Due to traffic, it took Columbia an extra hour to arrive at the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool Friday night. But the Yale women’s swimming team was more than willing to wait to win a meet it had not won since 2001.
With over 100 spectators in support — including a shirtless Yale men’s swim team — the Elis (1-0, 1-0 Ivy) started their season with a resounding 177-123 victory over Columbia (0-1, 0-1 Ivy). The Bulldogs dominated, winning 12 of the 16 events swum.
The final score is the exact reverse of last year’s tally, when the Lions handed Yale a season-opening loss to start the 2003 season.
“This is an amazing start to the season,” captain Caroline Stephenson ’05 said. “The whole team riles up a lot more when we start by winning.”
The Eli divers set the tone for the meet in the one-meter competition. Through four rounds of diving, Columbia’s Teresa Herrmann led the way with 175.49 points, nearly 15 points ahead of Melanie Loftus ’05.
But Loftus nailed her fifth dive, an inward 1.5 pike, to move within three points of Herrmann, and her final dive — a back 1.5 with 1.5 twists — was good for 47.67 points and the come-from-behind win.
The rest of the first half of the meet was fairly even. Elis Cristina Hession ’07, Moira McCloskey ’07 and Katelyn Kane ’08 took the 200-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard butterfly, respectively, while Columbia swimmers took the 1,000-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke and the 50-yard freestyle. With eight events down, the Elis led by the slim margin of 78.5-71.5.
“I don’t think we’d ever consider the meet won by that point or think, ‘Oh we’re safe,'” McCloskey said. “We just decided we’d continue on what we’d started and try to get faster.”
The Bulldogs would prove to have reason for optimism, coming through with a strong second-half.
Loftus started the second half off on the right foot with her first dive in the three-meter competition, a 46.50-point back dive pike to take the early lead. The senior held the lead through all six rounds, posting a score of 297.75 for the win.
Meg Gill ’07 took the 100-yard free, and McCloskey added a victory in the 200-yard back to give the Bulldogs a 26-point lead with six events remaining. But the Lions stood to gain ground in the next two events — the 200-yard breaststroke and the 500-yard freestyle.
The 200-yard breaststroke saw the rematch of Caroline Dowd ’08 and Columbia’s Amy Krakauer — the winner of the 100-yard distance. Lion swimmer Susannah Knox took the early lead but faded quickly, and Dowd took over at the halfway mark of the race.
Dowd maintained a nearly one-second lead over Krakauer until the final lap, when the Columbia freshman made her charge. But the Eli freshman held on to touch the wall first by one-hundredth of a second.
Kirsten Cartoski ’07 added a third-place finish, and Holly Mazar ’06 took fifth to extend the Bulldog lead to 33 points.
Columbia distance freestyle star Lauren Morford took the 500-yard freestyle, but Hession, Nicole Swaney ’08 and Lauren Aronsson ’08 took second, third, and fourth, respectively, to negate the Lions’ gain.
The Elis would not lose another race and finished the individual contests with an impressive sweep in the 200-yard individual medley from McCloskey, Stephenson and Dowd. The win was McCloskey’s third of the day.
One undeniable factor in the Eli performance was the presence of the men’s team in the stands. The men alternated between doing the wave, banging kickboards against the walls, swinging their T-shirts above their heads and chanting such slogans as, “Bull-dog re-lays.”
“We’re just trying to get the girls fired up and get the best out of them,” Yale swimmer Kieran Locke ’06 said during the meet. “We give them the support we can.”
The Lions said that they were proud of their performance, despite their loss.
“We swam really well,” Columbia head coach Diana Caskey said. “Yale just swam better tonight.”
While the win was a positive sign for the season to come, Yale head coach Frank Keefe asserted that his team had to see Friday’s victory as more of a starting point than anything else.
“We have to look at what we’ve done; we have to continue to lift the level of our training and swim better in meets,” he said. “We can’t sit back and say ‘We beat Columbia; we’re going to have a great season.'”