Facing stiff competition in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Yale men’s swimming and diving team claimed fifth place out of seven teams at the Nike Invitational.
Though the men did not match the upset victory over North Carolina State that the Eli women posted, a showing above East Carolina and Old Dominion gave the Bulldogs a national ranking of 30th in College Swimming’s most recent rankings.
“I think we put up a good fight with some of the top schools in the league, which was exemplified by some stellar individual swims from both the upperclassmen and the underclassmen,” Kei Hyogo ’18 said.
Kyogo himself posted one of the most impressive individual performances when he, captain Brian Hogan ’16 and Jonathan Rutter ’18 claimed a 1–3–4 finish in the 400-yard individual medley Friday.
Hyogo was the first Eli to claim a win at the Nike Cup, and Hogan was out-touched by an NC State competitor by 0.14 seconds.
“I was relatively happy with my own races, especially given that I swam half of my races with a broken hand,” Hyogo said. “But the meet was also an eye opener for me in terms of the competition I’ll have to face in trying to achieve some of the goals I have set for myself individually this season.”
Kyogo and Hogan also boasted strong performances the previous day in the 500-yard freestyle, the first distance event of the meet. Their fourth- and fifth-place finishes were within 0.03 seconds of each other.
Earlier on Thursday, the Cup opened with the 200-yard freestyle relay, in which Yale’s A team placed seventh. Oscar Miao ’17, Scott Bole ’19, Derek Kao ’18 and Victor Zhang ’16 finished the race with a time of 1:23.16.
Rutter placed fifth in the 200-yard IM, out-touched by NC State swimmer Christian McCurdy by 0.01 seconds. Rutter said the race against strong competition was helpful for him as Yale looks toward the remainder of the season.
“My own performance was decent, but more importantly it shed light on several areas I need to improve on,” Rutter said. “I think a lot of the guys had a similar learning experience.”
In the 1-meter diving event, James McNelis ’16 and Anthony Mercadante ’17 placed 14th and 16th in the consolation finals. Yale’s divers posted similar results the next day on the 3-meter boards when McNelis and Wayne Zhang ’18 had 15th- and 16th-place showings, respectively.
The final event on Thursday, the 400-yard medley, had Kao, Bole, Victor Zhang and Shawn Nee ’18 placing seventh, leaving the Bulldogs in sixth place overall at that point in the meet.
Friday opened up with another medley relay. The 200-yard race found Nee, Bole, Miao and Alex Goss ’17 in seventh place to start off the day.
After Hyogo’s win in the 400-yard medley, Bole took inspiration and replicated his teammate’s performance in the 200-yard freestyle. Despite just barely squeezing himself into finals with an eighth-place time in the preliminary races, the freshman won the race in the finals, beating the next three swimmers by just under a second for Yale’s second win of the meet.
“It was thrilling to compete against some of the fastest swimmers in the country, and even more thrilling to beat some of them,” Rutter said. “The knowledge that we can hold our own against such a high level of competition sets us up really well for the second half of the season.”
The Bulldogs ended the day on a high note in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The A squad of Zhang, Hyogo, Bole and Adrian Lin ’19 claimed the event when they pulled ahead of the Navy swimmers halfway through the race, and ended up out-touching their competitors by 0.12 seconds. This helped push the Bulldogs ahead of East Carolina to finish the meet’s second day in fifth place.
Saturday’s first event was the 1,650-yard swim, and both of Yale’s top distance swimmers both found success. Hyogo claimed second, finishing over five seconds ahead of the next competitor, and Hogan also earned points for Yale with his seventh-place performance.
The Bulldogs again got on the board in the 200-yard events. Nee’s backstroke put him in fifth place, and Rutter and Kao recorded fourth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively, in the breaststroke. Joey Carbone ’19 narrowly made it into the finals of the butterfly event and earned an eighth-place finish in his last swim.
The 400-yard freestyle had Bole, Miao, Lin and Zhang finishing in fourth to round off the meet. The day ended with the Bulldogs in fifth place overall out of the seven teams.
The Elis move on to a regular season of much smaller meets against more familiar opponents. All three swimmers interviewed noted a positive experience against top competition they had not seen before.
“I had a lot of fun at the Nike Cup,” Kao said. “It was a great opportunity to race some fast swimmers we don’t normally get to see and to discover how our team sizes up to theirs. It was a much more challenging invite than we are used to, so I think the team really grew for the better as well.”
Yale will compete against Boston University and the University of Connecticut on Saturday in New Jersey.