Fresh off of last season’s undefeated record in regular season Ivy League action, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team took to the pool Saturday and splashed to victory in its first official meet of the 2016–17 season.
The Bulldogs were able to secure first place in 10 out of 14 swimming events and grab the top spot in both diving categories en route to 196–104 and 246–54 defeats of both Brown and UMass Amherst, respectively. But the win was a team effort, as the 10 first-place results were followed closely by seven second-place finishes and 11 third-place finishes, including a clean sweep of the 200-yard individual medley.
“We are extremely excited about the strong performances Saturday against Brown and [UMass],” head swimming coach Jim Henry said. “It was a fantastic way to start our season in the pool and on the boards. We know that if we take one meet at a time and continually improve, we will have a great season. The key will be getting better together.”
The Bulldogs started quickly in the opening event, finishing first in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:42.52. From there, Cailley Silbert ’18 and Bebe Thompson ’20 grabbed first and third place in the 1,000-yard freestyle to set the tone for the day’s proceedings.
Though Brown finished first in the 200-yard freestyle, the Bulldogs were able to seize momentum back with a comfortable 1.13 second victory in the 100-yard backstroke delivered by Heidi Vanderwel ’18. The win came before second and third place finishes from Cha O’Leary ’20 and Paulina Kaminski ’18 in the 100-yard breaststroke. Following two additional second- and third-place performances from both Sydney Hirschi ’18 and Thompson, Kina Zhou ’17 sprinted to victory by nearly a half-second margin in the 50-yard freestyle.
Zhou, who would also take first in the 100-yard freestyle, emphasized the team’s recent focus on the small margin between victory and defeat.
“This season, we have really focused on winning the close races,” Zhou said. “In the sprint events, this mentality is as important as ever, since it’s hard to distance yourself from the rest of the pool in such a short amount of time. The win against Brown was a great start to the season for our team, especially since it was in the pool where Ivies are going to be.”
In the remainder of the swim events, the Elis flexed their muscles, collecting six out of a possible seven first-place finishes. Zhou’s gold in the 100-yard freestyle was accompanied by a strong performance from Destiny Nelson ’19 — swimming in her first official meet as an Eli after transferring from USC — who won by a landslide, besting her opponents by more than three seconds in the 200-yard backstroke. Following four consecutive victories from O’Leary, Silbert, Lili Margitai ’20 and Nelson, the Bulldog swimmers capped their day with a second-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The two diving events saw one of the most impressive individual performances of the day. Bulldog diver Talbott Paulsen ’19 added important points to the team total when she registered a sweep of both the 1-meter and 3-meter dive competition, posting scores of 282.45 and 308.65. Lilybet MacRae ’17 also secured third place in the 3-meter dive with a score of 282.00.
“I was really happy with how I did at the meet,” Paulsen said. “I think a key for me was staying relaxed and confident. … In competition you can’t control how anyone else does, so I always try to just focus on diving according to my own potential.”
Brown, which finished fifth in the conference last season, defeated UMass 228–72. The Bears grabbed the top spot in the team freestyle relay and Brown swimmers Zoe Phillips, Sarah Cronin, Ally Donahue and Caroline Vexler all took first in their respective races.
Though the Bulldogs are focused on taking it one meet at a time, they are coming off of a second-place result in last year’s Ivy League Championships and have their sights set on a gold-medal finish. Should the team win, it would mark the first Ivy League Championship for the Elis in 18 years.
“The team this year has been the strongest it has ever been since I have been at Yale,” Zhou said. “Each year since my freshman year, we have gotten closer and closer to that Ivy League Championship title, and I believe that this year is our best chance of getting it.”
The Bulldogs will host Columbia in their first home meet of the season on Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.