For the Yale women’s swimming and diving team (8-4), hundreds of hours of training over the last six months — both in and out of the water — will boil down to three days of intense competition at Princeton during this weekend’s Ivy League Championships.

“We’re all really excited to prove that we are one of the top teams in the Ivy League,” Susan Cooke ’03 said.

In preparation for the meet, the Bulldog women have enjoyed a steady decline in workout intensity since their last dual meet a few weeks ago. The opportunity to rest, get healthy, and focus on individual race strategy and technique has been welcomed by a team that spent most of January and February on the road.

“Going away to swim every weekend for six weeks was a challenge that wore on us,” said captain Catey Bradford ’03 in reference to the dual meet schedule. “Getting a break from meets has been a good thing — we are rested and ready to go.”

The Championships, which span three days of preliminaries in the morning and finals for the top 16 swimmers in the evening, will test the resilience and focus of a Bulldog team that is more used to dual meets that conclude in a matter of hours. Whereas winning events in dual meets is the key, “success at the conference meet is about depth,” Paige Harazin ’04 said. Since each of the top 16 positions can score points for a team, it is important to have as many swimmers as possible qualify for the finals in the evenings.

“There is a lot of adrenaline for great swims at night, but we’ll have to swim well in the morning sessions to get there,” Harazin said.

While Yale’s depth should play a significant role in the Bulldogs’ success this weekend, Bradford fears that the rest of the League may be equally deep.

“In the past Harvard, Princeton, and others have had one or two studs and then a drop off, but I feel like the other teams have more depth than usual this year,” she said. “The meet may very well feature a lot stronger competition across the league than in previous years.”

Princeton, undefeated on the season and competing in its home pool, appears to be the team to beat with Harvard close behind. The race for third, however, is wide open. Yale will most likely fight Columbia, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania for the meet’s third spot. A feisty Columbia team at the start of the season surprised the Bulldogs and a let-down against Brown following the H-Y-P meet ended the Elis’ dual meet season. In between those losses, the Bulldogs bested Penn.

“Finishing in the top three would be a very successful meet for us,” Bradford said.

What could prove to be a deciding factor in Yale’s pursuit of a top-three finish is the diving competition, which, on paper, does not have a clear winner.

“On any given day about eight different people are capable of winning either [the one-meter or three-meter springboard] event[s],” diver Kathleen McKeon ’04 said.

Not lost on the swimmers is the importance the divers will have in affecting the overall outcome of the meet. “They’re a huge factor in this meet for us,” Bradford said. “They’ve stepped up in the past and they will again.”

In their efforts to finish in the top three, the Bulldogs’ goals as a team are simple.

“It’s been a tough year for us and my goal is that everyone will have a great meet and post lifetime bests,” Harazin said. “Above all, though, we’ve got to go out and have fun.