Deniz Saip

Fresh off a Thanksgiving bye week, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team reunites this weekend to travel to Storrs for a tri-meet with the University of Connecticut and Boston University.

The most recent competition for both the Yale swimmers and divers was the most rigorous of the season thus far. It pitted the separated swimmers and divers against some of the top talent in the country, hundreds of miles from home. Nonetheless, both teams emerged from the water successful; the swimmers took home fourth place at Ohio State, while the divers advanced the most competitors to the finals out of any team at the H2Okie Invitational. This weekend, a pair of foes from the Patriot League and American Athletic Conference stand in the Bulldogs’ way.

“With this weekend, we’re just trying to focus on having fun and racing, and trying to translate all we do in practice into our races,” swimmer Sophie Fontaine ’20 said. “It was so nice to have a week off to relax and spend time with friends and family; not many D1 swim programs are allowed to do so.”

The upcoming meet should present the Bulldog swimmers with an easier challenge. Of the 20 common swim events performed by the Elis, BU and UConn so far this season, Yale holds the top spot in all 20 — often by a large margin.

In the diving aspect of competition, however, UConn poses a difficult test for the Bulldogs. Yale’s top scores this season trump Connecticut in both the 1-meter and 3-meter iterations, but the Huskies found success against the Elis in Blacksburg, Virginia, last week. Husky senior Alexandra Butera captured gold in the 3-meter event and fourth in the 1-meter event. Her teammate, Monica Marcello, also grabbed fifth in the 1-meter last weekend at Virginia Tech. This weekend, the Elis’ strong divers will have a chance at a rubber match and to earn bragging rights over their in-state opponent.

“Virginia Tech was a very challenging invitational, but we felt that we performed well against such tough competition,” diver McKenna Tennant ’18 said. “It really helped prepare us for the meets to come, especially because we got to face UConn at the VT invite. We are approaching this weekend confident in knowing how much work we have been putting in and continue to do so.”

Through four meets the Bulldogs have remained impressively consistent. Coming into the weekend, the Elis own the top time or score in the Ivy League in all of the events in which they have participated, making the possibility of ending their 19-year Ivy League championship drought a very achievable reality.

Individually, 20 Yale swimmers have posted B NCAA qualifying times. Last year’s team sent three members to the NCAA championships, including current team members Isabella Hindley ’19 and Cailley Silbert ’18.

For the NCAA swimming qualification process, swimmers are divided into A and B cut times for each event. While swimmers with an A distinction time receive automatic bids, those spots are reserved for the top performers nationally. According to Destiny Nelson ’19, advancing to the NCAA tournament without an automatic bid requires a swimmer to meet two necessary criteria: possessing a B cut time and having that time reside in the top-39 times nationally. Given this process, the abundance of noteworthy B times posted by Yale’s competitors may only result in a handful taking to the pool for the NCAA championships.

For diving, the NCAA qualification process is different. Divers must first qualify within their zone, where they will dive for a chance at a NCAA championship bid. Yale competes in Zone A, and last season sent five divers, including current team members Tennant, Lilybet MacRae ’17, Talbott Paulsen ’19 and Hannah Walsh ’19. All six divers on the team have surpassed the 265-point floor needed to quality for the 1-meter diving event and MacRae, Paulsen and Tennant have also met the 280 point 3-meter dive standard at least once this season. These scores suggest a number of Yale divers will compete at the zone meet and hopefully advance to the NCAA championship.

Though the NCAA tournament and the zone competition remain far in the future, the prevalence of so many B distinctions and zone hopefuls signifies a Yale squad that resides not only near the top of the Ivy League, but that is quickly gaining relevance nationally.

Competition between Yale, UConn and BU begins at 1 p.m.