Bulldogs Prepared to Compete at Ivy League Championships

March 5, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldog men's swimming and diving team is ready to face all of the tough Ivy League competition this weekend at the Ivy League Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. The meet, which is the last opportunity for the swimmers that have not qualified for the NCAA Championships to compete, should allow the team to show that their training has paid off. The team placed third at the meet last year.

This is the first year the end of the season meet will be called the Ivy League Championship. Previously, the meet was called the EISL Championships and Navy competed alongside the eight Ivy League schools. However, if the meet is based on historical performances, the Bulldogs should be set to do well as only No. 16 Princeton and No. 20 Harvard edged out the Bulldogs last year. The Bulldogs return most of their team from last year and have had many swimmers improve by large margins. The meet should also see the fastest times of the year for the team. The team has been training with peaking for the Championship in mind, the pool is known as a very fast venue and the Bulldogs will be wearing the specialized suits that allow them to swim as fast as possible.

The Bulldogs will get started in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The team took third in the A final in a time of 1:20.17, a time that was good enough for an NCAA B cut. The team is well prepared to repeat or improve on its performance as three of the four swimmers from the relay return to the Championships this year.

Next up for the team will be the 500-yard freestyle. Last year, senior Sebastian Cousins led the team in the event, qualifying for the B final and placing 14th in a time of 4:31.66. Cousins was joined by three other swimmers in earning points in the event last year, all of whom will be returning this year.

The 200-yard individual medley will be one event where the Bulldogs will have many new faces. The only swimmer that competed for the Bulldogs in the event last year that will be returning is senior Matt Sweitzer, who placed 43rd last year. The team, however, should be poised to do very well this year. Senior Dennen McCloskey is entered in the event and has so far swum a time this year that would have been good for 11th at the meet last year. He, however, is prepared to go even faster because the team has been peaking for this meet. He will be joined in the event by senior Kyle McElroy, juniors Colin McCarthy and Craig Steen, sophomore Lugar Choi and freshman Scott Shinton.

Senior captain Alex Righi will be going for his fourth title in the 50-yard freestyle for the Bulldogs. Righi, who took second at the NCAA Championships last year, is well prepared to repeat as the champion in the event as he currently has the fourth-fastest time in the nation. His time of 19.60 from last year was an NCAA A cut and a pool record. Princeton's Doug Lennox, an Olympian in 2008, should be his biggest competition. Lennox has the 47th-fastest time in the nation. Senior Chris Pool should also be prepared to do well in the event. Pool placed 16th in the event last year, but has swum faster this year than he did at the Championships last year. Also competing for the Bulldogs will be senior Tyler Scheid, who was 29th last year, and sophomore Kyle Veatch, who was 34th last year. Sophomore Sam Goldsmith and freshman Goksu Bicer will also be making their first appearances at the Championships in the event.

Besides being a leader in the pool, Righi has also served the team well as the captain of the Bulldog squad.

"Alex has had great leadership this year," Robert J. H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Frank Keefe said. "He has been a phenomenal captain. He has done well holding the team together after some tough circumstances and has helped the team keep their priorities straight."

Look for the team to utilize its versatility across strokes to again do well in the 400-yard medley relay. The team took second in the event last year, with Harvard winning the event. All four of the swimmers that competed in the event last year will be returning to the meet. The Bulldogs earned an NCAA B cut in the event last year.

The team should also be well-prepared in the 200-yard medley relay, another event the team took second in last year. The team returns three of the swimmers that earned an NCAA B cut last year.

A trio of Bulldogs are returning in the 1000-yard freestyle and are ready to again lead the team. Last year, sophomore Matt Lee was the top Bulldog in the event, taking 13th. He will be joined by Cousins and senior Ilya Byzov.

McCloskey could make a huge move up in the rankings for the Bulldogs in the 400-yard individual medley. While McCloskey placed 12th in the event last year, he has been even faster in the event this year, as he has so far swum a time that would have placed him seventh in the finals last year. McCloskey also achieved an Olympic Trials qualifying mark in the event last summer. He will be joined by other strong scoring threats as well. Steen placed 13th last year and will be looking to move up again this year and senior Kyle McElroy was 24th last year. Byzov, Lee and Shinton will be in the event at the meet this year, but did not swim it last year.

