After the departure of two high-caliber competitors, the Yale men’s swimming and diving team will look to a new senior class and a bevy of talented freshmen to power its 2016–17 campaign.
Former captain Brian Hogan ’16 and Kevin Stang ’16, both of whom competed at the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha this summer, will no longer race in the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, having graduated last May. This season, a smaller senior class led by captain Alex Goss ’17 will lead the challenge against defending Ivy League champion Princeton and powerhouse Harvard, looking to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish at the league championship meet.
“Being elected captain has been a huge honor and a responsibility that I haven’t taken lightly,” Goss said. “Moving into this season without last year’s seniors will be a challenge, but it’s one my teammates and I are excited to take on.”
Last season, despite an impressive 8–3 dual meet record, the Bulldogs were unable to match the firepower of Harvard and Princeton. The Tigers, who finished No. 23 in the final College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll last season, have not lost to the Elis in a dual meet since 2005. Yale’s drought extends even longer against the Crimson, which last fell to the Bulldogs in 1992.
However, the 2015–16 season featured many positive points as well. Kei Hyogo ’18 felled two school records, lowering the mark in the 500 and 1650 freestyle. Moreover, the Elis improved upon their previous finish at the NCAA championships, rising to 33rd after finishing 39th in 2015.
Several successful swimmers, including Hyogo, return from last year’s team. In the sprints, Yale will rely on Oscar Miao ’17, one of just seven seniors on this year’s roster, who is coming off a season that saw him twice win dual meet titles in the 50 free. Joining Hyogo in the middle distances is Scott Bole ’19, who finished seventh at the conference championships in the 200 freestyle as a freshman and will look to enter the upper echelon of Ivy League swimmers during his sophomore campaign.
Yale will also welcome an intriguing Class of 2020 this year, many of whom have already made names for themselves within the swimming community. Max Bottene ’20, a nine-time National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-American, will swim freestyle and backstroke. Swimming butterfly will be Ryan Huizing ’20, who joined Hogan and Stang in Omaha, Nebraska this summer for the Olympic Trials.
The Elis also bring on two-time NISCA All-American Chris LaBella ’20 to dive with Anthony Mercadante ’17 and Wayne Zhang ’18.
Yale will once again face tough competition in the Ivy League, as Harvard and Princeton both return some of their best swimmers. The Crimson return all four members of their Ivy League-winning 200 freestyle relay team. Crimson captain Eric Ronda was fourth in the Ivy League in the 200 breaststroke and also qualified for Olympic Trials. Meanwhile, over 63 percent of Princeton’s championship meet scoring last year came from nonseniors, a group which will be augmented this season by a whopping 14-man freshman class. Against these formidable foes, the Bulldogs will be hard pressed to claim their first conference crown since the 1971–72 season.
With scrimmage and intrasquad meets already in the books, Yale will kick off its Ivy League campaign this weekend in Providence against Brown. The Bulldogs trounced the Bears 211–89 last season and have not fallen to Brown in over 15 years. That said, Saturday’s meet will be the first true test for the Eli freshmen, so there remains an air of uncertainty. Head coach Tim Wise said he was eager to see how they would respond to the pressure that college swimming poses.
“The challenge is the clock,” Wise said. “The clock doesn’t care that they’ve got a problem set. The clock doesn’t care that their homework kept them up late. The clock just keeps running, and that’s the challenge that swimming at Yale provides.”
Yale has amassed 1092 wins since its first season in 1899.