It wasn’t supposed to be this easy.
Where last year’s women’s swimming and diving team fell to Brown, 169-131, the seemingly weaker — by dual-meet records, at least — 2005-06 squad beat the Bears (4-3, 4-3 Ivy), 160-140, on Friday. But the final score does not tell the true tale of the Bulldogs’ (8-4, 3-4) success this weekend. Brown trailed almost entirely from the get-go, only gaining the lead once. Even so, the meet was not decided until the second-to-last event, the 200-yard individual medley.
Competing in front of the home crowd certainly helped. Every time an Eli swimmer would appear to slow down, members of the men’s team — watching shirtless from the stands — would bang their kickboards on the railings of the stands to give the home team a jolt of energy.
But an energized crowd does not win dual meets; fast times do. And Friday was replete with fast times, as several Yale swimmers set personal-best times and propelled the team to first-place finishes in half of the afternoon’s events.
The meet began with a bang. Moira McCloskey ’07 led off the Yale 200-yard medley relay team with a backstroke leg just off her H-Y-P time a week before. Caroline Dowd ’08, Meg Gill ’07 and Alexis Mann ’09 continued the strong run, each swimming faster than they had at H-Y-P, where swimmers usually see some of their fastest times until Ivies, to bring in a finish almost one and a half seconds ahead of Brown’s best.
Laura Strittmatter ’09 brought in a time in the 1,000-yard freestyle more than seven seconds better than her H-Y-P performance, enough to take first this weekend. But despite several more strong Yale finishes, including two wins, Brown ate away at the Eli lead, edging ahead by three points after no Bulldog placed higher than fourth in the 1-meter diving competition.
But the scare for Yale would not last past the following event, with McCloskey bringing in a victory in the 200-yard backstroke to put the Bulldogs back on top. Two more events saw Eli victories, but Yale swimmers said it was not until the penultimate event that the meet’s outcome was sealed.
“Right after the 200 IM we were pretty set,” Mann said.
Though Brown would go on to take first, third and fifth in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, McCloskey, Brenna Davis ’09 and Megan Bailey ’06 took first, second and fourth, respectively, in the 200-yard individual medley to put the Elis up for good.
In past years, the Brown meet has seen a tired Yale squad just a week removed from H-Y-P flounder in the face of a team that has performed well in recent years. But Yale’s swimmers did not rest for H-Y-P this year, swimmers said, preventing the subsequent slump that had characterized other years.
With final results for the season coming only from Ivy Championships, the real benefit of the triumph was psychological.
“We definitely have a lot more confidence because Brown beat Penn and Columbia by a lot,” Caroline Dowd ’08 said, referring to two teams Yale failed to beat earlier in the season. “Everyone has a positive attitude and is looking forward to Ivies.”
The energy behind the team’s performance came even before seeing the boisterous crowd in the stands. Katie French ’09 said Yale head coach Frank Keefe gave a speech before the meet that propelled the Elis forward.
“He just thanked the seniors and was really upbeat, really encouraging,” she said. “Everyone was feeling the positive energy.”
The meet marked the last home event for the team’s two seniors, captain Holly Mazar ’06 and Bailey.
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