One of the best individual races for the Bulldogs could be the 100-yard butterfly, an event the team in which the team is led by Pool. He placed sixth in the event last year, but has swum a time this year that would have placed him fourth last year. As well, Scheid was eighth in the event last year. This could also be the best event for one of the freshmen to make an impact. Bicer has swum a time that would have placed him fifth in the A final last year. Junior Thomas Robinson was 22nd in the event last year. Two other Bulldogs will be competing as well.

Keefe feels that Pool can do very well this year.

"Chris Pool has always swum very well in the Championship meets," Keefe said. "With the suit, the pool and the competition, I am confident he will do very well."

Two Bulldogs qualified for the B final in 200-yard freestyle last year. Veatch was 12th last year while Cousins was 16th. They will be joined in the event by Bicer and sophomore Lugar Choi.

Another event that the team can do well in is the 100-yard breaststroke. Steen placed ninth in the event last year while Sweitzer was 13th. McElroy, who was 26th last year, along with Goldsmith will also compete.

Righi will be looking to again repeat in the 100-yard backstroke event. He has already achieved an NCAA B cut in the event, took 11th in the event at the NCAA Championships last year has the 26th fastest time in the nation this year. He will be joined in the event by Robinson, who was eighth last year. Adding the event to their repertoire will be McCloskey and junior Colin McCarthy.

The team will also look to move up in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The team was ninth last year.

An experienced squad will represent the Bulldogs in the 1650-yard freestyle. Lee was 14th last year while Byzov was 21st. Harvard senior Eric Lynch, who won both the 1000- and 1650-yard freestyle events will return.

Robinson placed third in the 200-yard backstroke last year and will look to turn in a fast time again this year. McCloskey, who was 14th last year, will return as well, but is much improved, as he has already swum a time that would have placed him fourth last year. Veatch was 22nd last year. McCarthy will also swim at the meet.

Righi's last individual event of his Ivy League career is the 100-yard freestyle, an event that he is the Ivy League record holder in and took second at the NCAA Championships in last year. He placed first last year by more than one second and has the fifth-fastest time in the nation this year. He will be joined by a number of newcomers to the event at the Championships. Bicer, Choi, Pool and Veatch will also compete in the event and should pick up points for the team.

The trio of McElroy, Steen and Sweitzer should be impressive in the 200-yard breaststroke. Steen took fourth in the event last year, McElroy was 14th and Sweitzer was 18th. Goldsmith will also compete in the event.

The last individual event of the day will be the 200-yard butterfly, an event that Pool should lead the Bulldogs in. He placed fourth in the event last year in an NCAA B cut time, but is even faster this year. Scheid will also compete and was 10th last year. Shinton will also compete for the Bulldogs.

The team will be looking to move up in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The team placed fifth last year.

In diving, the Bulldogs should expect to do very well. While none of the divers on the current squad competed at the meet last year, they are an extremely experienced group. Junior Drew Teer, sophomore Eric Olson and freshman Colton Staab have responded very well to training this year and have more than filled in for the loss of the three senior divers from last year to graduation. In fact, each of the three Bulldog divers has won an event this year, showing the team is ready to compete for the points in both the one- and three-meter events.

The Championships, which will be hosted by Princeton, should be very competitive. Harvard and Princeton have both competed well this year and in past years and Princeton, currently ranked 16th nationally, will be hosting the meet, adding in a crowd factor. The Cornell squad should also be tough, as they defeated a Bulldog squad that was in the midst of heavy training in a dual meet earlier in the year.

Still, Keefe is excited about the prospects of the meet.

"I think that we can be in the top three," Keefe said. "Harvard and Princeton are both tough, but we have been closing the gap. Being at home will be big for Princeton as they have the fans and the noise on their side. The story of the meet will be the bathing suits, which will give us a lot of fast times. The kids are very focused. They are all trying for lifetime bests. It has been a pleasure to work with the kids and our assistant coaches have done a very good job."

The Bulldogs should be well prepared to swim their best. Over the past weeks, they have begun to taper to prepare for the meet. As such, the swimmers switched their focus from putting in yards to working on speed, technique and starts. The student-athletes have also been getting used to their pre-race routines, knowing exactly what they will be doing in the minutes leading up to their race.

Competition will take place Thursday through Sunday at Princeton. Each day will have a preliminary and finals section.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity