CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Frank Keefe is a “living legend,” at least according to the announcer at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool. During his 26 seasons as head coach of the women’s swimming team, he has racked up a 382-179 record, and he served as assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1984. The trophy presented to the winner of each year’s women’s Ivy League Championships bears his name.
But that doesn’t mean his team is getting any closer to bringing his namesake prize back to New Haven.
Stuck in fourth or fifth place throughout the three-day Ivy Championships, the Bulldogs finished up Saturday in fifth with 920 points, following behind Penn’s 947. Columbia, last year’s sixth-place finisher, crept up the rankings to a bronze finish with 968.5 points. The Cantabs (1445) had to relinquish the Frank Keefe Trophy after only one year of ownership, returning it to Princeton after the Tigers earned 1580 points over the weekend.
Placing in the lower half of the Ivies was a disappointment for a team that finished fourth in last year’s Championships. Moira McCloskey ’07, Yale’s only finals victor — although she managed the feat twice — said the team was hoping for a top three finish, and Gill said she had hoped for fourth or better.
Too many finals bereft of Elis kept Yale from racking up more points. Though consolation and bonus finals included Yale swimmers, far more points could have been earned in the final heats. Of the 16 non-relay events, seven saw no Bulldogs among the top eight finishers. Of the remaining nine, just three had more than one Yale swimmer in the finals, a far cry from the ten events to which Princeton and Harvard each sent more than one swimmer parading down the pool deck each time the finals participants were introduced.
McCloskey and other swimmers were able to find some consolation in a series of Yale and personal best times. A relatively slow start to the meet was turned around late Thursday night with a school record-breaking time in the 400-yard medley relay. The team of McCloskey, Marilee Kiernan ’09, Meg Gill ’07 and Alexis Mann ’09 combined to finish in 3:44.75, more than a half-second faster than the old record. McCloskey and Gill have been on the 400-yard medley relay team in each of their three years at Yale and have set a new record each year.
Thursday also saw Gill’s second-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle. A personal best for the Yale junior and an NCAA B qualifying time, the narrow finish was a battle to the end.
“That will be one of my most memorable races,” Gill said. “I just remember being like, ‘Stay with her, stay with her, keep going.’ With five yards left, I was like, ‘I got her.'”
Gill said her head was in front of Robinson’s at the finish, but the Brown senior is several inches taller than Gill and managed to extend her arm just enough to eke out the win. At the close of Day 1, the Elis sat in fourth.
Friday’s finals, though more successful overall than the previous day’s, dropped the Bulldogs into fifth. Another Yale record fell with the opening event, the 200-yard medley relay. While McCloskey, Caroline Dowd ’08, Gill and Mann only managed third in the event, they broke a record dating back to 1992.
McCloskey brought in the only Yale win of the night in the 100-yard backstroke. Though she did not break the school record, her opening leg of the 400-yard medley relay the night before would have been sufficient.
The junior backstroker also brought in Yale’s best finish on the last night of competition, a victory in the 200-yard backstroke. Behind Harvard senior Lindsay Hart by more than a second at the 150-yard mark — a near eternity in an eight-lap race — McCloskey pulled ahead in the last 30 yards to win by more than a second.
“Truthfully, I just got lucky that she died,” McCloskey said. “I saw my window of opportunity and went for it.”
Megan Bailey ’06 said the meet, her last foray in collegiate swimming, was especially poignant for her. Though she won no events, she set a personal best time in the 400-yard individual medley, beating her previous personal best by three seconds.
Bailey was not pleased with the team’s finish, but saw no reason to criticize the performance.
“We were probably a little disappointed,” she said. “We tried our best, which was all we could do.”