Though a thousand miles separated traveling Elis on the men’s swimming team from their peers at home, their achievements last weekend seemed to be in sync.

Keeping the momentum from two Thanksgiving break victories, the Elis pushed their way to a strong finish in the final two competitions of 2005. The Bulldogs (3-1, 0-1 EISL) won five events at the Yale-hosted Nutmeg Invitational, held Saturday and Sunday, and several swimmers placed well in the highly-competitive U.S. Open.

Andrew Foss ’07, Colin Stalnecker ’08, Will Rubenstein ’08, Dennen McCloskey ’09, Ben Dzialo ’07 and Alex Righi ’09, along with women’s swimmer Moira McCloskey ’07, left for Auburn, Ala., last week to participate in the U.S. Open, which began on Thursday and finished on Saturday. The seven Elis, who were selected to attend the Open after qualifying for U.S. Nationals in the spring, competed well against Olympians, world-record holders, and some of the highest-profile swimmers in the nation today.

“It was pretty humbling. The most famous swimmer there was probably Ryan Lochte, who, besides Michael Phelps, is probably the most recognizable swimmer in the U.S.,” Righi said. “He’s amazingly fast — it was intimidating going up against these guys.”

But Righi evidently did not let the fame of his competitors get to him. He led the Elis on Thursday with an impressive sixth-place finish in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 23.67 seconds. Working with Foss, Rubenstein and fellow freshman Dennen McCloskey, Righi followed up with an 11th-place finish in the 800-meter freestyle relay later that day.

On Friday, the Bulldogs continued to swim well. Righi captured 9th place on a 57.81-second finish in the 100-meter backstroke. The team of Dzialo, Stalnecker, Foss and Righi then took 8th place in the 400-meter medley relay.

Righi rounded out the meet with a 12th-place result in the 100-meter freestyle. And though 12th might not sound like much, it’s still a significant boon for Yale’s up-and-coming swimming program.

“Overall, in the long run, this meet wasn’t that important,” Righi said. “But you have to understand that the last time we sent swimmers [to the U.S. Open], we didn’t do so well. It’s a big meet, both nationally and internationally, and doing well there means a lot for Yale and Yale swimming. And it wasn’t just me; all our swimmers did well.”

Back in New Haven, Yale swimming hosted and competed in its own Nutmeg Invitational. Kieran Locke ’06 won the 200-yard freestyle, Kent Garber ’07 won the 1650-yard freestyle, and Chris Pool ’09 took both the 100- and 200-yard butterflys. Locke, Pool, Geof Zann ’07 and Sebastian Cousins ’09 worked together to win the 400-yard freestyle relay, bringing the Yale win total to five.

“We’ve been training pretty hard, so we just wanted to see where we were at in the season,” Pool said. “I think the team has been racing really well. Every time we get in the water I feel like everyone gives their 100 percent.”

Men’s diving also did well, with Pat Hayden ’08 and Doug Scott ’08 placing second in the 3-meter dive and the 1-meter dive, respectively.

Spirits were high on Sunday after the conclusion of both meets. After an initial low — Yale’s loss to Columbia in early November — morale has received a series of boosts with wins both this week and last week. But while both Righi and Locke are happy with the team’s performance this year, both said there is still a lot to be done next semester.

“Every time we go to a meet, it’s another chance to achieve our season’s best times, another chance to get racing experience,” Locke said. “I think I saw some good improvement [this weekend]; certain people showed some good forms, but it wasn’t across the board. The team isn’t perfect yet, and there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

And as 2005 turns the corner, the Elis will need to get better and better to stay competitive. Following their training trip to Puerto Rico over winter break, the Elis will begin shifting gears for the end of the season.

“Last semester we focused on training and practicing, and I think next semester we’re going to focus more on racing,” Righi said. “We’ve already accomplished so much, and we’re just going to have to keep raising the bar to see how we can perform, see how far we can go.”

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