M. swimming comes back big at home

The saying goes, “Don’t get mad, get even.”

There wasn’t much “even” about what the Yale men’s swimming team did to Columbia and Brown this weekend.

After disheartening losses to Harvard and Princeton in last weekend’s H-Y-P tri-meet, the Elis came back in a big way Saturday, beating two league rivals in the team’s final home bout of the season. The Bulldogs (6-5, 4-4 EISL) fared almost identically against both Columbia (5-4, 3-3) and Brown (3-6, 2-5), topping the Bears, 166-75, and denying the Lions, 167-76.

The Elis’ victories create a mess in the Eastern Intercollegiate Swim League, with the Yale men jumping from seventh to a three-way tie for fourth, along with Columbia and Navy.

Leading the way for the Bulldogs yet again was Quinn Fitzgerald ’05. For the third time this semester, Fitzgerald took both the 200- and 500-yard freestyles, albeit in somewhat dramatic fashion this weekend.

Fitzgerald created some space between him and the pack after the first two lengths of the 200-yard freestyle, but a charge from Columbia’s Mike Bentley put him dead-even with the Yale senior at the 150-yard mark. The two men raced together for the final 50 yards, with Fitzgerald edging the Lion swimmer in the final yards to win by a mere 25-hundredths of a second.

At the 500-yard distance, Fitzgerald sat back in fourth well past the midpoint of the 20-length race. But with six lengths to go, the Eli moved up quickly past the trio ahead of him to claim the frontrunner spot. While Columbia’s Tobin White made a run for first towards the end, Fitzgerald hung on to win by six-tenths of a second.

Not bad for a guy who had the flu all last week.

“I probably wouldn’t have swum if it hadn’t been the last chance for us seniors to compete in the Kiphuth Pool,” Fitzgerald said. “It also gives me a lot of confidence going into championships, knowing I put up respectable times without 100 percent health.”

Absent from the 200- and 500-yard freestyles was Fitzgerald’s usual partner-in-crime, Andrew Foss ’07. The sophomore was busy making noise in other events, winning the 100-yard freestyle and taking second in the 50-yard freestyle.

The pair did reunite at the very end of the meet, with Fitzgerald swimming second and Foss anchoring the victorious Yale 400-yard freestyle relay, which also featured brothers Morgan Locke ’08 and Kieran Locke ’05.

All told, the Bulldogs won seven of 13 events. Mike Slater ’07 cruised to his second 200-yard breaststroke win in two weeks, finishing more than two seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

Geof Zann ’07 had a similarly easy time in the 200-yard backstroke. Zann and rookie Billy Rubenstein ’08 took their usual positions at the front of the pack after the first 50 yards and stayed there until the end to take first and second, respectively.

The final event victory went to Jeff Lichtenstein ’08 on the 1-meter board, headlining a strong day for the Eli divers. Lichtenstein’s lead was as large as 33 points after a big start, allowing the freshman to survive two poor dives and hold on to win.

More drama came from Doug Scott ’08, who nailed his final dive to just catch Brown’s Matthew Freitas, passing the Bear by half of a point to finish right behind classmate Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein nearly swept the boards, but he surrendered the lead in the 3-meter event when he almost failed his final dive. Despite the hiccup, Lichtenstein only fell to third, with Scott taking second.

Columbia and Brown swimmers said they expected the Elis to come out swinging after the disappointing H-Y-P losses.

“We knew they were coming off of a big meet last weekend,” Columbia’s Patrick Dunn said. “We knew they’d be pumped.”

But several Yale swimmers said that the big comeback after the overwhelming hype of H-Y-P was not a given.

“Sometimes its tough to follow up such an emotional weekend with more fast swims,” Slater said. “But there was no way we’d let Columbia and Brown swim in our pool without a fight.”

Captain Dave Lange ’05, who referred to the team’s tendency to slip after its biggest dual meet of the season as a “post H-Y-P hangover,” added that the Bulldogs’ performance can be partially attributed to team pride — pride that had undoubtedly taken some shots after a series of close losses earlier this season.

“I know I’m not the only one that just agonizes over the fact that we have five losses on our record,” Lange said. “I know we’d like a chance to do some of those meets over again, but of course, our only chance at redemption is at the Eastern Shore Championships. In all, I think [Saturday] was an excellent display of the character and pride of this team.”

Despite the big performances in the pool, the most memorable aspect of Saturday’s action happened before any Eli hit the water. In the final home meet of their careers, the Yale men’s swimming class of 2005 — Fitzgerald, Lange and teammates John Atkinson, Jeff Kelsey, Tom Lopez, Joe Mack and Robert Schotter — was recognized by head coach Frank Keefe, fellow Bulldog swimmers, and the crowd at the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool.

While the seniors said they feel sentimental to a degree, there seems to be a tacit understanding that there is business to be attended to first.

“I don’t think any of the seniors, myself included, want to get hung up on the emotions of our ‘last time through,’” Lange said. “We still have a lot we want to accomplish in this next month before we hang up the goggles for good.”

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