Righi ’09 dominates but team comes up short

Alex Righi ’09 continued to set the pace for the Bulldogs at the 2006 Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League Championships, racing to three school records and wins in two events.

But a few individual performances could not add up to quite the finish the men’s swimming team was hoping to post. Winning was never an option — by the Bulldogs’ own admissions — but the Elis were shooting for an above-average finish. Instead, they fell squarely in the middle of the pack, fifth in a field of nine.

Yale (8-4, 4-4 EISL) came back from sitting in seventh after the first day, but the team’s 925 points were not enough to pass Columbia’s (8-3, 6-2) 990.5 or Cornell’s (8-2, 6-2) fourth-place 984.5 points. Princeton (8-3, 7-1) reclaimed EISL supremacy with 1,393 points to Harvard’s (8-1, 7-1) 1,287.

Less than 70 points out of contention for bronze, the Yale men were done in by a lack of depth. Of the 162 swimmers competing in the championships, held March 2-4 in East Meadow, N.Y., just two of the overall top 25 were Elis. The 50 top-scoring swimmers at the meet included just five from Yale.

“We were expecting it to be a really close meet with Cornell and Columbia,” Andrew Foss ’07 said. “We swam probably as well as we expected to. A couple people could have swum better.”

The first day of competition included some of the men’s best and worst performances. Righi broke a record dating back to 1994 in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 19.83 seconds. Diver Jeff Lichtenstein ’08 took fifth on the 1-meter board, and Foss placed fifth in the 500-yard freestyle, cutting almost 8 seconds from his personal record.

On track to place fourth at day’s end, the Elis stepped up for the 400-yard medley relay, where Righi, Colin O’Brady ’06, Chris Pool ’09 and Foss hoped to earn even more points. But the team was disqualified for a false start between the breaststroke and butterfly legs, dropping Yale into seventh to close out the first day.

“We wanted to get third, to beat Columbia, but after the first day we realized that wasn’t a possibility,” Righi said. “We wanted to show people Yale is improving.”

Righi continued his run on the second day, turning in a school-record-breaking time in the preliminary heats of the 100-yard backstroke, though he only took silver in the evening’s finals. Other solid but not extraordinary performances helped the Bulldogs climb up to fifth, where they would remain even after the next day’s strong showing.

Two more records fell Sunday as Righi reigned in the 100-yard freestyle, setting an EISL and school record with an NCAA B qualifying time of 43.44 seconds. Ben Dzialo ’07 took third in the 200-yard butterfly, but his morning preliminary round time of 1:48.23 bested the previous Yale record by almost a second. Lichtenstein took third on the 3-meter board, but the day’s performances were not enough to lift the Elis out of fifth.

The team garnered several personal best times, and diving represented another high point of the meet. Yale divers were only outscored by Princeton’s over the two days of diving competition.

“Considering where we stand overall, having the divers have the second most points was great,” Pat Hayden ’08 said.

For most, the season ended March 4. But Lichtenstein competed in the Zone A diving championships March 10 and 11, taking ninth in the 1-meter and 12th in the 3-meter competitions. Righi will travel to Atlanta March 23-25 for the NCAA Championships, where he will compete in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke.

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