The men’s swimming team was able to catch the Blue Devils, but the Blue Jays left the Bulldogs feeling, well, blue.

In its first scored competition of the season, the Elis came out on top in a field of 11 at the Patriot Invitational, held Nov. 19-21 at George Mason University. The Elis trailed Duke for the first two days of the competition before a big last-day surge put the Bulldogs ahead.

The Elis then traveled to Johns Hopkins Nov. 23 and lost a tight contest to the Blue Jays, falling 136-126.

Several Bulldogs said that last week’s meets allowed them to see the team can be very powerful, but needs to constantly focus if it hopes to keep winning.

“The meet at George Mason put a lot of confidence in us, showed us what we’re capable of, and Hopkins showed us that we can’t take anything for granted,” captain Dave Lange ’05 said. “We might not be as versatile as in years past, and we can’t just go into meets like they’re guaranteed wins.”

The weakest Eli performance of the three-day invitational came on the first day, as the Bulldogs sent only three men to event finals. Andrew Foss ’07 had the strongest individual performance, placing second in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:31.78.

Both the Eli the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relay teams placed third. The Bulldogs left the pool in second place, 49 points behind Duke.

The Elis claimed their first event wins on the second day of competition. The strongest performance came in the 200-yard freestyle, where Foss, Kieran Locke ’06 and John Atkinson ’05 finished first, third and fourth, respectively.

Foss beat University of Maryland Baltimore County swimmer Jakub Sroczynski, the meet record-holder, to earn his win.

Foss, Locke and Atkinson then combined — along with Quinn Fitzgerald ’05 — to secure the other Bulldog victory of the day, in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The foursome’s time of 6:47.67 was good for a new meet record.

The Elis amassed 295 points to extend their lead over third-place UMBC to 84.5, but Duke had a big day as well. The Blue Devils led by 78 with one day of competition to go.

But the Bulldogs would make their charge on day three. The Elis outscored Duke by 115 in the final session to claim the come-from-behind win.

The standout individual performance of the day came from Geof Zann ’07. In the 200-yard backstroke, Zann stayed with George Mason’s Tim Norton for 150 yards before beating the Patriot swimmer by nearly a second in the final 50. Zann’s time of 1:49.81 was good for the win and the meet record.

The other Bulldog event win came in the final race — the 400-yard freestyle relay. Locke, Zann, Fitzgerald and Foss took the race in 3:05.07 and the Duke ‘A’ relay was disqualified, cementing the Yale win.

Bulldog swimmers said the win was the result of both strong swimming and a positive attitude.

“We just had a really good sense of unity,” Morgan Locke ’08 said. “We were never negative about anything. Every night, our captain, Dave Lange, said we had a better night, that we had a shot. Duke was shaved and tapered — they were at their peak for this point in the season — so it was a real accomplishment to take them down.”

While the Yale men were able to top the Blue Devils, they had less luck with the Blue Jays. Johns Hopkins swimmers won eight of the 14 events and edged the Elis by 10 points.

The Blue Jays took it to the Bulldogs early, as Johns Hopkins’s 200-yard medley relay teams claimed the top two places in the opening event of the meet. The Elis lost a series of very tight races, including the 200-yard individual medley in which Billy Rubenstein ’08 was edged by one-hundredth of a second.

The Bulldogs said some of the loss could be attributed to wear. The team had only one day to rest between the three-day invitational and the dual meet.

“I think part of it is being a little tired,” Rubenstein said. “We were flat, and not really ready at the beginning. They swam great also, but we could have come out with a win if we’d been more mentally prepared.”

Lange added the Elis’ strong swimmers didn’t swim as much in the dual meet.

“We didn’t swim our strongest lineup in that meet,” Lange said. “Our top guys didn’t swim as many races as they usually do.”

The Bulldogs have only one more competition — the Nutmeg Invitational, to be held at Yale this weekend — before the dual meet season begins in January. In the interim, the Elis will undergo the toughest training of the season in preparation for the Ivy competition next semester.

While the men face an intense workload, the swimmers are ready to get back to business and shake the Hopkins meet off.

“I think people are eager to get back in the water and grind out some yardage,” Lange said. “To put a positive spin on Hopkins, we learned that we can’t take anything for granted. We’re eager to show that we’re the team from George Mason, not Hopkins. We have got to be focused until the Ivy season — we stand to do some good things.”

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