For some members of the men’s swimming team (8-4, 4-4 EISL), this weekend’s ECAC Championships was a last chance to capture all the effort of a season between two clicks of a stopwatch — precious seconds of vindication for hundreds of hours and thousands of laps more in preparation.
And when the timer clicked on these Bulldogs’ season at the Pittsburgh Aquatics Center Sunday, the team had finished second among 19 teams, tangible evidence of their vast improvement from last year’s tenth-place finish. Led by dominant results in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley events, the latter won by Mike Slater ’07, the team racked up 465 points. Although well short of winner Johns Hopkins (5-6), which racked up 541 points, Yale was competing without arguably its 17 fastest swimmers, while Hopkins had a full squad that outnumbered Yale 2-to-1.
The team that represented Yale at the ECACs was made up of those who will not compete at the EISL Championships. As the final “shave and taper” meet for these swimmers, Alex Goldsmith ’08 said the ECAC meet was designed to get the most out of their yearlong training with the added benefit of rest beforehand and streamlined bodies.
“That’s what this meet is for,” Goldsmith said. “For the kids who don’t get to go to Ivies, we tried to get a shave-and-taper meet in to post our fastest times, and it worked.”
Goldsmith was confident that at least half the team posted all-time best finishes.
As further testament to the depth of the team, Yale managed to put a swimmer in the “A” final heat 16 times in 17 races, assuring them a top-eight finish in those races. Although the Elis managed to take only one event with Slater’s victory in the 400 IM, John Lynch ’08 and Ilia Byzov ’09 touched in at fifth and sixth, respectively, to assure Blue control of that event.
In the 200 IM, there was a similar concentration of Elis claiming points, this time at places three through six. Chris Dufek ’07 finished in 1:54:33, followed by Slater, Morgan Locke ’08 and finally Lynch, only 1.16 seconds off Dufek’s time.
On the strength of these two events, Yale briefly took control of first place early on Sunday, but was soon overtaken.The last race, a strong fifth-place showing in the 400 freestyle relay turned in by Locke, Dufek, Tom Hardy ’06 and Gjorgji Gjeorgjievski ’08, was not enough to overcome Johns Hopkins, who placed third in the event.
That the 14 Bulldogs even challenged the Blue Jays, who fielded a full team of near 30, was incredible. Slater credited the cohesion of the Eli group for the team’s success in spite of the odds.
“Establishing ourselves as a team was a main goal coming in,” Slater said. “And I think we really came together.”
The Bulldogs’ relay results back up Slater’s conviction. The team of Connor Murphy ’08, Gjeorgjievski, Reid Madden ’08 and Locke took fourth in the 800 free relay, and the teams of Dufek, Sweitzer, Goldsmith and Hardy in the 200 medley relay and Dufek, Hardy, Goldsmith and Locke in the 400 medley relay both took fifth.
Individually for the Bulldogs, Madden gave strong performances in the 500 and 1,650 free events, finishing fifth and fourth, respectively. Goldsmith took fourth in the 100 fly, Murphy placed seventh in the 200 fly, and Gjeorgjievski took fifth in the 200 free.
Although a stronger Yale team will face stronger Ivy rivals next weekend, Goldsmith said he thinks the impressive showing in the ECAC Championship should give the team a lot of confidence.
“What this meet shows is that we have the deepest team in the Ivy League,” Goldsmith said. “It shows that we trained very well this year, and half went out and swam best times. The other guys are going to see this, knowing that they went through the same training.”
Andrew Foss ’07, who will swim this weekend at EISLs, echoed Goldsmith’s sentiments.
“They swam really well,” Foss said. “That bodes well for us. Whatever we do will be similar to what they did last weekend.”
And although Yale fell to the top teams in the Ivy League this year, the impact of a year’s training on the team that competed at the ECAC was obvious. It produced a team happy with its performance and one that compared favorably to other squads. Yale’s team of 17 will look to repeat the success of the ECAC Championships in the EISL Championships next weekend in Long Island.