The men’s swimming and diving team has been difficult to beat so far this season.
The Bulldogs beat Penn and Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. last weekend to run their undefeated record this season to 5–0. Among their achievements have been wins over Ivy foes Columbia and Cornell and the record-breaking time of 6:43.58, set by freshmen Andrew Heymann ’15, Josh Ginsborg ’15, Rob Harder ’15 and Alwin Firmansyah ’15 in the 800-yard freestyle relay against the University of Massachusetts at Yale’s Kiphuth Exhibition Pool. The Bulldogs also freestyled their way to victory at the Terrier Invitational, during which they scored a total of 800 points in the competitive Boston event. The Bulldogs’ will next face perennial Ancient Eight powerhouses Harvard and Princeton in the annual H-Y-P meet. The News sat down with team captain Christopher Luu ’12 to discuss his perspective on the remainder of the season, his thoughts on the upcoming Ivy showdown and the team’s secret weapon — its talented freshman class.
Q: The Harvard and Princeton teams have dominated the scoreboards for years. Now that Yale’s swim team has gone undefeated this season, what do you expect will happen when the Bulldogs face the two leading Ivies in men’s swimming?
A: I don’t think we have the firepower to beat Harvard and Princeton — not yet. But the dynamic of our team is such that most of the points are being scored by underclassmen, so the future of the program looks great. [Head coach] Tim Wise has done a great job since he’s taken over, and all I can say is that the future is bright for this young team.
Q: What are the team’s hopes and goals for this season?
A: Our goal is very clear. We want to finish in the top three in the all-encompassing conference meet at the end of the season, or at least to break into the top three. It’s something that [the team] hasn’t done in a couple of years, and we hope to change that this year. It’s going to be tough. Columbia, Penn and Dartmouth are all strong teams, and Columbia will be the closest team that we have to worry about, but [our goal] is definitely achievable. Is it going to be easy? Definitely not. It’s going to be a battle. It should be very intense and hopefully a lot of fun too.
Q: In your opinion, what are the team’s strongest and weakest events?
A: We have a ton of depth in the 100 butterfly. It’s an event in which we took three of the top four spots in the conference meet last year, which is incredible. With no disrespect for the individuals in this event right now, we probably need the most help in the sprint backstroke events.
Q: Seventeen of the 23 swimmers are sophomores and freshmen, and almost 50 percent of the roster is composed of newcomers. What is it like working with so many freshmen, and how have they contributed to the team?
A: Our freshman and sophomore classes are extremely talented, and not only are they talented, but they are disciplined and driven. They’ve made the upperclassmen’s job as leaders really easy … They’ve done a phenomenal job, not just because of talent, but also because of their work ethic. Statistics speak louder than words. [The freshmen] have been nothing short of phenomenal. Just this past weekend, we’ve had two of our freshmen take down three pool records. I can’t begin to describe how much of an impact they’ve had on shaping the culture of this team and on taking multiple steps forward in the right direction for the program, and they’re only going to improve … hopefully, soon after I graduate, they’ll be raising the banner.
Q: How do you think you guys match up — the seniors versus the freshmen?
A: They smoke us. They’re incredible — the best freshman class that we’ve had in a very long time. They’re top-15 nationalists. We didn’t submit all of our recruits in time for the rankings, but upon submitting them, we would have been ranked 15th in the country. There’s always a competition within the team, and it’s a great thing to have internal competition. I think it brings out the best in everyone. It’s really been good for us to have that driving force pushing us.
Q: What has factored into the team’s success this season?
A: It’s just been a change in culture. Last year, we experienced some growing pains. [Wise] showed that he wasn’t afraid to lose a meet or two, benching some swimmers who didn’t necessarily have the best practice attendance. That really resonated in our group, and it really made us understand that we were going to have to commit to the sport and give it our all if we wanted to be part of the program. The thing that has changed most from my freshman year to now is the level of commitment that the swimmers bring to their sport … [The swimming program] has been around for almost 115 years now, and it’s good to see that we’re making the ghosts of the pasts proud a little bit.
Q: What is the team looking at going into the H-Y-P meet?
A: It’s hard to say. [Harvard and Princeton] are going to be by far the toughest opponents we’ll face this year. As much success as our underclassmen have had, they really haven’t gone up against a team with as much talent or depth as Harvard and Princeton. [H-Y-P] will tell us about how much we’ve grown, and it’ll be a great measuring stick for improvement. Just looking at numbers in history, 30 years is a long time for no one else to have won the league, and it certainly won’t change over one or two years. But like I said, Tim Wise is doing a great job, and I don’t see why Yale can’t be competitive with the top two teams this year. As [Wise] always tells us before a meet, “On paper, [Harvard and Princeton] are the favorites. But swim meets aren’t won on paper, they’re won on the water.”