Robinson Named Captain at Team Banquet

April 7, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldog men's swimming and diving team wrapped up its season with the annual team awards banquet on Tuesday, Mar. 31. The Bulldogs awarded their end of season awards and announced the election of junior Thomas Robinson (Prairie Village, Kan./Rockhurst) as the new captain of the Bulldog squad for the 2009-10 season. The banquet marked the end of a season that saw the Bulldogs set 11 school records, take fourth at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships and finish 21st as a team at the NCAA Championships.

The banquet was also the first announcement that Robinson will be taking over the reigns as captain of the Bulldog squad for the coming year. Robinson has been a strong competitor in the backstroke events and will be looked to lead the team next year in both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events. Robinson, who won the 100-yard backstroke state title for Rockhurst, is an experienced captain, having led his high school team to a state title in 2006.

He has also been very successful on the Ivy League stage since his freshman year. At the EISL meet in 2007, Robinson qualified for the A finals of the 200-yard backstroke, where he took seventh. He also earned ninth in the 100-yard backstroke and 13th in the 100-yard butterfly.

Robinson turned in even better performances at the EISL meet during his sophomore season. In the 200-yard backstroke, his best event, Robinson took third after turning in the second-best time in the preliminary round of competition. His other A final was in the 100-yard backstroke, an event that he took eighth in. Robinson was also a critical part of the Bulldogs' success at the relay last year, helping the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay. He also helped the team to fifth in the 400-yard freestyle relay, seventh in the 200-yard freestyle relay and took 22nd individually in the 100-yard butterfly.

This past season, Robinson turned in the best performances of his career at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships. Individually, he had a huge breakthrough in the backstroke events. His best result was a second-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke, an event that he missed getting an NCAA B cut in by only .17 seconds. He was also solid in the 100-yard backstroke, taking fourth in the event, helping the Bulldogs place two swimmers in the top four after senior captain Alex Righi won the event in a pool, meet, Ivy League and school record time. Robinson also improved in the 100-yard butterfly, taking 17th, and helped the Bulldogs to second in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a school record time of 2:55.28.

At Yale, each team has its members elect one member of the rising senior class to lead the team as captain during the coming year. For Robinson, who will lead the team both in and out of the water next season, the chance to be captain is an opportunity that he is looking forward to.

"I'm extremely excited to be elected captain by my teammates," Robinson said. "There is nothing that gives you more pride in yourself than being given the opportunity to lead your team and know that your teammates respect you. There is a lot that I want to give to Yale Swimming that I feel I will be able to do as captain."

As captain, Robinson will be expected to help the team set goals and get prepared for the upcoming season. Robinson hopes to lead the team both in and out of the pool.

"A captain emulates the values of Yale Swimming, which include team work and putting in lots of hard work," Robinson said. "Hard work is necessary in swimming, as it is a sport where it pays off because there is not much luck involved. I also want to lead the team in the pool as I hope to give great performances at meets. Alex Righi performed very well as captain and I hope to do the same."

With being captain, Robinson will take on the responsibility of leading one of the oldest and most decorated squads at Yale. He feels that he is ready to take on the responsibility.

"Being captain gives you responsibility that makes you change your practices with the team," Robinson said. "You need to have more control over yourself. Looking back, the captain my freshman year, Geof Zann, was firm and but also treated us with respect. After you come to Yale, you learn how much Yale Swimming means to you, and your teammates become your best friends. As captain, you need to be the first person in the pool each day and always be ready to take on any issues and preempt any problems that may come up. You need a base swimmer to do everything right as well as they can. I've been to the last three optional practices and it is important for the captain to be a rock at practice. I plan to lead the team by example."

Robinson is taking on the responsibility for a team that is experiencing the graduation of one of its most decorated classes. The current seniors on the team have combined to play a part in setting 11 of the 18 Yale swimming records. The team will also graduate Righi, who has competed at the NCAA Championships every year of his collegiate career. Robinson is confident, however, that the team will still be a strong contender in the Ivy League next year.

"I think of the seniors on the team in two ways -- both as swimmers and as personalities, Robinson said. "As swimmers, it will be hard to make up for the points that they scored, but I think that we have a good freshmen class that will continue to improve. Every year, we have a huge hole from the seniors that are graduating, but many of the other schools in the Ivy League also have very strong graduating classes, so I think we are ready to do well next year. Personally, I would like to make the NCAAs. It is an aggressive goal, but I know I have the talent to do it and want to push myself as captain."

Righi, the outgoing captain, thinks that Robinson is well-suited to taking on the role of captain. He thinks that Robinson has the passion for the sport and the respect of his teammates that will be necessary in the leadership role.

"I am really excited that Thomas has been elected captain," Righi said. "Clearly, a lot of people feel that he will be a great leader as he was elected by his peers. He is both a great friend as well as a talent. He is very driven, and being elected captain is a true testament to his talents as a swimmer and as a person. The captainship will give him a good opportunity to push himself and rise to the occasion. He swam great at Easterns this year and is very resilient."

Beyond Robinson, though, Righi thinks that the rising senior class will be strong leaders for the squad.

"The junior class is full of great leaders," Righi said. "I have been on the team with them for three years and I am confident that they will all do a great job in leading the team in the coming year."

Besides the captain's announcement, the banquet also included the awarding of the end of the season awards. The Bulldogs, who went 6-4 (4-3 Ivy League), recognized the 10 graduating seniors as well as the 31 student-athletes earning varsity letters. The team also recognized a number of special award winners.

The first award that was handed out was the Heaton High Point Award, which is awarded to the swimmer or diver who has scored the highest possible number of points for the team in dual meet competition for the past season. Righi won the award for the third consecutive year. He was also honored by the Ivy League earlier in the season with the Moriarty Trophy, which is awarded to the student-athlete that scores the most points at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships. He also earned the Harold Ulen Trophy at the Championships, which is awarded to the graduating senior that has scored the most points at the Championship over their career.

Senior Tyler Scheid was the next winner, taking the William Leeming Jelliffe Award. The honor is awarded to that senior who has shown the greatest progress and development in swimming ability and outstanding leadership during his college years. The prize is given in memory of William Leeming Jelliffe by his father, the late Dr. Smith Ely Jelliffe. Scheid had a great season, breaking the school record in the 200-yard butterfly in a time of 1:46.54 while taking sixth at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships.

Senior Chris Pool also earned the MacLeish Memorial Swimming Trophy, which is awarded to the member of the Yale Swimming Team who, through his efforts and high ideals in sportsmanship and loyalty, best exemplifies the spirit of Kenneth MacLeish. The trophy was established in 1936 by Hassted R. Vanderpoel '35S, in memory of Kenneth MacLeish '18, who was killed in World War I. Pool had a great season, setting a school record in the 100-yard butterfly (47.41), an event that he took seventh in at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships.

The strength of the Bulldogs in the backstroke events was evident at the banquet. Righi, Robinson and senior Dennen McCloskey shared the S. Livingston Mather Swimming Award, which is awarded for outstanding performance in backstroke swimming. The prize was donated by the late S. Livingston Mather, class of 1905. Righi took 12th in the 100-yard backstroke at the NCAA Championships and McCloskey took fifth in the 200-yard backstroke at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships. Robinson also won the award last year.

Freshman Goksu Bicer and sophomore Kyle Veatch shared the Harry Burke Award, which was established in 1966 by the Yale Swimming Association and is awarded for outstanding contribution to Yale Swimming by an underclassman. The award recognizes the former Yale freshman swim coach. Bicer took eighth in the 100-yard butterfly and ninth in the 100-yard freestyle while Veatch was 11th in the 100-yard butterfly and 17th in the 100-yard freestyle.

Righi also won his second consecutive Phil Moriarty Prize. The award honors former Yale varsity swim coach and United States Olympic Coach, Phil Moriarty. It was established in 1969 by the Yale Swimming Association and is awarded to that upper class member of the men's varsity team who has contributed immeasurably to the Yale Swimming tradition by his dedication and personal achievement. Righi has competed at the NCAA Championships each of his four years and earned 17 All-Ivy honors.

Junior Craig Steen earned the M. Davies Award for the second consecutive year. The prize was donated by the family of Melindi Davies, class of 1998, and is awarded for outstanding performance in breaststroke swimming. Steen broke the school record in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events. The 200-yard breaststroke event was the oldest record in Yale history, dating back to 1983.

McCloskey also earned the Tim Jecko Award. The award is for outstanding performances in the individual medley. Jecko, a member of the 1956 United States Olympic Team, won many national championships and held many records in freestyle, butterfly and the individual medley. It was established in 2004 in honor of Tim Jecko '59 by the Yale Class of 1959 for outstanding performances in the individual medley. Jecko, a member of the 1956 United States Olympic Team, won many national championships and held many records in freestyle, butterfly and the individual medley. McCloskey took fifth in the 400-yard individual medley at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championship, earning an NCAA B cut time.

Tom Wagner earned the Robert J. H. Kiphuth Award. The award honors former Yale varsity swim coach and United States Olympic Coach, Robert J.H. Kiphuth. It was established in 2003 by the Yale Swimming Association and is awarded to that individual who has shown outstanding service, dedication and loyalty to Yale University and the Yale Swimming Program. Wagner plays a key role in the administration of home meets and helps run the timing and results.

Recognition was also given for the 11 school records that were set during the season. Righi was honored for setting records in the 50- (18.82) and 100-yard (41.71) freestyle events and the 100-yard backstroke (46.32). In the 100-yard breaststroke, both Steen (55.99) and senior Matt Sweitzer (56.11) improved on the old record of 56.84 from 2007. Steen also was recognized for his new 200-yard breaststroke record (2:01.76). Pool was recognized for his record in the 100-yard butterfly (47.41) while Scheid was honored in the 200-yard butterfly (1:46.54). Pool, Bicer, Veatch and Righi also broke the school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:19.68) while Bicer, Righi, Robinson and Pool teamed up for a new all-time best in the 400-yard freestyle relay (2:55.28). Bicer, Pool, Righi and Sweitzer also teamed up to set new all-time marks in the 200- (1:28.21) and 400-yard (3:14.09) medley relays.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity

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