When you think Puerto Rico, you might think a nice warm tropical island vacation, but for the women’s and men’s swimming teams their trip to the island was anything but. The captain of the women’s team, Aidan McKinlay ’09, said the trip was very challenging, with the teams swimming two workouts a day and lifting every other day.

“This type of training that pushes us to our physical limits is necessary in order for us to perform at our best when we are rested at championships,” she said. “Being away from school allows us to focus on swimming.”

While in Puerto Rico, the teams both defeated Fairfield in a rescheduled meet on Jan. 4 before traveling back to the mainland to compete against Cornell and Navy in Ithaca, N.Y., on Friday and Saturday. In that meet, the men’s team lost to both teams, scoring 79 points to Cornell’s 221 and 98 points to Navy’s 202. The women had a better day, beating Cornell but narrowly losing to Navy. No team scores had been posted at press time.

“It was a tough meet against Cornell and Navy,” McKinlay said. “We did not have our entire squad due to illness and injuries. Despite this, everyone did their absolute best to step up.”

The Elis definitely did step up, placing first place in five events out of 16, while taking second place in 10. Susan Kim ’10 once again led the way for the Bulldogs with two first-place finishes in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:18.14) and the 200-yd individual medley (2:09.94) and one second-place finish in the 100-yd breast stroke (1:05.48). Also finishing with first place finishes were Ileana Lucos ’11 in the 200-yd butterfly (2:06.41) and Elizabeth Andrekovich ’12 in the 1-meter diving (225.85) and the 3-meter diving (221.35).

McKinlay said the meet against Fairfield gave the team confidence, saying that they won despite being physically drained from the intense training in Puerto Rico during the break.

By the end of the meet, the Elis had already known they had beaten the Big Red, but would need to finish first and third in the 400-yd freestyle relay, the last event of the day, in order to beat Navy. The A team, which included Lucos, Hayes Hyde ’12, Alexis Mann ’09 and Annie Killian ’11, swam the race in 3:34.32 but were unable to beat a highly competitive Navy team, which finished the race in 3:30.68. The B team finished in fourth place with a time of 3:40.89. The results of the relay put the victory against Navy out of reach for the Bulldogs.

“It was really close with us and Navy but it was a pretty good meet. They put up some really good competition,” said Marilee Kiernan ’09, who added that she and her teammates were tired since it had only been three days since they had returned from Puerto Rico.

In a departure from their previous successes, the men’s team lost by significant margins in their final meet before classes resumed.

“There are a million reasons for why we lost,” captain Alex Righi ’09 said. “But when it comes down to it, we just didn’t step up and swim, we just didn’t show up. We weren’t competitive and no one swam well. It was first and foremost our fault.”

The team finished with only three first-place finishes, all by Righi, in the 100-yd backstroke (48.87), the 50-yd freestyle (20.58) and the 100-yd freestyle (44.78). The Elis also finished with just two second-place finishes, one in the 200-yd medley relay (1:31.69) and another by Chris Pool ’09 in the 100-yd butterfly (49.53). With 16 events, this poor finish was definitely not enough for the Bulldogs to remain competitive against the Big Red and the Midshipmen.

“The level of competition wasn’t any greater or any less than in previous years but it was certainly challenging us,” Righi said. “We just weren’t committed to it.”

Cornell’s swim team has already lost to Harvard, Princeton and Penn, showing that the Bulldogs have a lot to work on in order to remain competitive with Ivy League competition.

“[Cornell is] pretty competitive. Harvard and Princeton are better than they are. Typically they’re pretty competitive with Yale, about as good,” Righi added.

Both teams compete again this Saturday against Dartmouth and Penn in Hanover, N.H.