstroke the past three years. He is the first Yale swimmer to collect 10 or more individual titles, an impressive feat considering a student-athlete is only allowed to compete in up to three individual events.
Keefe was impressed by Righi and feels the entire team did a great job at the meet.
"Thee whole meet ended up great for us," Keefe said. "All the times were very fast the meet was determined by the new suits, which add a lot of buoyancy to the swimmers. Craig Steen broke the oldest Yale record in the 200-yard breaststroke. Chris Pool and Tyler Scheid are both great swimmers and Scheid, in his last race, set a new school record in the 200-yard butterfly. The younger swimmers on the team just need to get used to coming back in the evening session and swimming fast. Alex [Righi] also had a great meet, which really sets him up well for the NCAA Championships.
While the season is over for all of the Bulldog swimmers with the exception of Righi, the Ivy League Championships will go down in history as a story of record breaking, fast performances. Righi will next compete at the NCAA Championships on Mar. 26-28 in College Station, Texas.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity