Going into the final day of the Ivy League Championships, the women’s swimming and diving team was clinging onto third place with a four-point lead over Penn (600-596). But despite an inspiring final day of competition, the Bulldogs were passed by both Columbia and Penn and took fifth place at the meet with 860 points, just 34 points shy of third place.
Princeton netted 1,562 points to win the Championships, their 10th title in the last 12 years, while Harvard finished second with 1,436 points.
“Thirty-four points can be made up in so many ways,” head coach Cristina Teuscher said. “We were all a bit disappointed, but I couldn’t be prouder of all the girls. All of them stepped up their game and we saw some amazing time drops. I really couldn’t have asked for more.”
The relay team of Cynthia Tsay ’13, Ileana Lucos ’11, Hayes Hyde ’12 and Joan Weaver ’13 opened the meet for the Bulldogs with a third-place finish in the 200-yd freestyle relay.
Molly Albrecht ’13 and Weaver were the next Bulldogs in the water, competing in the 500-yd freestyle. In the B final, Weaver surged passed Harvard’s Meghan Leddy to take the lead and went on to win the heat with a time of 4:52.70 to place ninth overall. In the A final, Albrecht had slightly different tactics and battled for the lead from the start. But after a final surge from Penn’s Shelby Fortin, Albrecht finished second with a time of 4:47.14, a one-second improvement over her performance last year.
In the 200-yd IM, one of the fastest events of the meet with six swimmers under the NCAA B cut, Hyde touched sixth with a season-best time of 2:01.82. Lucos swam the event for the first time this season against Ivy League competition and placed 13th in 2:04.28. In the C final, Liao finished with a time of 2:03.80, placing 18th overall.
The Bulldogs wrapped up the first day of competition with a second-place finish in the 400-yd medley relay with a time of 3:44.18. Albrecht split 56.26 for the backstroke leg, a time which would have placed her in the top eight of the 100-yd backstroke if she had swum the individual event. Both Liao and Hayes had breakthrough performances with splits nearly a second faster than their best times. Liao split 1:02.12 for the breaststroke leg and Hyde split 54.47 for the butterfly leg, her first time breaking 55 seconds. Weaver anchored the relay in 51.33.
The team of Tsay, Liao, Hyde and Lucos kicked off the second day of competition with a third-place finish in the 200-yd medley relay. They touched in 1:42.98, the squad’s fastest time this season.
Freshman Courtney Randolph ’14 had a breakout swim in the 400-yd IM, dropping two seconds from her prelim time to place sixth in 4:23.92. Hyde continued her stellar meet with a third-place finish in the 100-yd butterfly with a time of 54.53.
The Bulldogs had a strong showing in the 200-yd freestyle, putting four swimmers in the top 16. Albrecht was the fastest Bulldog, finishing third in 1:48.43. Lucos was fifth in 1:49.23, Tsay was 10th in 1:50.82, and Weaver was 16th in 1:53.91.
In the 200-yd backstroke, Albrecht matched Harvard’s Leddy and Princeton’s Meredith Monroe stroke-for-stroke through the entire race and snuck her hand to the wall for second place with a time of 1:56.72, only six-hundredths of a second behind Leddy who won the event.
A one-and-a-half seconds separated the top five spots in the 100-yd breaststroke. Liao swam a personal-best time to finish third with a time of 1:02.13.
“I was hoping to beat the girl from Brown [who ended up finishing second in the event] … But with the 100, it’s always over before I realize what’s going. It’s really quick … And honestly, I feel like I only have one speed of breaststroke,” Liao said.
That one speed of breaststroke almost sent Liao home with an Ivy League Championship title in the 200-yd breaststroke. Liao finished just .35 seconds behind Princeton’s Andrea Kropp, an Olympic Trial qualifier, with a time of 2:12.64 for second place. It was Liao’s personal best in the event.
“I was really inspired by [Albrecht’s] backstroke swim,” Liao said. “She did really, really well. After that, I thought if she can put herself out there and not leave anything behind, I could too.”
Only a few minutes later, Hyde dove in for the 200-yd butterfly. She was motivated by the memory of the meet two years ago, when, as a freshman she won the event because her closest competitor, Harvard’s Kate Mills, had an asthma attack when her goggles fell off in the middle of the race.
“I wanted to win this one for real this time,” Hyde said.
And that she did. Not only did she defeat Mills and win the race this year, her time of 1:57.74 was an NCAA B qualifying time that currently seeds her 28th at NCAAs.
“I felt that I was the one in control of the race,” Hyde explained. “I made a move in the third 50, but she was sticking with me. But I did more underwater kicks than I’ve ever done. I don’t know what possessed me but off that turn I was like, ‘she cannot catch me,’ and I pulled away. It was surreal. It was a great feeling to finally feel validated with the victory.”
After disappointing 10th- and 14th-place finishes on the 3-mtr board on Thursday, divers Rachel Rosenberg ’12 and Paige Meneses ’13 came back to finish third and fifth on the 1-mtr board on Saturday. Only one point separated Rosenberg from first place.
“I really wanted to win after the 3-mtr,” Rosenberg said. “I was so mad about that. But on the 1-mtr I was diving really well and just needed 7.5s or eights on my inward one-and-a-half pike, which I knew I could do, but I got sevens.”
Teuscher was pleased with her team’s performance but is already looking to next year.
“We’re hungry,” Teuscher said. “We walk away from this meet knowing our potential. We know where we’re heading. In three to five years, we’re aiming to win this. We’re on that road.”
Over spring break, Rosenberg and Meneses will compete at the diving NCAA Zones in Anapolis, Md., while Hyde may compete at the NCAA Championships in Austin, Tex. pending other B cut qualifiers.