The men’s swimming team has been just missing all season. On Nov. 23, the Bulldogs lost their first dual meet to Johns Hopkins by 10 points. Last weekend, the Elis opened their EISL season with a 29-point loss to Navy, and fell by nine to Cornell.
But this weekend, the Elis finally swam up to par, and ran circles around two league rivals.
Saturday, the Elis (4-3, 2-2 EISL) rebounded to a .500 league mark with a 181-107 decision over Penn (2-5, 1-5) and a 233-67 thrashing of Dartmouth (0-7, 0-7). The night earlier, the Bulldogs made an even bigger statement at Fairfield, crushing the Stags (2-6), 197-43.
“All year we’ve been swimming to the level of competition, whether we’ve been better or worse,” captain Dave Lange ’05 said. “Today we stopped that. We weren’t afraid to blow them out of the water when we got the chance to.”
The story of the Bulldog victories on Saturday was simple: depth and winning close races. The Elis swept two races, with Billy Rubenstein ’08, Mike Slater ’07 and Alex Goldsmith ’08 taking the top three spots in the 200-yard individual medley and Quinn Fitzgerald ’05, Andrew Foss ’07 and Kent Garber ’07 finishing one-two-three in the 500-yard freestyle.
The duo of Fitzgerald and Foss would come through again with a one-two finish in the 200-yard freestyle, marking the second meet in a row that the pair has taken the top two spots in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyles.
Foss would not stay content with a pair of runner-up finishes. The sophomore made a late charge in the 100-yard freestyle to catch teammate Kieran Locke ’06 and touched the wall less than three-tenths of a second before his junior teammate.
Garber would win one of his own by taking the 1000-yard freestyle, with classmate Mark Fisher ’07 right behind him. In the 200-yard backstroke, Geof Zann ’07 and Billy Rubenstein ’08 touched the wall first and second, respectively, and Matt Thunell ’07 touched the wall a mere two-hundreths of a second before Ben Dzialo ’07 to take first place in the 100-yard butterfly.
All in all, the Bulldogs posted five one-two finishes — not including the pair of sweeps.
“It definitely isn’t a couple of guys,” Lou Krasenics ’07 said. “The talent is much more spread out this year.”
The Elis added three more individual wins. Zann took the 100-yard backstroke — his second win of the night — and Dzialo won the 200-yard butterfly.
In diving, Jeff Lichtenstein ’08 followed up a near miss on the 1-meter board with a win in the 3-meter competition. Doug Scott ’08 took third both times, helping to put the Elis in good standing on the scoreboard early in the meet.
The Bulldogs finished up business with a distinct exclamation point, with the foursome of Locke, Foss, Zann and Fitzgerald winning the 400-yard freestyle relay for the 11th and final Eli victory.
The other major factor in the Elis’ tremendous performance was their consistent ability to break out of packs and get to the wall first — even when it meant beating each other. Many swimmers said that last weekend’s losses to Navy and Cornell were particularly frustrating because the Bulldogs kept getting touched out.
Several swimmers attributed the difference to a combination of being at home and a week’s worth of practice.
“It’s just being in our pool, just having more energy than last week,” Lange said.
Lange added that the team had worked on starts, finishes and turns all week.
Members of the two opposing teams said that they saw that the Elis had come to the pool wanting to win.
“They swam really well,” Dartmouth’s Noah Zandon said. “Their guys brought a lot of intensity. It looked like they were ready to swim.”
Friday’s meet with nearby Fairfield would prove to be one-sided. The best Stag performance came from Robert Willhoit, who notched two runner-up finishes. Morgan Locke ’08 was a double-winner for the Elis in the flawless victory.
With the confidence of two big league wins under their collective belt, the Bulldogs now face the toughest non-championship meet of the season, the H-Y-P meet. The Elis will play host to undefeated Harvard (5-0, 5-0) and similarly unblemished Princeton (5-0, 3-0).
Despite the portent of next weekend’s meet, Yale head coach Frank Keefe was quick to downplay the contest’s importance relative to the EISL Championships, held at the beginning of March.
“It’s just another dual meet,” Keefe said. “Everyone at Yale gets excited when you play Princeton and Harvard. But we have to keep it in perspective — it’s just part of getting ready for the championship.”