For once, I started my weekly sports column before my editors’ deadline. I even sat in front of the TV Sunday with my computer, recording all my thoughts on the NFL playoff games, the teams, the commentary, the broadcasts, all in preparation for another one of my boring and drawn out ramblings on football.
I even had a few paragraphs finished by the time I walked into swimming practice on Tuesday afternoon.
And then my coach handed me a pop-quiz.
Now as a second semester senior, I have crafted a schedule that avoids weekly problem sets, reading responses and quizzes, so you can imagine my astonishment and horror upon learning that I had to take a quiz at swimming practice.
Our head coach, Tim Wise, put together ten, multi-part questions testing our knowledge of the history of Yale Swimming since the first team was assembled in 1898 (the answer to the first question).
The quiz asked us to identify the four years in which Yale Swimming won the NCAA championships, several Olympians who came through the program and the win-loss record of legendary coach Robert J.H. Kiphuth (528–12) among other more recent events in our history.
Coach Tim graded the quizzes while we warmed up. He announced the answers and scores before we moved on with the workout, but not before he told us “This is your program now, and an important part of that is remembering and honoring the history and traditions that you are fortunate enough to be a part of.”
With renewed focus, we dove back in the pool, and I abandoned all intentions to publish more mindless drivel about the NFL. The rest of practice, my mind was flooded with ideas for this column, hoping at once to tell some of this great history, report on the current state of affairs, and even proffer some of my own thoughts, collected over four years as a Yale Swimmer.
So while this may seem like a plug, the best way to accomplish this task is to reflect a bit on the Harvard vs. Yale vs. Princeton swimming meet to take place at Kiphuth Exhibition Pool this weekend.
For starters, it’s worth repeating that Yale once had a swimming coach, the famous Bob Kiphuth, who won 528 meets while losing only 12 during his career. It was during this complete dominance of the sport from 1917 through the end of 50s that Yale collected its NCAA titles, producing 9 American Olympians. During this time, the Ex-Pool (as it’s known among swimmers) played host to the NCAA Championships and prominent dual-meets including a series of battles with Stanford, drawing crowds well in excess of the one-of-a-kind facility’s 2,178 seats. Yale’s supremacy over the collegiate swimming world continued after Kiphuth’s departure with Phil Moriarty at the helm, leading the team to a record of 195–25.
After two interim coaches, Frank Keefe, the third of Yale’s legendary swimming coaches took over the program which featured a women’s team beginning in 1975. For years, the three goliaths of the Ivy League — Harvard, Yale and Princeton — had always swum against each other on subsequent weekends. Harvard and Princeton would shave for their meet, which historically had always occurred on the last weekend in January, with the Yale vs. Harvard and Yale vs. Princeton meets falling on the next two weekends. A common misconception about competitive swimming suggests that full body shaves occur regularly, when in fact teams generally only shave once or twice a season to maximize its physical and psychological effects. Therefore, in the 1992-’93 season, the three meets were combined into one ultra-fast meet, held at Yale, with conference implications. Thus, the famed HYP swimming meet was born.
The first time I had ever heard of the HYP meet, I was in middle school. My older brother had hoped to go to Harvard for most of grade school and one of our club coaches, a Harvard alum, took him on a trip to New Haven to watch the meet when he was beginning to formally look at colleges. While he admitted that the facility was not what he initially expected, my brother came away from that weekend in awe of the unique spectacle that only a witness to the HYP magic can truly understand. He came home full of stories and with a new appreciation for the distinctive atmosphere at Yale.
Each year, the host rotates between the schools, I am among the lucky group who gets to swim HYP at home twice, in my freshman and senior seasons. Before my first HYP meet, then head coach Frank told us “You may not remember anything else for the rest of your lives, but you will never forget HYP at home.” At the time, I dismissed it as just another one of his one-liners.
To start the meet, the electronic timing system broke down during the first race, so we had to resort to whistle-starts and watch-timing. Despite this archaic system, the first race of the meet—the 200 freestyle relay—culminated in a deafening roar from swimmers and fans alike, clad in crimson, orange, and navy. I had chills running up and down my spine for those few glorious moments, my initiation to the HYP phenomenon.
Last Spring, Coach Frank retired after 32 seasons with the Bulldogs, closing this chapter in our hallowed history. Since that time, under the direction of the new head coaches Tim (men) and Christina Teuscher (women), the teams have consecrated a new era in Yale Swimming. For me, as my retirement looms imminently, mere weeks away, I hold the memory of HYP at home closest to my heart. It is a living embodiment of over a century of history, tradition and glory, that I am truly humbled to be a part of.
But it’s not over yet. This weekend, my fellow seniors and I get one last taste of the HYP magic, and I ensure you, you don’t want to miss it.
Sam Goldsmith is a senior in Branford College.