After enduring a grueling season that began more than three months ago, the Yale men’s swimming and diving team prepares for its final dual meet before the Ivy League championships.
The Bulldogs enter at 9–1 in dual meets this year, their only blemish a 185–168 defeat at Penn State. However, the Elis close their regular season this Saturday at home against the far superior Crimson, which stands unconquered at 9–0 and boasts one of the deepest, most talented squads in the nation.
“We’re excited,” Jonathan Rutter ’18 said. “On paper, Harvard is the best team in the league, but racing this team at this time of the year in this pool means that anything can happen. That’s where the energy is coming from.”
Yale is now at the tail end of a solid season, full of impressive performances from several swimmers, particularly out of the class of 2018. Aaron Greenberg ’18 is ranked 35th in the nation in the 50-yard freestyle with a top time of 19.75 seconds, which he swam in November against Brown and UMass. Kei Hyogo ’18, meanwhile, stands at 15th in the 1000-yard freestyle after finishing in 9:02.47 against Columbia. The Bulldogs are also bolstered by Rutter, who was named CollegeSwimming.com Ivy League Swimmer of the Week in November, and Shawn Nee ’18, who has dominated backstroke events in a season that included victories in both the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes against Penn State.
However, the Crimson is undoubtedly one of the most impressive teams in the country. Harvard is currently ranked No. 23 in the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll and has been featured in each top-25 poll since Dec. 6. Moreover, the Crimson is ranked ahead of Virginia Tech, which scored 1287 points to Yale’s 466.5 at the H2Okie Invitational last November. Harvard’s domination stems predominantly from its superior depth: Harvard claims 11 seniors to the Bulldogs’ seven and a roster that has three more athletes overall. If the numbers were not enough, the Crimson can supplement with sheer talent, as the team has at least one swimmer ranked in the top 50 nationwide in each freestyle event as well as the 200-yard backstroke.
“Harvard’s got  guys in their senior class this year,” head coach Tim Wise said. “[In younger classes], their numbers have been like ours, around eight guys. What happens is, if we’re getting the same number of kids, the league is exponentially more competitive today than it was five and 10 years ago. Now that we’re all operating within the same parameters, we’re all getting good swimmers. Competition breeds competition.”
In recent history, the annual meet has gone squarely to Harvard. Not since 1992 have the Bulldogs emerged victorious, when they blasted the Crimson 148.5–93.5. Since then, Harvard has made short work of the Elis, including a 263–90 shellacking last year in Princeton.
This weekend’s meet originally would have featured the Tigers as well; Harvard, Yale, and Princeton have swum a tri-meet together each season since 1993. However, Princeton’s swim team was suspended for the remainder of its season in December over misogynistic and racist inter-team messages discovered by the administration. Even without one of their two main rivals, Bulldog swimmers said they remain excited for the annual clash with Harvard.
“I’m trying to keep myself calm by treating this meet like an ordinary dual meet, but the stress of this meet being the last obstacle between our team and an undefeated Ivy dual meet season keeps creeping in,” Derek Kao ’18 said. “In the end, it will come down to taking this stress, converting it into excitement and swimming faster than ever.”
Competition will take place at the Kiphuth Exhibition pool on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s session will commence at 6 p.m. and Saturday’s at 12 p.m.