The Yale men’s swimming and diving team ran roughshod over Cornell on Sunday, dominating the last meet before its crucial matchup with Harvard in two weeks.
The Bulldogs won 193–107 in Ithaca, earning their ninth dual meet win of the season and their fifth against Ivy League opponents. Meanwhile, the Big Red dropped its fifth consecutive contest in the Ancient Eight, falling to 2–5 on the season. On Feb. 4–5, the Elis will face the unbeaten Crimson in New Haven for a chance at their first undefeated conference season since the 1969–70 campaign.
“I feel like the team as a whole is roughly in the same boat — we’re doing really well compared to last year but as championships approach there’s less and less room for error,” Jonathan Rutter ’18 said. “The Harvard meet will be extremely competitive. When the time comes, every member of the team needs to be able to step up and race.”
Yale stepped onto the deck of Teagle Pool a heavy favorite, but Cornell showed life in early events. Chris LaBella ’20 continued a strong freshman year, winning the 1-meter diving event and taking second in the 3-meter, yet the Big Red led 20–18 once the swimming events commenced. Moreover, Cornell’s A-relay flexed its muscle in the opening 200-yard medley relay, taking gold by over a second. After just three events, the underdog Big Red had managed a 31–24 advantage.
The Elis, however, were quick to reassert dominance. Ben Lerude ’17 won the 1,000-yard freestyle in 9:33.15 and Matt Slabe ’20 took second in 9:39.09; subsequently, Kei Hyogo ’18 and Adrian Lin ’19 went first-second in the 200-yard freestyle to give control back to the Bulldogs. After Shawn Nee ’18 and Ed Stolarski ’19 also finished in the top two spots of the 100-yard backstroke, the early drama of the meet had evaporated.
“I’m really proud of the way we performed today,” Derek Kao ’18 said. “Our coaches told us what we needed to work on as a team and we went out and did it.”
Yale kept its foot on the gas during the second half of the competition. Eli swimmers won eight out of the final nine events, including a podium sweep in the 200-yard IM by Rutter, Tristan Furnary ’20 and Duncan Lee ’20 and another in the 200-yard backstroke by Nee, Stolarski and Alex Schultz ’17. To close out the meet, the Bulldogs eviscerated the Big Red in the 400-yard freestyle relay, finishing in a time of 3:04.45 to Cornell’s 3:08.00. Of the 48 podium finishes in the meet, 31 were earned by Elis.
With Cornell in the books, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to their biggest challenge of the year — Harvard. The Elis have lost a whopping 24 consecutive dual meets with the Crimson, and each member of the team will need to swim near-perfect races in order to end the streak. Harvard, ranked No. 21 in the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll, has manhandled its opponents throughout the season, its most competitive meet a 50-point victory over Brigham Young. Several swimmers said they expect a tough meet with Harvard and were eager to use Cornell as an important tune-up.
“We [expected] the dual meet with Cornell to be a close one,” Hyogo said before the Cornell competition. “I think a challenging meet with Cornell would get us prepared physically but even more so mentally for the tough battle that we expect from Harvard.”
The Bulldogs are not competing this weekend. Their season will resume against Harvard over the weekend of Feb. 4.