November 15, 2008

Bulldogs Emerge Victorious Over Columbia in 172-128 Win

Nov. 15, 2008

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale men's swimming and diving team performed strongly in its season-opening dual meet against Columbia, beating the visiting Lions 172-128 Saturday night at the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool. The Bulldogs, who tested themselves in their first scored meet of the year, proved that the team has the ability to compete well with a number of new faces and repeated the season opening victory over Columbia from 2007. The team won 12 of the 16 events and took the top two spots in three events.

The Bulldogs got started off on a high note in the diving events. The three-meter diving event opens each dual meet and a win in the event by sophomore Eric Olson helped set a positive tone for the rest of the meet. Olson, who placed third in the event at the 2007 dual meet against Columbia, had big shoes to fill. The team graduated three divers in 2008, including Jeffrey Lichtenstein '08, who won the event last year and went on to compete at the NCAA Championships.

The success from the diving event then spilled over into the pool, where the Bulldogs opened swimming with a victory in the 200-yard medley relay in a time of 1:31.25. The team of seniors Alex Righi, Matt Sweitzer, Chris Pool and freshman Goksu Bicer repeated the Bulldogs' victory from 2007 in the event, which is a good test of a team's versatility across strokes.

Next on the schedule was the 1000-yard freestyle, another event that the Elis came out on top in 2007. In almost identical fashion as 2007, sophomore Matt Lee came through with a big victory for the Bulldogs in the longest event of the meet. Lee finished in 9:33.03, a more than two-second improvement from last year.

Senior Dennen McCloskey also produced an impressive victory for the Bulldogs, winning the 200-yard backstroke event in 1:51.82. This was an improvement for McCloskey, who finished second in 2007.

The freshmen class also showed that it has adapted well to the rigors of the collegiate swimming environment. Freshman Christopher Luu earned his first collegiate career victory, winning the 200-yard breaststroke in a time of 2:06.75. Luu was joined in winning the breaststroke events by Sweitzer, who swam the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 58.77, good enough for first. This is a repeat victory for Sweitzer, who also came out on top of the podium in 2007.

Two Eli swimmers competed at the 2008 US Olympic Trials and they both showed that their experience was useful in collegiate swimming. Righi, the captain for the Bulldogs who placed second in both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events at the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships, won all three of his individual events against Columbia. Righi's points in the 50 (20.27) and 100-yard freestyle (44.63) and 100-yard backstroke (52.04) events were a critical contribution to the Bulldog victory. Righi's times were all improvements over last year at the same meet.

Pool, who also competed at the 2008 US Olympic Trials, also came through impressively for the Bulldogs at the season opener. Pool, who placed second in both the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly events in 2007, moved up the podium to win both events this year in times of 49.84 and 1:51.18, respectively.

The freshmen class showed its potential outside of the pool as well. Freshman Colton Staab, competing in just his first collegiate meet and second scored event of his career, won the one-meter diving event. This win follows up on Lichtenstein's win from 2007 and is proof that despite losing three seniors, the diving team can be counted on to contribute valuable points to the Bulldog's team effort.

For Robert J. H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Frank Keefe, the season opening victory is a positive sign for the rest of the season.

"It was a very good experience and I feel that we swam very well," Keefe said. "We graduated three good divers, but our team came through and the divers were fantastic tonight. I feel that we swam extremely well for this early in the season. Freshman Christopher Luu winning the 200-yard breaststroke was great and Colton Staab winning the one-meter diving was a pleasant surprise. The kids feel great about the meet and we are excited for the rest of the season."

Righi, one of the most successful swimmers for the Bulldogs over the past years is proud of the Bulldogs' performance.

"I was very pleased with the meet and felt that it went much better than I expected," Righi said. "Many people got very focused for the meet and went into it with a competitive attitude. I was happy with the way that I swam, but want to go faster in the 50-yard freestyle. I know that that I'll have opportunities for that soon. This is a great confidence builder for the meets that we have in the weeks ahead and tells us how fast we can go. I am very proud of our distance swimmers and think that Chris Pool had a great race in the 100-yard butterfly, coming from behind for the victory."

The Bulldogs are next in action at the BU Invitational, which takes place Nov. 21-23.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity