The Yale women’s swimming and diving team needed a strong effort to secure an invitation to last week’s competitive Nike Invitational. But once the Bulldogs arrived, an even stronger effort proved that they deserved their spot — both in the meet and in the national conversation.
In a field of nine teams that included nationally ranked Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State, Yale earned a third-place finish just ahead of NC State. The performance gave the Elis a national ranking of 13th, according to College Swimming, which orders teams based on their most recent performance. A week later, Yale now sits at 15th in those rankings.
“Going up in the rankings was very exciting because it shows how we’re on the right track to being at our best for Ivies,” McKenna Tennant ’18 said. “This year our team has gotten a lot stronger and we’re improving and that’s definitely a good way to lead up to the rest of the season. Our team still has a ton of work left, but this past week really showed how far we’ve come.”
In a meet that included five new school records for Yale, the Elis scored 1,519 points, while North Carolina and Duke tallied 1,815 and 1,769, respectively. NC State, though favored over the Bulldogs, fell behind with 1,328.5 points.
The three-day invitational opened up on Thursday, Nov. 19 with a strong start for the Bulldogs. In the first event, the 200-yard freestyle relay, Yale’s A team of Bella Hindley ’19, Kina Zhou ’17, Amy Zhao ’18 and Cassidy Richards ’19 out-touched NC State, now ranked eighth, by 0.39 seconds to clinch third place and a school record in the process.
In the 500-yard freestyle, Eva Fabian ’16 and Cailley Silbert ’18 found second- and third-place finishes, respectively. Captain Emma Smith ’16 snagged third place behind two NC State swimmers in the 200-yard individual medley, defeating a Duke competitor by 0.65 seconds.
Hindley’s strong performance continued in the sprint and second relay events. The freshman left the 50-yard freestyle with yet another podium finish for Yale with a third-place swim, and she kept that momentum going for the day’s closing event, the 400-yard medley relay. Hindley, Zhou, Paulina Kaminski ’18 and Maddy Zimmerman ’18 scored the Bulldogs their only first-place finish of the meet’s first day.
Hindley, who hails from London, had already proven herself a major point-earner in her freshman campaign after notching four first-place finishes against Columbia two weeks ago, earning Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors in the process. And last week she topped that performance with multiple personal bests in the meet.
“I was happy with my times — they were all my best times,” Hindley said. “In England we swim in meters, not yards, so coming into it I had no expectations because I wasn’t sure about the conversions.”
Before the closer on Thursday, the diving team took to the boards for their 3-meter event. Lilybet MacRae ’17 earned a fourth-place finish in the finals, while Tennant and Olivia Grinker ’16 finished 13th and 14th in the consolation finals.
The meet marked the first time this year that MacRae has finished below first in a 3-meter event, but MacRae said she found facing top competition more relaxing than it was stressful.
“Going into finals I was in eighth place, so I knew I could only go up,” MacRae said. “I think that helped me because there was less pressure.”
Competition resumed on Friday, with more records ready to be broken. Hindley broke Yale’s previous school mark in the 200-yard freestyle by a full second when she claimed first place in the event. She was also part of the 800-yard freestyle relay A squad, alongside Zhou, Isla Hutchinson-Maddox ’17 and Olivia Jameson ’17, which earned a first-place finish to best another Yale record.
“I was most pleased with my 200 free, because it was really cool to get the record as a freshman, which had been standing for quite a while,” Hindley said.
Smith kept up her individual performance in the 400-yard event, placing second and ahead of a UNC swimmer by just 0.08 seconds. Kaminski then secured Yale another podium finish with a third-place swim in the 100-yard breaststroke.
MacRae put up more points in the 1-meter diving event, finishing fourth. Tennant, Grinker and Olivia Loucks ’17 finished in 17th, 18th and 20th, respectively.
“I dove really well, but there was a lot of great competition,” MacRae said. “In prelims on both boards I squeaked into finals, but both days dove much better in the finals.”
On Saturday, the meet reopened with the 1,650-yard freestyle swim. Fabian and Silbert strengthened their claims as top national distance swimmers with a 1–2 finish for the Bulldogs.
Fabian and Silbert raced neck and neck for nearly the entire race, with Fabian ultimately beating her teammate to the pad by 0.18 seconds.
“Eva and Cailley did so well in the mile, and your teammates doing really well makes everyone else do really well, which is amazing,” Hindley said.
Kaminski showed her strength in the 200-yard breaststroke, finishing in third. Sydney Hirschi ’17, Hutchinson-Maddox and Zimmerman came next with a 2–3–4 finish in the 200-yard butterfly event. The final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, had the Elis’ A squad of Richards, Hindley, Zhou and Danielle Liu ’18 in fourth place.
The Elis will be facing Southern Connecticut on Dec. 11 before heading to Puerto Rico for their training trip over winter break.