Courtesy of the Yale Swimming & Diving Association
Concluding a season that started in October, five members of the No. 25 Yale women’s swimming and diving team competed Monday and Tuesday at the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships in Annapolis, Maryland.
Despite two top-10 finishes in the one-meter event, none of the Bulldog divers placed high enough to qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships, which begin on March 17. Lilybet MacRae ’17 received the team’s highest score in both the one-meter and three-meter events, while also earning the top scores of any Ivy competitor.
“We were just looking to come to Zones for experience and for a fun last meet,” Hannah Walsh ’19 said. “The fact that we had girls [reach the finals] on both boards was incredible. It was a good meet to end on.”
Divers from more than 50 universities participated in the one-meter event, which took place on Monday at the United States Naval Academy. Both MacRae and Walsh qualified for finals in the event. After six dives in the final round, MacRae earned the best overall Eli finish of the meet, coming in eighth place with 519.85 points. She was followed closely by Walsh, who earned a 10th-place finish with a score of 505.90. Both Bulldogs missed out on the NCAA Championships by only a few spots, as only the top five finishers moved on. Olivia Lehman, a junior from James Madison University, captured first place in the 59-person field with 585.60 points.
Talbott Paulsen ’19, coming in 26th place, came short of the 18-person final round alongside her teammates McKenna Tennant ’18 and Olivia Grinker ’16, who finished 33rd and 36th, respectively.
“[The first day] went well,” Paulsen said. “I was happy with how I dove [on Monday] and I definitely felt confident going into [the next round].”
On the second day of competition, Yale dove in the three-meter event. MacRae once again led the Elis, and this time she was the only Bulldog to qualify for the finals. With 523.05 points, the junior finished in 15th place overall. MacRae has now been Yale’s top finisher in both the one-meter and three-meter competitions each of the past three seasons.
Paulsen had the highest Eli score of those who did not reach the finals, coming in 27th place. Tennant placed in 31st, Walsh in 49th and Grinker in 50th out of the 57 divers competing.
While the Bulldogs will not be advancing any divers to the national championships, they remained content after competing against the large field that includes some of their best opponents of the season.
“This competition is definitely much harder,” Paulsen said. “We have to compete against really good programs like Virginia Tech … We definitely held our own against the tough competition.”
The meet provided valuable experience for the young squad. Of the five divers, two — Paulsen and Walsh — are freshmen, and Tennant is a sophomore. Meanwhile, the Zone Championship was the final meet for the diving team’s lone senior, Grinker.
According to Walsh, Yale’s success in zone competition is a step forward for the program.
“The fact that Yale showed up and was right up there with some big name schools with renowned dive programs was a huge step for Yale diving,” Walsh said. “We have a lot of momentum and hope to carry that through to next year.”
The Yale diver to qualify for NCAAs most recently was MacRae, who reached nationals in both the one-meter and three-meter events in 2014.