Courtesy of Yale Athletics
After a year in which the Yale women’s swimming and diving team finished second at Ivies and the men finished in the top four for the sixth consecutive season, a season of highlights came to a close over spring break when five Bulldogs competed at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
Distance swimmers Kei Hyogo ’18 and captain Brian Hogan ’16 represented the men while the women’s side sent Bella Hindley ’19, Cailley Silbert ’18 and Eva Fabian ’16 to participate at the premier event in collegiate swimming. Matching up against the top talent in the nation, Hyogo’s top-eight finish in the mile swim stood out as the definite high point for Yale at the meet.
“This year’s NCAA was undoubtedly one of the fastest short-course yards meets in the history of the sport and it was truly a spectacular experience,” said Hyogo, who earned All-American status for his performance. “Ivies is known for how competitive and intense it gets but the NCAAs bump every aspect of Ivies up a level — it’s a much bigger, faster and more competitive meet.”
The women swam first, with Hindley and Silbert competing on the first full day of the meet, March 17, in the 50-yard and 500-yard freestyle events, respectively. Hindley’s swim was 0.04 seconds off of her Ivy Championship winning time, putting her at 39th in the 55-person field. With her 22.62-second finish, Hindley had the eighth-best outing of any freshman in the nation.
Silbert was just under five seconds off of her third-place performance at Ivies, earning a 67th-place finish.
The women’s team officially finished its season two days later, with Hindley placing 43rd in the 100-yard freestyle, another event that she won at last month’s Ivies, and 10th among freshmen.
In the mile swim, Silbert managed to knock off two seconds from her previous personal best, setting a new career best and tying for 27th place. Fabian, meanwhile, finished in 36th place in her third year qualifying for the NCAAs, mirroring the duo’s 1–2 finish at Ivies.
“NCAAs was a fantastic experience,” Fabian said. “I am very proud of our performances, and especially proud of [Silbert] and [Hindley] for their incredible swims this season, and I am excited for their performances this spring and summer at [Olympic] trials.”
The two male participants kicked off their meet just days later, beginning with the 500-yard freestyle swim on Thursday. Hogan, who has now competed at nationals each of the past three seasons, earned his best career NCAA finish in the event behind a 28th-place result, and Hyogo swam to 41st in his second consecutive trip to the NCAAs. The following day, Hyogo took 28th in the 400-yard individual medley swim, 11th best among sophomore competitors.
The duo capped off the season with a great third day of the championships in the mile swim. The 1,650-yard freestyle event is the longest race at the NCAAs and it doubled as the top event for each Yale swimmer. Hogan’s performance put him at 18th, matching his finish from his sophomore year. Besting the senior, though, was Hyogo, who bettered his 15th-place result from last season by finishing eighth.
“I’m definitely going to miss being a part of this team, and was aware of that feeling all weekend, but watching [Hyogo] swim gave me a lot of confidence about the future of the program,” Hogan said. “He has the talent and work ethic to carry this team to new heights, and I’m excited to see him do it.”
Hyogo was able to make a push toward the eight-person podium when other swimmers slowed in the latter stretches of the mile. In the final 200 yards of the event, Hyogo managed to overtake six swimmers, jumping from 14th to eighth en route to becoming Yale’s first All-American since 2009.
The pair of Hyogo and Hogan took second and third place at Ivies in the mile, finishing only behind Penn junior Chris Swanson, who also won the event at the NCAAs.
“Taking part in the meet was by itself an accomplishment and receiving the eighth-place award was truly an honor and a memory I will cherish,” said Hyogo, whose times in all three events were faster at Ivies. “While I did achieve the main goal I set for myself this season, I did add time in all of my events since Ivies and a number of exceptional swimmers underperformed … To reach the next level, I would need to be able to compete with the nation’s top swimmers at their full potential and still come out on top. I think that is a good thing to keep in mind for next year’s season so I can continue to grow as a swimmer and hopefully have a higher podium finish at next year’s NCAAs.”
The Bulldogs will be looking forward to next season as three of its five nationals competitors are underclassmen, a promising sign for both teams after the women placed second and the men finished fourth at this year’s Ivies.
For Fabian and Hogan, however, the two seniors had a bittersweet close to their final NCAAs.
“The four seasons I have spent representing and competing for Yale women’s swimming have been the best four years of my life,” Fabian said, “and I am immensely grateful for the many wonderful experiences I have had along the way, for my incredible and dedicated teammates and for the brilliant coaching staff.”