Separated for the first time this season, the Yale women’s swimming and diving teams registered strong performances at nonconference invitational meets hosted by Ohio State and Virginia Tech. Both competitions, which took place Nov. 17 through Nov. 20, featured nationally ranked talent.
For the Eli swimmers, the three-day Ohio State Invitational showcased a deep field. Ten teams took the pool, including current No. 1 Stanford, No. 23 Kentucky, No. 24 Ohio State and NCAA top-25 vote-earners Penn State and Washington State. Individually, Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel also donned collegiate uniforms for Stanford.
In the end, the Bulldogs were able to best six of their 10 opponents, posting a score of 385 points. This impressive feat included 16 top-10 finishes and top-15 performances in all 17 events. The Elis did not change the mental approach they have employed all season in conference action and established their relevance not only in the Ivy League, but also on a national scale.
“You prepare the same as you would for any other championship style meet,” Kina Zhou ’17 said. “There wasn’t added pressure necessarily, but there was definitely an element of excitement getting to race some of the best, not only in the country, but in the world. Going into the meet, I think we were ranked the sixth or seventh team, so coming in fourth place way exceeded the expectations we set for ourselves.”
The first event of the competition saw Yale’s highest placing in the entire meet. The relay team of Zhou, Lili Margitai ’20, Kate Rogers ’18 and Bella Hindley ’19 took third in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing less than a second behind Ohio State’s squad. This finish set the tone for the Bulldog’s teamwide effort. From there, Yale added strong performances from both Zhou and Hindley in the 50-yard freestyle, with sixth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively, and a 10th place finish from Destiny Nelson ’19 in the 200-yard individual medley. Nelson’s preliminary time of 1:59.59 and her final time of 2:00.20 both beat the previous Yale school record in the event, rounding out the highlights from day one action.
Days two and three featured more impressive performances from the Yale swimmers. The 200-yard medley relay team of Hindley, Cha O’Leary ’20, Maddy Zimmerman’18 and Zhou grabbed fourth place, barely off the podium. Nelson followed with an eighth-place finish in the 400-yard individual medley. Other notable performances included fifth- and sixth-place finishes from Margitai and Zimmerman in the 100-yard butterfly, fifth place from Cailley Silbert ’18 in the 1,650-yard freestyle, sixth place in the 100-yard freestyle by Zhou and fourth- and sixth-place finishes from Sydney Hirschi ’17 and Sophie Fontaine ’20 in the 200-yard butterfly.
Throughout the weekend, the Elis received impressive performances from its underclassmen — a common theme so far this season. Fontaine, Hindley, Margitai, Nelson and O’Leary all produced points, exhibiting the depth of the Yale squad.
“The freshman have been phenomenal in their transition to swimming at a higher level and are strong contributors,” Hirschi said. “It’s been great having such a deep team this year, and we’re all hopeful for the rest of the season.”
Meanwhile, in Blacksburg, Virginia, the Yale divers joined the men’s team competing in the H2Okie Invitational. No. 25 Virginia Tech and a strong Purdue squad marked the difficult opponents the Elis faced on the diving board. Prior to this point, the Bulldog divers were undefeated in both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving competitions, but the larger nonconference meet proved to be much more challenging.
Lilybet MacRae ’17 was the top Yale diver over the course of the meet, grabbing a bronze medal in the 1-meter event with a score of 227.90. Standout Talbott Paulsen ’19 posted an eighth-place finish in the 1-meter and later captured the same place in the 3-meter competition. McKenna Tennant’s ’18 seventh-place finish in the 3-meter was the highest for the Bulldogs in the event, as Yale’s divers failed to capture a podium position for the first time all season.
Moving forward, both the swimming and diving results proved the Elis can compete with opponents on the national stage, prompting optimism from team remembers as they reunite for the rest of the season.
“Our fourth-place finish [for the swimmers] was definitely gratifying, especially after all of the training we put in as a team in the weeks leading up to the meet,” Fontaine said. “It was incredible to perform so well against such powerhouse teams. If anything, it just gives us even more excitement and incentive to train harder for the end of the season meets and Ivy League competition.”
The Bulldogs resume action on Saturday, Dec. 3, as they travel to the University of Connecticut for another nonconference meet.