Yale men’s swimming captain George Gleason ’01 finished his Yale career by doing what he has done so many times in the past four years — setting a new school record.
Gleason’s final competition as a Bulldog swimmer got off to an inauspicious start last Thursday, but he rebounded and capped his Yale career with an 11th-place finish in the finals of the 200-meter backstroke at the NCAA Swimming Championships in College Station, Texas, earning him All-American honors.
The event reminded Gleason of last month’s Eastern Regional Championships, where he also started poorly but finished on a high note.
“The NCAAs were a lot like the Easterns in that I did not swim as well as I would have liked, but managed to turn things around by the end of the meet,” Gleason said.
This past Saturday, Gleason qualified for the finals of the 200-meter backstroke by finishing 12th out of the 32 competitors in the preliminary swim. Then, in the finals, his time of 1:44.73 placed him 11th and earned him distinction as an All-American. His time was also a personal best and an all-time Yale record. Texas Longhorn Nate Dusing captured the top spot with a time of 1:42.84.
Gleason attributed his success in the backstroke to a number of factors.
“I feel more confident that I can consistently swim well in the 200 back than the other two races,” Gleason said. “Also, knowing that it was potentially my last race as a Yale swimmer, my last chance to make All-American, and the fact that a Harvard swimmer was in the lane next to mine made me more focused than earlier in the meet.”
On Friday, Gleason’s time of 1:38.72 was only good enough for 33rd out of 48 competitors in the 200-meter freestyle. Texas’ Scott Goldblatt won the event with a time of 1:35.36, which is a new pool record.
The competition got off to a slow start Thursday in the 200-meter individual medley — in which he was seeded 15th — but finished a disappointing 35th place out of 47 swimmers with a time of 1:48.98. The event was won by Texas swimmer Tom Hanna, who finished with a time of 1:44.76.
Gleason’s first NCAA appearance put an end to his illustrious Yale career in which he set school records in the 200-meter freestyle, 400-meter individual medley, 100-meter backstroke and, most recently, the 200-meter backstroke. He was also part of the 800-meter freestyle relay record-setting team. It is fitting, then, that Gleason — who competed for the Virgin Islands at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games — finished off his career doing what he has done so many times in the past, rewriting the Yale record books.
“Finishing my career with a lifetime best time, a Yale record and All-America honors at NCAAs was an amazing and emotional experience,” Gleason said.
But it wasn’t Gleason’s greatest swimming memory, which came at the 1999 Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet held at Yale.
“I anchored the final relay against Harvard’s top sprinter, swam faster than I thought I could at the time and touched him out,” Gleason said. “Considering the emotion of the meet and the support of my entire team, this was my fondest memory.”
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