The men’s swimming team, touted for a strong recruiting class of 11 freshmen, had a disappointing start to its winter three weeks ago when the Elis fell to Columbia in their season opener. But the Bulldogs bounced back to gain momentum and emerge triumphant from two Thanksgiving contests, one week before an unprecedented six swimmers will face a strong national field at the US Open.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 0-1 EISL) first dominated the competition at the Patriot Invitational, holding onto first place throughout three days of competition against 11 other teams. They continued their success with a win at Johns Hopkins last Tuesday, soundly defeating the Blue Jays, 181-81.
Yale won the Patriot Invite last year by overtaking Duke in the final relay on the final day, but jumped ahead early in this season’s competition, held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Nov. 18-20. Alex Righi ’09 won the 50-yard freestyle on Friday, in addition to taking home first place finishes in the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 400-yard medley relay.
Righi built on his success in Saturday’s races, winning both the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke. Ben Dzialo ’07 and Chris Pool ’09 finished second and third, respectively, in the 100-yard butterfly.
Colin Stalnecker ’08, who joined Righi, Pool and Andrew Foss ’07 to finish first in the 400-medley relay, said many of the teams that participated in the Patriot Invite rested their swimmers before the event because of the meet’s importance.
“The fact that we were able to compete against them unrested and make a good showing shows a lot about the quality of our team, especially the freshmen,” he said.
The Bulldogs also had little time to rest after the Patriot Invitational, traveling immediately to Baltimore to take on Johns Hopkins Nov. 22. Team members said they lost to the Blue Jays, 136-126, last year because Yale sent its B team instead of the best swimmers. Johns Hopkins, a Division III school, has a swimming pool that is only 4 feet deep, which the Elis said prevented them from clocking their best times.
“Our goal was to destroy them,” Foss said. “Even though we didn’t swim that well, we were happy that we were able to avenge our loss from last year. We tried our best to let the conditions not affect us and just swim the best we could.”
History did not repeat itself, with the Elis losing only two events of 14 in the meet. Righi took the 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. Other multiple winners for the Elis were Foss, who finished first in the 200- and 500-yard free, and Pool, who won both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events.
“I think everyone really stepped up because we were so disappointed after losing to Columbia,” Righi said. “Our eagerness to get home propelled us to work as hard as we could so we could leave. It was a good end to a long week of swimming.”
Foss, Stalnecker, Righi, Dennen McCloskey ’09, Ben Dzialo ’07 and Will Rubenstein ’08 will travel with women’s swimmer Moira McCloskey ’07 to Auburn, Ala., Thursday through Saturday for the US Open. All will compete in individual events and relays against many of the best collegiate swimmers in the country. With their teammates on the road, the remaining Bulldogs will compete in the Nutmeg Invitational at home this Saturday and Sunday.
Righi, who will swim four individual events in addition to relays at the US Open, said head coach Frank Keefe told team members they are seeded well and have the possibility of improving their national ranking.
“Hopefully we will get noticed a bit more,” he said. “I’d rather make a good name for Yale and swim fast as a team than focus solely on my individual results.”