The Yale men’s swimming and diving team is riding a wave of success into its winter training after eviscerating the University of Connecticut and Boston University in Storrs on Saturday.
The Bulldogs demolished the Huskies and the Terriers, winning 200–100 over UConn and 221.5–78.5 over BU for the Elis’ fourth and fifth wins in dual meets this season. Yale’s 5–0 start to 2016 marks the third-consecutive year in which the team accomplished such a feat. With only Southern Connecticut State standing in Yale’s path before the team embarks on its annual winter training trip, the Bulldogs will enter 2017 as a formidable force in the Ivy League.
“I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” head coach Tim Wise said. “Everybody is pretty pleased [with the 5–0 start], though I wouldn’t say surprised. We have a high level of expectation for what we do, but you still have to perform. Whether you’re favored or not, you still have to get up and swim.”
Provided the Bulldogs could keep their composure, signs pointed towards two more victories. After the Bulldogs raced some of the best swimmers in the country at the H2Okie Invitational two weeks ago at Virginia Tech, the team turned its attention to more local competition. The Huskies had joined the Elis in Christiansburg, Virginia, where they scored just 230 points to Yale’s 466.5. The Terriers, whose lone loss of the season came to a UMass team, which Yale pummeled 225–75 on Nov. 5, also made the trip to Storrs with a 3–1 start to their season in hand.
However, the start to the meet left the Elis in more turbulent conditions than anticipated. In the opening 200-yard medley relay, UConn claimed victory by the slimmest of margins: 0.01 seconds over BU and 0.06 over Yale. While any team could have nabbed victory in such a tight contest, the Bulldogs’ unlucky finish left them on the back foot.
Yale settled down quickly, turning to its formidable distance tandem of Kei Hyogo ’18 and Ben Lerude ’17. The two finished first and second in the 1,000-yard freestyle, with the runner-up Lerude more than 12 seconds ahead of the next fastest swimmer, BU’s Tommy Hagerty. Though Hyogo’s 9:11.03 was significantly off of his season-best time of 9:02.47, his blistering performance was no match for the other swimmers in Storrs.
“I think my slower times have primarily to do with how broken down I was,” Hyogo said. “That’s a problem I think everyone on the team faced, mainly because the coaches like to bump up our work load after Thanksgiving break to make sure we have a good aerobic base going into the latter half of the season. With that in mind, I think the team did a good job of keeping it together and racing hard against the other two teams.”
Yale built a small lead over the next several events. Jonathan Rutter ’18, recently named CollegeSwimming.com’s Ivy League Swimmer of the Week for his efforts at Virginia Tech, took the top spot in the 200-yard freestyle, holding off a hard-charging Trevor Winans of BU. Though UConn’s William Kearsey, who had swum impressively at Virginia Tech as well, took gold in the 100-yard backstroke, Eli swimmers seized the next three places, winning valuable points towards their overall score. Still, UConn tried to keep the pace, winning both the 50-yard freestyle and 1-meter diving events.
Mid-meet victories, however, were not enough for either the Huskies or the Terriers as Yale showed its dominance over the final six events. Bulldog swimmers took the top two spots in the 200-yard breaststroke, the top three in the 500-yard freestyle, the top two in the 100-yard butterfly and gold in both the 200-yard individual medley and 400-yard freestyle relay. Impressively, diver Chris Labella ’20 edged UConn senior Spencer Beaulieu for second place in 3-meter diving after losing to the Husky in Christiansburg.
Yale’s strong finish to the meet sealed the deal, and the team returned home with its undefeated season intact.
“In terms of our success, we’ve really come out and done exactly what we’ve wanted to do,” captain Alex Goss ’17 said. “Our major goal is to win the Ivy League, and to do that takes winning every meet. So to be 5–0 is a good start.”
The two weekend victories bring Yale’s all-time win count to 1,097. The Bulldogs will try for win no. 1,098 at Southern Connecticut State this Thursday at 4 p.m.