This weekend, the Yale women’s swim team finished its 2003-2004 season. While the Elis put up their best performance in three years, there were still tears Saturday night.
“It’s really hard,” Paige Harazin ’04 said. “You don’t think it will actually happen, being done with something that’s been part of your life for so long. I love my team — it’s going to be really hard to leave.”
From Thursday to Saturday, the Elis competed in the Ivy League Championship, held at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool. The Elis placed third in the meet with a final score of 1211 points, 146.5 points ahead of Brown in fourth. Princeton won the event for the fifth straight year with 1361 points. Harvard took second with 1344.5.
The Bulldogs’ placement alone does not tell the entire story of their accomplishment. Their third place finish is a one-place improvement from the Bulldogs’ fourth place finish in each of the past two Ivy Championships.
The Bulldogs set several school records this weekend. Becca Knicely ’05 broke a 12-year-old Yale record with her time of 55.28 in the 100-yard butterfly. The Eli 400-yard medley relay team of Moira McCloskey ’07, Caroline Stephenson ’05, Meg Gill ’07 and Harazin reset the bar with a time of 3:50.48. And the 800-yard freestyle relay team of Chase Butler ’07, McCloskey, Cristina Hession ’07 and Harazin rewrote the recordbook with a time of 7:28.51.
Three Elis made it to the top of the podium: Knicely, with her record-setting 100-yard butterfly, Daphna Shafir ’04, with a time of 2:02.27 in the 200-yard butterfly, and Harazin, who repeated her victory in the 200-yard freestyle from last year with a 1:50.27.
Finally, the meet showcased many strong Eli performances. Harazin also took second in the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 2:03.78. Hession was strong in the distance events, earning third places in both the 500- and 1650-yard freestyle. McCloskey took second in the 200-yard backstroke, losing by only .02 seconds to defending champion Michelle Bright of Harvard. Stephenson took third in the 400-yard individual medley and sixth in the 200-yard breaststroke. Kathleen McKeon ’04 not only made it to the finals of the 3-meter diving competition for the first time, but also took third in the event. Laura O’Brien ’04, whose accomplishments in the distance events were often overshadowed by those of her rookie teammate Hession, took second in the 1650-yard freestyle. Her time of 16:47.62 was less than one second away from the national cut time.
“While it would’ve been great to beat Harvard, it would be irrational to be disappointed with our performance,” Knicely said. “Basically everyone on the team stepped it up a notch from their dual-meet swims and raced amazingly well, and if we did our best, we can’t be upset about the points.”
The first day of competition was tough for the Elis. Six bulldogs placed either ninth or tenth, just missing the cut for the final heat. It was also the only day with no Elis winning events. Hession’s 500-yard freestyle, Harazin’s 200-yard individual medley and the 400-yard medley relay were the highlights as Yale took third on the day with 332 points, 63 behind Harvard and 29 ahead of Brown.
Day two was the Elis’ best day of competition. Between the 1000-yard freestyle, the 400-yard individual medley and the 100-yard butterfly, the Bulldogs had seven swimmers in the final heats. Yale picked up 108 points on the 100-yard butterfly alone to move into first place, ahead of Harvard by half of a point.
But despite the record-setting 800-yard freestyle relay and two Eli winners — Harazin and Knicely — Harvard and Princeton stormed back. The Bulldogs finished the day in third again, trailing Harvard 885.5-798. But the Elis extended their lead over Brown to 798-690.5.
Sadly, the last day of competition was fairly anti-climactic for the Elis. After a strong showing in the 1650-yard freestyle, the Bulldogs pulled to within 75 points of Harvard. But in the next event, the 200-yard backstroke, Harvard took first, fourth and fifth places as well as three places in the bonus final to increase their lead to 1034.5-897. Yale did not pull within 100 points of the Crimson again.
Similarly, Brown swimmers took first, second, fourth and fifth places plus two in the bonus final in the 100-yard freestyle to come within 69.5 points of Yale. But Brown had only one swimmer in a final heat in the three races after the 100-yard freestyle, and the Elis increased their lead over the Bears significantly in each of those events. While Brown won the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, for the third straight year, Yale took second and the Bears’ gain was minimal.
Most Yale swimmers were very happy to finish up the season, especially on the high note of the performance at the Ivy Championships. But for the seniors, it was a decidedly ambivalent moment.
“It’s bittersweet,” O’Brien said. “I feel like I’ll have more freedom, but it’s been a big part of my life for so long. It will never be over.”