PRINCETON, N.J. — The members of the women’s swimming team finished their season with a slew of best times, but individual races just could not add up to a top finish.
The Elis wrapped up the 2004-05 season with a fourth place finish at the Ivy League Swimming Championships, held at Princeton’s DeNunzio Pool. The Bulldogs finished third last year and occupied that position for most of this year’s meet, but were surpassed by Brown with only two events remaining. The Bears would hold on to a small lead and take third with 1,002.5 points to Yale’s 980.
Harvard won the event with 1,615 points, ending Princeton’s five-year reign atop the Ivy League. The Tigers finished second with 1,389 points.
The Bulldogs were undone by their lack of team size and depth. In only two of the 21 events did two Elis make the finals, and there were three Yale-free finals. Brown was able to surpass Yale after being nearly 80 points behind by putting four swimmers in the Eli-less 200-yard butterfly championship final.
Often, several Yale swimmers made it into the consolation finals and performed much better in those than in the morning preliminaries. But the difference in available points between the championship finals and the consolation and bonus finals limited the gains that could come from improving in the night sessions.
“Harvard is steps ahead,” Yale head coach Frank Keefe said. “They can put three kids in the finals, where we have one or two. You can’t win it from the consolations.”
Several Elis also came out very fast in their races and then fell off the pace.
“It’s hard at a meet like this, with specific teams to go after,” Stephenson said. “When you swim and see a Penn or Brown swimmer next to you, you get caught up and go too fast, rather than swim your race.”
Two Elis made a particular mark on the competition this weekend. Moira McCloskey ’07 lived up to her billing, notching the Bulldogs’ only individual swimming event victory, making three individual finals and swimming on four highly successful Yale relays.
The sophomore’s most dramatic race came in Saturday’s 200-yard backstroke, where she entered the finals with the second-fastest time to Harvard’s Michelle Bright — who edged McCloskey by just two-hundredths of a second at last year’s championship.
McCloskey started well, but held only an infinitesimal lead over Bright during the early part of the race, as the pair quickly distanced themselves from the rest of the field. At the halfway point, the Eli led by only .14 seconds.
With 100 yards to go, McCloskey managed to start pulling away and was ahead by nearly a second with only one length to swim. The sophomore was visibly tired toward the end of the race, allowing Bright to gain major ground, but the Cantab ran out of room. McCloskey hung on to win by less than a tenth of a second, 2:00.08 to Bright’s 2:00.16.
“I’ve been racing against Michelle since I was 10 — we’ve always swam against each other,” McCloskey said. “We really push each other.”
McCloskey’s win in the 200-yard backstroke avenged her close loss in the 100-yard distance, in which Brown’s Jess Brown eked out a win by two-tenths of a second. The sophomore also took sixth in the 200-yard individual medley.
Loftus took the other Yale individual win by coming in first on the 3-meter board. The senior was in fourth and trailed leader Sam Papadakis of Harvard by nearly 20 points after the first round of dives. But Loftus was able to capitalize on poor second-round dives from nearly everyone with a big back 2.5 tuck to move into second, only nine points out of the top spot.
The Bulldogs took the lead in the third round and put the competition away in the fifth with a 59-point back 1.5 with 2.5 twists. Her final score of 481.65 points breaks the Yale record formerly held by Bates Gregory ’03.
Loftus’ win in the 3-meter and second-place finish on the 1-meter board earned her the Outstanding Diver of the Meet award. A year ago, Loftus placed eighth in the 3-meter competition and failed to make the finals of the 1-meter.
“I was very pleasantly surprised with both finals,” Loftus said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes, so I was a nervous wreck through both finals, but it ended up going really well.”
The Elis took one other event victory. The team of McCloskey, Stephenson, Rebecca Knicely ’05 and Meg Gill ’07 won the 400-yard medley relay and set a new Yale record of 3:48.82 in the process.
Two other Bulldogs appeared in three finals apiece. Stephenson placed third in the 200-yard breast stroke, sixth in the 400-yard individual medley and seventh in the 200-yard individual medley, and Gill placed third in the 100-yard butterfly, as well as seventh in both the 50- and 100-yard butterfly.
The meet also saw a resurgence of several freshmen, after the class had struggled for much of this winter. Several rookies said that they are looking forward to starting training again
“I’m actually thrilled to start training again,” Katelyn Kane ’08 said. “As a freshman, I feel like the first year is a new experience, getting used to college.”
Meanwhile, Harvard swimmers and coaches were ecstatic after wresting the Frank Keefe trophy from the Tigers for the first time in half a decade.
“It’s nice to see the hard work of this team, and everyone who had come before them finally pay off,” Harvard head coach Stephanie Morawski said.
Pervading every aspect of the meet, particularly the final night, was the fact that this weekend’s competition was the final outing for the Yale seniors: Erin Carlstrom ’05, Emily Drilling ’05, Knicely, Kristin Ophaug ’05, Loftus, Allison Rogers ’05, Rachel Shipp ’05 and Stephenson. The seniors from all eight schools were honored in a ceremony preceding Saturday night’s finals.
And despite slipping a place from last year’s competition, most Elis said that they were happy with the individual performances and best times that many swimmers put up over the weekend.
“We all swam as best we could,” Moira McCloskey ’07 said. “Swimming is an individual sport, and we had a lot of individual improvement.”