“This weekend, we restored Yale to the top three, where it belongs.”
As succinctly captured by captain Geof Zann ’07, the men’s swimming and diving team wrapped up its Ivy League competition season on a strong note, winning the race for third place at the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League Championships. Although they placed behind host Princeton (1,405) and second-place Harvard (1,220.5), the Bulldogs scored 1,036 points to edge out rival Columbia by only five points.
Throughout the three-day event, the Bulldogs were counting their points and keeping their eyes on the prize. They ended the first day in sixth place and went into the final day of competition in fifth, behind Columbia and Cornell. But because team members knew that they would get stronger and gain momentum as the meet went on, they said, they were not overly concerned with the point totals for the first two days.
“It was still a close race for third going into the last day, but we had confidence going into it,” Zann said. “We kept the teams ahead of us within striking distance.”
On the last day, Princeton and Harvard were essentially locked into first and second place, respectively, so the meet’s focus turned to the Bulldogs, Lions and Bears all vying for third place. Going into the last two events, the 3-meter platform dive and the 400-meter freestyle relay, the race came down to Yale and Columbia, who were within mere points of one another.
Going into the 400-free relay, the Bulldogs were seven points ahead of the Lions, so the relay team of Andrew Foss ’07, Chris Pool ’09, Zann and Alex Righi ’09 knew it only had to stay within three places of Columbia to secure Yale’s ranking. Because there was no margin for lost points in disqualifications, the relay team aimed for conservative relay exchanges. For the first 300 yards of the relay, the team was in seventh, but with setup from the first three swimmers, Righi swam a 43:07 anchor leg to push the team into fourth place behind Columbia.
“This whole meet was about counting points — scoring more points than the other teams was the most important thing,” Righi said “We swam in the morning prelims to place into heats that would score more points, and we swam in the finals to score more points than the swimmers from other teams.”
Going into the last two events, the Bulldogs were down 40 points, but Yale’s divers gave impressive performances and gave the team a 20-point advantage over Columbia after the 3-meter dive. Jeffrey Lichtenstein ’08 won the event with 359 points, breaking his own Yale record in the event. Yale’s point boost was also helped by the seventh and 13th place finishes of Doug Scott ’08 and Pat Hayden ’08, respectively.
The trio went into the competition with a collective goal of 840 points, and ended up scoring 960 points, blowing their target out of the water. Lichtenstein also won the Karl B. Michael Award for the meet’s outstanding diver.
“It feels like we’re the beginning of a strong wave that signals the beginning of the Yale diving dynasty,” he said.
In addition to Lichtenstein’s record and award in diving, the Bulldogs also broke records and earned a meet-wide award on the swimming side. The swimmers broke school records in the 200-yard and 400-yard medley relays, going a full second faster than the 2000 record in the 200 medley. Righi won the 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter freestyle events, breaking his own Yale record in both freestyle events and making the NCAA A cut in the 100 free. He also shared the Philip Moriarty Award for the meet’s outstanding swimmer with Harvard’s Geof Rathgeber.
Members of men’s the swimming and diving team said they swam faster because of the competitive spirit instilled by their fans. Teammates who did not compete and members of the women’s swim team traveled to New Jersey to cheer on the team.
The meet was also the last chance for the seniors to swim together with the team. Although Princeton and Harvard brought up their whole teams to accept their trophies, Zann invited just the seniors, including those who cheered from the stands, to go up with him to accept Yale’s trophy for third place.
“As a class, we’ve always been really focused on getting the team back to the top three, but when all the seniors came down and accepted the trophy, it finally hit us that this was the conclusion,” the captain said. “This meet, the whole season and the four years has been a total team effort — we wouldn’t have it any other way.”