CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Losing to Harvard is not just a football tradition. For almost 10 years, the men’s swimming team has lost to the Crimson during the annual H-Y-P meet. This weekend was no different.
The Bulldogs (3-4, 2-4 EISL) said they were not surprised by the blowout at the hands of the top two teams in the league — a 248-105 loss to Harvard (7-1, 6-1) and another to Princeton (6-3, 5-1), 254-99. But despite the lopsided scores, team members said they were optimistic for the team’s few remaining meets.
Facing such strong competition, the Elis won just one event outright, but managed to rack up another eight top-three finishes. Standout rookie Alex Righi ’09 won the 100-yard freestyle Saturday in a 44.34-second performance that brought the Yale contingent at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool to its feet. His time was fast enough to make the NCAA championships B cutoff, and Colin O’Brady ’08 said the time was seven-tenths of a second faster than last year’s championship-winning time.
Though Righi’s win came on the second day of competition, Eli fans did not have to wait that long to see a few exciting Yale near-misses. Even so, the meet began with an inauspicious start — a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay, slower than Princeton’s C relay team and nearly 5 seconds behind Harvard’s A team, the winners.
Keeping all hope from being lost, Jeff Lichtenstein ’08 took second in the 1-meter diving competition, and Bulldog parents and friends jumped to their feet as they saw Andrew Foss ’07 narrowly lose to Princeton’s Ryan McCabe in the 200-yard freestyle by just under one-tenth of a second.
Righi was back in full form in the 100-yard backstroke, his best event in high school. He did not disappoint at the collegiate level, turning in another NCAA B qualifying time, a second-place finish of 48.85 seconds. His time was also good enough to break Yale’s existing team record, held since March 2003 by Alex Nash ’04.
The performance was even more impressive considering that Righi had been sick the previous weekend and said he was not feeling completely well this weekend.
But the success did not last. The highest-placing Eli in the 100-yard breaststroke came in sixth. In the 200-yard butterfly, no Yalie placed higher than seventh. A brief respite came yet again in the form of Righi, who placed second in the 50-yard freestyle by 16 hundredths of a second.
The 200-yard individual medley saw another disappointing Yale finish, with no one above 11th place. A seventh-place finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle was followed by a sixth-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay to close out Friday night.
Yale opened the second day of competition without much more promise, starting with a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay, followed by sixth in the 400-yard individual medley. Following Righi’s 100-yard freestyle triumph, Doug Scott ’08 brought in a third-place finish on the 3-meter board. Geof Zann ’07 took third in the 200-yard backstroke in a fast final heat that saw Harvard’s David Cromwell set a Blodgett Pool record.
The Bulldogs earned two more top-three finishes on the day. Foss obtained his second top-three finish of the weekend with third in the 500-yard freestyle, and the 400-yard freestyle relay team of Chris Pool ’09, Foss, Kieran Locke ’06 and Righi also took bronze.
The Elis said they had expected to lose and were pleased with the results nonetheless. O’Brady said some of the Cantab and Tiger swimmers had shaved and rested for this meet while the Elis did not, explaining at least in part the dramatic difference in team scores.
The twin losses sink the Elis further in the league rankings, to fifth. They take on Brown (3-4, 2-4) in two weeks, a team that on Saturday fell to Columbia (7-2, 5-1) in a meet that brought Columbia up to tie Princeton for second in the league, while Harvard sits on top. Team members said they were optimistic about the contest with the Bears, but Tyler Scheid ’09 said the team will still be careful.
“We have to go to the meet thinking we’re going to lose and then take it from them,” he said.
Two weeks later will be Easterns, the league championships. Righi said Easterns will be a different style of meet, requiring a distinct strategy.
“There are more opportunities at Easterns to score points as an individual,” he said. “How everyone swims individually will have a bigger impact.”
Righi will have to make even more of an impact at Easterns than he did this weekend if the Elis are to place high. Team members said he may be able to do just that.
“Righi’s 100 freestyle was the highlight of the meet,” Scheid said. “This was a first look at what his potential is.”