Beginning on Wednesday, the undefeated Yale women’s swimming and diving team will embark on its quest to capture an elusive Ivy League Championship. After rolling to a 16–0 record in dual meets this season, the Bulldogs turn their focus to avenging a narrow loss to Harvard last season and hoisting the championship for the first time since 1997.
The last time the Elis finished atop the Ivy League standings, gas prices hovered around $1.15 and Yale’s campus was filled with an eclectic mix of frosted tips, wallet chains and pagers. But chokers are back, and so are the Bulldogs. Yale’s recent domination of both Harvard and Princeton at the annual tri-meet, in which the hosts produced an unprecedented 16 first-place finishes, has established the Elis as the clear favorite heading into Brown’s Kathrine Moran Aquatics Center for the four-day championship.
“We are looking forward to competing in the Ivy Championships this week at Brown,” head coach James Henry said. “It is a great opportunity to take another step forward in reaching our team goals. Our success will be determined by the contributions from all of the 22 students competing.”
Yale found itself in a similar but less commandeering position last season entering the Ivy League Championships at Princeton. The Bulldogs had completed an undefeated regular season with impressive victories over Princeton and Harvard for their first HYP victory in 19 years and also entered the apex of their season favored to prevail. Even though the Elis showcased the most top-end talent, capturing a meet-high 11 gold medals in comparison to the Crimson’s six last season, Harvard’s depth proved decisive as it clinched its 12th program title at the end of three hard-fought days of swimming.
This year, however, the Elis are determined not to let their Ancient Eight rival grab the hardware. Over the past week in which the Bulldogs were idle from competition, the team began tapering, a practice technique involving decreasing yardage to facilitate optimal rest and recovery. With fresh muscles and no shortage of confidence from their dismantling of the Crimson, the Elis will again enter the conference championship as favorites on paper — but some nerves still persist leading up to the big moment.
“Of course there are nerves, but I know that we are prepared to do extremely well,” swimmer Kina Zhou ’17 said. “Ohio State was a practice run for the prelims-finals meet format that Ivies also follows, so we know that we have done it before, and can do it even better this time.”
When the Elis take to the pool beginning tomorrow, they will do so with a roster trimmed down to 16 swimmers and six divers, as is standard for Ivy League Championship protocol. Entering the meet, the Bulldogs own 13 of the top times in the 20 common events between the Ancient Eight schools, and the Bulldog divers trail only Cornell in the 1-meter and 3-meter events.
One key area where Yale can look to gain momentum early is in the relays, where the Bulldogs have excelled so far this season. Wednesday’s competition includes only the 800-meter freestyle and 200-meter medley relays, events in which Yale boasts the third- and first-best times, respectively, in the Ivy League.
An important readdition to Yale’s squad this week will be swimmer Destiny Nelson ’19, who did not compete at the HYP meet due to illness. Nelson holds the top time in the Ivy League in both the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys, and looks to bolster a Bulldog lineup that outscored the Crimson and the Tigers by a factor of three at HYP two weeks ago.
“We are all very excited about the upcoming few days,” Bella Hindley ’19 said. “The team has been feeling great in the water and we can’t wait for the racing to start.”
The Ivy League Championship begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday and continues through Saturday.