March 5, 2009
PRINCETON, N.J. - The record books were totally rewritten at the first day of the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships. Although the first day only included six events, the Bulldogs set a new school record in three events on a day characterized by blazing times. Overall, four new meet records were set. Fortunately, the Bulldogs were on the receiving end of the record breaking as senior Alex Righi rewrote all the record books with a stunning performance in the 50-yard freestyle event.
Robert J. H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Frank Keefe thought that the first day of competition went well for the team.
"We are pretty pleased with the way that we performed today," Keefe said. "All of our kids swam great times, but the swimmers from other teams did as well. History was made today with Alex Righi. He swam an incredible race and is now getting close to the American record, which he has a chance of breaking at the NCAA Championships."
The Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships features some of the toughest competition the Bulldogs have faced all year, including No. 16 Princeton and No. 20 Harvard. Princeton currently leads the meet with 539 points while Harvard is second with 360 points. The Eli student-athletes are in fourth with 269 points, but are poised to move up to third with solid event performances. Princeton has the advantage of competing at their home facility, DeNunzio Pool, which brings with it a large fan base. The meet has a morning session that begins at 11:00 a.m. and an evening session, that includes all finals, that begins at 6:00 p.m.
The meet started off with the preliminary round of the 200-yard freestyle relay. The mission for the Bulldogs in the event was fairly simple as the top eight teams in the field of eight qualified for the final session that took place in the evening. As such, the relay team only had to focus on swimming a clean race and making sure that they were not disqualified. This, however, did not deter the team of sophomore Lugar Choi, freshman Goksu Bicer, sophomore Kyle Veatch and junior Tom Robinson from swimming squickly. They took fifth in the preliminary heat in a time of 1:22.06. Princeton won the preliminary heat with a time of 1:20.43.
Next up for the team was the preliminary round of the 500-yard freestyle. At stake was the ability to qualify for the event finals. As with all events, the top eight swimmers made it to the A finals, the next eight to the B finals and swimmers 17-24, the C finals. The swimmers did not disappoint, with two swimmers making it to each of the B and C finals. Senior Sebastian Cousins was the top Bulldog in the preliminaries, taking 13th in a time of 4:26.99. He was followed by senior Dennen McCloskey in 15th in a time of 4:27.99, senior Ilya Byzov in 19th (4:30.29) and sophomore Matt Lee in 21st (4:30.77).
The 200-yard individual medley was an exciting event for the Bulldogs. Junior Colin McCarthy easily made it to the C finals by taking 23rd in a time of 1:52.32. Choi, however, tied for the final qualifying spot in a time 1:52.37 and had to have a swim-off with another athlete, which he unfortunately lost.
The 50-yard freestyle preliminaries were as big of an event as was expected. Righi entered the day as the three-time defending champion in the 50-yard freestyle event, but was not the Ivy League record holder in the event. Righi, who was second at the 2008 NCAA Championships in the event, had to fight off the challenge of Princeton's 2008 Olympian Doug Lennox. Lennox swam a great preliminary race to set a new meet and Ivy League record in a time of 19.49 while Righi was second in a time of 19.69. Righi, however, would have another opportunity in the evening. Senior Chris Pool was ninth in a time of 20.20, Bicer was 14th in 20.57 and Veatch was 17th in 20.60.
The last preliminary event of the day took place in the one-meter diving event. While none of the Bulldogs had previously competed at the meet, they did not let this hold them back. Freshman Colton Staab earned fifth with a score of 268.65 while junior Drew Teer was sixth with a score of 259.25. Sophomore Eric Olson made B finals with a score of 239.75.
The night session was the start of the record breaking for the Bulldogs. The night started off with the finals of the 200-yard freestyle relay, an event that the Bulldogs took third in last year. This year, the Bulldogs wanted to improve and did just that. While the first three swimmers kept the Bulldogs in contention, Righi really brought the relay team home. Righi started his leg in sixth, but swam an amazing split of 18.70 to lead the team to a second-place finish. The time of 1:19.68 by Pool, Bicer, Veatch and Righi broke the school record of 1:20.17 and was an NCAA B cut performance.
Next up for the Bulldogs were strong performance by the senior class in the 500-yard freestyle. McCloskey led the scoring of the Bulldogs in 13th (4:26.93) while Cousins was right behind him in 14th (4:27.80). Byzov and Lee swam in the C final. Byzov was 19th in 4:30.00 while Lee was 21st in 4:32.44.
In the 200-yard individual medley, McCarthy picked up two points for the Bulldogs in the event with a 23rd-place finish in a time of 1:52.05.
For Righi, the next event meant a lot. Righi had won the 50-yard freestyle event in each of his three years of competition at the Ivy League Championships, but Righi still was not the meet or Ivy League record holder. Moreover, Righi knew it would take a tremendous effort to win the event as Princeton's Doug Lennox had set a new pool, meet and Ivy League record in the preliminary round. Righi used all of these factors as inspiration, blasting off the blocks to turn in a commanding performance, swimming a new Yale, pool, meet and Ivy League record in a time of 18.90. This is the third-fastest time in collegiate swimming this season and is one of the top times in the American record book. For Righi, however, it was a symbol of his dominance in the event as he went .45 seconds under the NCAA A cut. Righi won the event for the fourth time at the Ivy League Championships. Now, the only collegiate title that he is missing in the event is an NCAA Championship, which he came close to last year with his second-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Pool also swam well, taking 10th in 20.37. Bicer was 15th in 20.61 and Veatch was 24th in 20.76.
The last school record of the day to fall came in the 400-yard medley relay. Coming off of huge performances in the 50-yard freestyle, Bicer, Pool and Righi teamed up with senior Matt Sweitzer to take fourth in a time of 3:14.09. This demolished the old record of 3:16.99 by 2.90 seconds, a huge improvement in swimming. The performance was also an NCAA B cut performance.
The divers also did well in the finals. Staab earned the team 23 points with his seventh-place performance (257.60) while Teer was eighth with a score of 248.70. Olson improved a lot from the preliminary round and turned in a score of 249.95, good for 12th and 15 points.
Keefe was pleased with the performance in the diving events.
"The divers did well today, with two kids in the finals," Keefe said. "This is especially impressive as they have never competed at the Ivy League Championships before."
The next day of competition will feature seven individual events and two relays. It is also a great opportunity to move up in the standings, as the team is very strong in individual events and the medley relays. Preliminary rounds start at 11:00 a.m. with finals at 6:00 p.m.
Keefe is confident the team will keep on swimming hard and picking up points.
"We were pretty solid today and the guys on the team are excited right now," Keefe said. "Harvard and Princeton are very good, but we hope to cut down the point gap and move into third. Tomorrow is another day of competition and doing well in individual events will be key. Our medley relay should be good as well. We broke three Yale records today and the first day of competition is historically our weakest, but we get better on the second day and are great on the third. We are pretty pleased with where we are right now and want to get in front of Cornell. It is clear that the new swimming suits are making a huge difference in allowing the fast times."
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity