February 22, 2006

Bulldogs Head to Ivy Championship

Feb. 22, 2006

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - This weekend the Yale women's swimming and diving team will travel north to Harvard's Blodgett Pool for the 2006 Women's Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships. The Bulldogs are looking to close out their season on a high note after finishing fifth in the Ivy League standings, going 3-4 in dual meets.

Leading the Yale squad that will travel to Cambridge, Mass. is New Jersey native Moira McCloskey. McCloskey is looking to defend her title in the 200-yard backstroke and is also seeded first for the 200-yard individual medley and second for the 100-yard backstroke. At last year's championship meet she was the seventh- best individual swimmer, amassing 84 points.

Fellow junior Meg Gill has also been swimming strongly coming into the championship meet. Despite a seventh-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly at the H-Y-P meet on Feb. 5, Gill's season-best time of 57.20 is good enough to give her the three seed for the event.

"This is a strong team we have heading up to Harvard, and both Moira and Meg are progressing well going into the meet," said head coach Frank Keefe. "We had at least 25 we could have sent, and that is a nice position to be in."

The Bulldogs will also have a strong freshman class on show this weekend. Rookies Marilee Kiernan and Katie French will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke, and are looking to carry over momentum from their respective first- and second-place finishes against Brown on Feb 10. Another freshman, Brenna Davis, has been swimming close behind McCloskey in the backstroke events all season and is looking to perform well in her first Ivy Championship.

But perhaps the biggest story to come out of the class of 2009 is local Laura Strittmatter. Strittmatter attended nearby Hopkins School, where she set the school record in the 500-yard freestyle. In her first season at Yale, she has excelled in even longer distances. This weekend she will be competing in the 1000-yard and 1650-yard freestyle events, and is quietly becoming one of the standout distance swimmers in the Ivy League.

"Laura has surprised everybody this season," Keefe said. "She was effectively a walk-on at the beginning of the year, and is now seeded very highly for the Ivy Championship."

While the freshmen are competing in their first Ivy Championship meet, this event is the last for senior Megan Bailey. Bailey will be competing in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday and will be recognized in a ceremony for all seniors before the 6 p.m. finals on Saturday night. Fellow senior and team captain Holly Mazar will also be recognized, but is unfortunately unable to compete this weekend.

The Bulldogs know all about how tough the competition will be this weekend, having faced all seven Ivy League teams in dual meets over the course of the season. Host Harvard is the defending champion and, after taking the dual meet title, is tipped by many to win. Close behind is Princeton, who has dominated women's swimming in the Ivy League recently, winning the Ivy Championship for five consecutive years from 2000 to 2004.

"Harvard and Princeton will obviously be tough to beat," Keefe said. "But we have to focus on swimming the times we know we can swim. At a championship event like this one, you can't worry about what other schools are going to do in each event."

Behind Harvard and Princeton, there could be a vicious battle for third place this weekend. The Bulldogs expect to be in the thick of it, along with Penn, Brown and Columbia. In dual meets this season, Yale lost by just 3 points to Penn and by 22 points to Columbia, but managed to defeat Brown at home two weeks ago. With two weeks to prepare for the event, the Bulldogs are looking for some fast times to put them ahead of the tough competition from around the Ancient Eight.

"Our ultimate goal this weekend is for everyone to swim a personal best time in their event," Keefe said.

The Bulldogs will begin competition on Thursday at 11 a.m. They are hoping to get their hands on the Frank Keefe Trophy, awarded to the winning team of the championship. The trophy is named after Yale's Hall of Fame head coach, but has never been lifted by a Yale team. Competition runs from Thursday to Saturday. For a complete schedule of events, directions to Blodgett Pool, and online results, visit www.swimindex.com/meets/2006/ivies/.

Report Filed by Jamie Cordes '07, Yale Sports Publicity

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