Swimmers face off in intrasquad meet

Their only competition might have been fellow Elis, but the Yale swimmers did not race any slower.

The men’s and women’s swimming teams kicked off their 2005 seasons with the Bulldog Cup, an intrasquad meet held yesterday and last Wednesday. With less than two weeks until the regular season begins, the competition gave coaches a chance to see the 2005-06 squads in racing form for the first time this fall.

On the women’s side, Moira McCloskey ’07 won the meet overall, with Blake Walsh ’09 and Alexis Mann ’09 coming in second and third, respectively. Dennen McCloskey ’09 and Alex Righi ’09 tied for first for the men, followed by Andrew Foss ’07 in third. The competition was scored by awarding points based on how close times were to the Yale record in the event.

The Bulldogs will be putting one of their youngest teams in recent memory in the pool, especially for the women, whose Class of 2009 totals 17 swimmers and divers. The young female Elis have big shoes to fill after the graduation of Caroline Stephenson ’05, last year’s captain and squad leader in the 400-yard individual medley and 200-yard breaststroke. The team also lost Becca Knicely ’05, its record-holder in the 100-yard butterfly. Stephenson and Knicely also formed two legs of the team record-holding 400-yard medley relay team.

Though the women may have graduated some of their top swimmers, several returning team members said the freshmen have not disappointed.

“I was definitely impressed with how they performed,” Gill said. “As a whole, the freshman class tends to do well at these meets, and they definitely did prove themselves.”

Gill said Mann, who won the 100-yard freestyle, could fill Knicely’s sprint freestyle spot, and Aidan McKinley ’09 could lead the team in the 100 fly. Katie French ’09 and Marilee Kiernan ’09 also impressed in breaststroke, and could help fill the gap Stephenson left, she said.

McCloskey said Walsh could emerge as a new team leader.

“Stephenson could pretty much swim anything, and now it looks like Blake Walsh could take her place,” McCloskey said.

While the women must adjust to a roster half composed of freshmen, the men enjoy a fairly stable transition into the 2005 season, having lost few of their top swimmers. The men will field 11 new swimmers this year, and some have already made their mark. Righi, who comes to the team on the heels of being named Male High School Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine, set the meet record in the 100-yard backstroke. Dennen McCloskey and Chris Pool ’09 also won events at the Bulldog Cup.

“This is the best incoming class I think we’ve seen,” Geof Zann ’07 said.

Though no school records were broken during the two-day meet, the Eli speed was particularly impressive considering the team’s training regimen in recent weeks. Zann said some members of the team have been practicing eight to 10 times a week. Moira McCloskey said the team only needs to work on starts and turns as it moves from practice mode into racing form.

Team members said the Cup results bode well for the future. Both squads finished the 2004 Ivy League season in fourth place, but Zann said this freshman class is strong enough to help bring the men’s team further up in the rankings. Both teams will travel to New York City on Nov. 11 to take on Columbia.

“We’re fired up for it,” Zann said. “Whenever Columbia and Yale get in the pool, it’s a ‘knockdown, drag-out fight,’ as our coach calls it. There’s no one we’d rather beat, though, so I think we’re ready.”

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