“Bittersweet” may be the best way to describe the Bulldogs’ last conference competition.
The sweet part of this weekend saw the women’s swim team break nine school records and wrap up its Ivy League season on a strong note. The Bulldogs traveled to Princeton for the Ivy League Championships, where they finished third with 1,122 points, behind host Princeton (1,496) and rival Harvard (1,408.5), greatly improving upon its performance at the same meet last year.
But the record-breaking performances did not always yield wins, and the weekend was many seniors’ last chance to swim as Bulldogs. The underclassmen recognized the sentimental value of the meet and did all they could to make the seniors’ last meet memorable.
“Every time Meg [Gill], Moira [McCloskey] or another senior stepped up to the block, you could definitely tell everyone was watching,” Susan Kim ’10 said. “We were really intent on cheering them on and supporting them to make Ivies the best meet of their lives.”
The Bulldogs broke all five school relay records, an accomplishment that team members said was the highlight of the meet. The team placed first in both the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays, smashing the previous Yale records and finishing ahead of second-place Princeton by almost a full second in the former. But the Bulldogs only finished second in the 200- and 400-yard medley relay and third in the 800 freestyle relay despite also breaking school records in those events.
“We went into the meet feeling like the medleys were secured wins and that freestyle relays were going to be tough,” Moira McCloskey ’07 said. “But it actually turned out to be the opposite.”
Although it may have seemed frustrating to break the records but not win the events, team members said they were actually very proud of the results.
“The relays were bittersweet — our teams put up incredible times and you can’t ask for more than everyone’s personal best,” McCloskey said.
In addition to the relay records, the Bulldogs also had some very strong individual performances, resulting in qualifications for the U.S. Nationals and NCAA B cuts. Captain Meg Gill ’07 qualified for U.S. Nationals in the 50-yard freestyle, which she won, and the 100-yard butterfly, in which she placed second. Gill actually swam the fastest time of 100 fly, 54.73, during the preliminaries, but her time of 55.37 in the finals was just not enough to win the event. McCloskey also did very well in her events, winning the 100-yard backstroke with her record-breaking time of 55.62 and placing second in the 200-yard backstroke. She met the NCAA B cut in both events.
The freshmen also swam record-breaking times in their first Ivy championships. In the 200-yard freestyle, Jane Kim ’10 broke the Yale record and qualified for both U.S. Nationals and the NCAA B cut. In the 200-yard breaststroke, Susan Kim broke the record, which had stood since 1999, with her time of 2:15.89.
The high level of competition at this year’s Ivies was apparent because breaking both individual and relay Yale records was not enough to win the events. The fact that the Bulldogs were able to hold their own against their extremely fast competitors from Princeton and Harvard showed the team’s noteworthy improvement from last year. Scoring 1122 points and placing third was a marked improvement from last year’s fifth-place finish with only 920 points.
“Last year, people did not swim as well as they wanted to, and everyone was bummed out,” Caroline Dowd ’08 said. “This year, people were shocked by Yale’s performance — we’re so much stronger and a completely different team.”
The 2006-’07 season is over for most swimmers, but Gill, McCloskey, Susan Kim, Jane Kim, as well as those who swam in the qualifying relays, are hopeful that they will still have one more competition left. By making the NCAA B cut, these swimmers have a chance to compete at the championship meet in March. Five hundred swimmers attend the meet, and those who make the A cut are guaranteed a spot. After all of the A swimmers are placed on the roster, those who made the B cut are called upon to fill in the remaining spots.
But because of the complex relationship between qualifying for multiple events and competing in relays, the Bulldogs who made the NCAA B cut won’t know whether they will be competing at NCAAs until later next week. This uncertainty has delayed the finality of the seniors’ Yale careers.
“When you’re at the meet, you have a job to do and you can’t start getting nostalgic as you’re going up to the block,” McCloskey said. “I haven’t really let it sink it yet because it’s not a done deal yet — there’s still the chance of NCAAs.”
Although most of the women’s swim team wrapped up its season this weekend, the men’s team will be competing at the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League Championships this weekend at Princeton.