Walking into the Nutmeg Invitational at the Robert Kiphuth Memorial Exhibition Pool last weekend seemed like traveling to an away meet. The familiar Yale blue and white was overshadowed by hordes of Syracuse orange, Boston College maroon and gold, and the purple and gold of Williams College. The damper that a crowded pool and impending finals put on the Bulldogs led to an overall performance that was not up to their usual standards, but several Elis were still able to post good times and even some wins.
Though no team scores were kept throughout the meet, Yale’s women swimmers posted three wins and another five second-place showings. Though the results were mixed, the Bulldogs were missing one of their top swimmers, Moira McCloskey ’07, who was competing at the U.S. Open in Auburn, Ala.
The meet started off slowly for the Bulldogs, with the Eli A team finishing eighth in the 200-yard freestyle relay. One of the 500-yard freestyle heats began with Emily Cole ’09 holding an early lead, only to slip behind after a few laps to eventual heat and event winner Lisa Wittich of Syracuse. The last heat of the 200-yard individual medley saw Megan Bailey ’06 narrowly miss a second-place finish in the event.
Yale was shut out of the top three spots in the last two swimming events of the day. But Ali Jones ’08 provided some first-day glory, winning the 3-meter diving competition handily to close out the first day of competition.
The Bulldogs began Sunday with another slew of near misses. Nicole Swaney ’08 posted a time in 200-yard freestyle just two one-hundredths of a second shy of first, and Meg Gill ’07 was close behind. Cole finished third in the 1650-yard freestyle. Marilee Kiernan ’09 and Katie French ’09 took third and fourth, respectively, in the 100-yard breaststroke.
In McCloskey’s absence, no Eli was able to finish better than 13th in the 100-yard backstroke. But Brenna Davis ’09 filled in for the junior in the longer distance, finishing third in the 200.
Swaney, Laura Aronsson ’08, Caroline Dowd ’08 and Gill combined to take the 800-yard freestyle relay. Jones was unable to repeat her first-day win, but managed to capture second in the 1-meter diving competition.
The highlight of the day was Kiernan’s time in the 200-yard breaststroke, a season best and enough to pull out a win in the event. Blake Walsh ’09 placed second in the 200-yard butterfly, and Gill, Alexis Mann ’09, Mairen Foley ’09 and Katelyn Kane ’08 provided a second-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay to close out the Invite.
Though Yale placed in the top two in less than half the events, Yale head coach Frank Keefe said he was still pleased with the results.
“You can get an idea of what people should focus on for championships,” he said. “Winning relays was not as important as seeing how some young and injured swimmers performed.”
The team’s performance can also be explained by the circumstances of the meet. Keefe said the motivation for swimmers is not as strong when points are not at stake, especially with the beginning of reading period and preparations for final papers and exams. He said he released a few swimmers from their normally heavy training schedule for this meet.
Laura Aronsson ’08 said the meet, while not as important in the long-run as the Ivy contests, was still valuable experience.
“It’s the meet that we mostly focus on individual performance and giving people opportunities to swim events they want to,” she said. “Right now it’s an intense time of training, so our bodies are really broken down, so it’s hard to get us to swim really fast.”
Meanwhile, competing more than 1,000 miles away from her teammates, McCloskey swam the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes, finishing 13th of 41 in the 200 and 21st of 24 in the 100. Her 200-yard backstroke time was a personal best, made more impressive by her lack of rest before the event.
“I know that the whole team was proud and surprised how fast she could go since we hadn’t had any rest,” Aronsson said. “It’s pretty motivating for the rest of us.”
The Bulldogs next travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 2 for the Puerto Rico Invite, where the Elis are defending champions. Keefe said the meet will provide an opportunity for heavy training, with six hours of swimming a day.