Despite a dubious beginning to the men’s swimming and diving team’s season, freshman achievements and a standout individual performance leave the Elis plenty to build on.
After coming out of the gate slowly against Columbia (1-0, 1-0 EISL), Yale (2-1, 0-1) recovered to dominate both the University of Maine (0-3) and Southern Connecticut State University (0-3) Saturday in New Haven. On Friday at the Uris Swim Center in New York, the Bulldogs were defeated, 191-128, marking Columbia’s first dual meet victory over the Elis in 14 years. Doug Scott ’08 tied for first in the one-meter dive to kick off the meet, but Columbia led the rest of the way, outscoring Yale in 12 of the 17 events.
Alex Righi ’09 said the team has pondered how the Lions were able to swim so well this early in the season.
“I don’t want to come out on one side or against, but there has been some speculation that [the Lions] raced rested swimmers against us,” Righi said. “The Yale team overall had a pretty good meet, and people were going their best times, so it was really surprising that Columbia was going incredibly fast, faster than we were. I can’t say exactly what they did, but they definitely brought their A game.”
Despite the loss, the freshman class made a statement in its first-ever Yale meet. Chris Pool ’09 won the 200-yard fly and took second in the 100-yard event. Dennen McCloskey ’09 claimed the 200-yard backstroke and finished second in the 400-yard individual medley.
Alex Righi ’09 showed why he was named Male High School Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine. Perhaps the most highly touted recruit in the country coming out of Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., with the nation’s fastest times in the 50-yard free and the 100-yard backstroke, Righi swam five events against Columbia. Although he was disqualified from the 100 back, Righi captured the 100-yard freestyle and was second in the 50 free. His opening leg of the 200-yard medley relay gave the team a one-second advantage after the opening leg, and he anchored the 400-yard freestyle relay team to a second-place finish.
Locke said the team is pleased with the rookies’ success.
“[The freshman class] is one of the strongest we’ve had in a while,” he said. “It was really good that they were able to make the transition so well. We’re definitely going to look to them.”
After falling to the Lions, the Elis came home to the Elm City for Saturday’s meet at the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool. The Bulldogs showcased their depth by winning 13 of 16 events, including sweeps of four events.
But while the team’s performance was impressive, the most noteworthy result of the day came on the 1-meter dive springboard. Jeff Lichtenstein ’08 nailed his front two-and-a-half pike and completed both his gainer two-and-a-half and gainer two-and-a-half twister well enough to qualify for the NCAA Zone Championships, where he will have the chance to qualify for Nationals.
Lichtenstein said focusing on the little things allowed him to hit dives he has struggled with in the past.
“When diving, I thought about making small corrections instead of trying to make the perfect dive,” Lichtenstein said. “That combined with not psyching myself out, which I did quite a bit last year. I got past that and was able to dive up to my abilities.”
Although the weekend’s results were mixed, Righi said the Bulldogs are confident in their abilities.
“This weekend was definitely a good stepping stone,” he said. “We went out, swam fast, and despite the fact that we lost by a considerable amount [Friday], we were able to see how much our training has come into play and affected our performance. It definitely bodes well for our future.”