For the second year in a row, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team entered the Ivy League Championship undefeated in dual meets and HYP champions. For the second year in a row, Yale captured the most first-place finishes and swept all the relays. And for the second year in a row, a Bulldog took home High Point Swimmer of the Meet honors.
But unlike last year, the team also walked away with an extra piece of hardware: the Ivy League Championship. With a 1,681-point performance over the four-day meet, the Bulldogs set a record for the highest team score in meet history en route to snapping a 19-year title drought.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team and the coaching staff,” head coach Jim Henry told Yale Athletics after the meet. “This week’s win was about these women making a commitment to each other and holding themselves to it. Thirty-four students made this happen as a team, not one or two. Words cannot describe how great it feels to make history with this team.”
In addition to the overall title, Yale also took home all the individual honors. Lilybet MacRae ’17 earned both the High Point Diver of the Meet and Career Diving Scoring Champion titles, while teammates Cailley Silbert ’18 and Bella Hindley ’19 shared the High Point Swimmer of the Meet award. Kina Zhou ’17 rounded out the Bulldogs’ sweep with the Career Swimming Scoring Champion title.
Contrary to shorter regular season dual meets, the Ivy Championship is a longer affair that consists of preliminary qualifying events and then finals to which the top competitors -— 24 in the swim events and 16 in the dive events — advance. Throughout the four-day marathon, the Bulldogs performed with consistent precision, grabbing 14 first-place finishes, eight second-place finishes and seven third-place finishes. As opposed to last season’s narrow defeat, which came even as Yale earned the most gold medals, this year the Elis relied on both talent and depth en route to defeating the Crimson and the rest of the Ivy League.
As the 21st event of the meet concluded, Henry and head diving coach Chris Bergère leaped into the pool fully clothed to celebrate the victory with their team.
“When Jim recruited the class of 2017 five years ago, he had a vision: we would win Ivys by our senior year,” Zhou said. “It was incredibly inspiring to see that dream he had visualized so long ago finally became a reality this weekend and even more so that the seniors were a part of this unbelievable journey. When Jim belly flopped into the pool, it honestly was one of the best feelings I have ever felt. To the seniors, I think it was extra special because it wasn’t one season’s worth of work, but an accumulation of four seasons. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end our careers.”
The Elis got off to a torrid start on the first day of action, winning gold in both of Wednesday’s two events. The team of Zhou, Kate Rogers ’18, Lili Margitai ’20 and Hindley won the 200-yard medley relay and were immediately followed by another victory in the 800-yard freestyle relay from Zhou, Margitai, Hindley and Olivia Jameson ’17. The quick momentum gained from the two relays reverberated throughout the rest of the meet as the Bulldogs captured gold in each of the five relay events.
Thursday through Saturday featured a mix of preliminary events followed by their final iteration. In the first final event of the meet, Yale received second- and third-place points from Silbert and Jameson in the 500-yard freestyle. They were followed by a silver from Destiny Nelson ’19 in the 200-yard individual medley, and first and second in the 50-yard free from Hindley and Zhou. The day was capped by the 1-meter diving event, in which Talbot Paulsen ’19, MacRae and Hannah Walsh ’19 finished second, third and fourth, respectively, and another relay victory for the Bulldogs in the 200-yard free relay.
Additional highlights included Cha O’Leary ’20 sweeping both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke; Zimmerman, Heidi VanderWel ’18, and Margitai grabbing second, third and fourth, respectively, in the 100-yard butterfly; VanderWel’s gold in the 100-yard backstroke and Silbert’s 10-second margin of victory in the 1650-yard freestyle. Yale’s relay teams also picked up three additional gold medals. Hindley was the most decorated individual swimmer of the meet, earning six total golds, and she and Silbert ultimately finished with a meet-high 92 points each.
“I’m pretty happy with my results this weekend,” Hindley said. “The team did an incredible job. … We wrote down this goal a year ago and have held each other accountable ever since.”
Not to be out done, the performance of the divers in the aforementioned 1-meter event and the 3-meter iteration proved crucial to the Bulldogs historic victory. MacRae recorded a first-place finish in the 3-meter dive, while Paulsen took third. McKenna Tennant ’18 added additional points with a sixth-place finish. In total, the divers placed five of the eight competitors in the 1-meter finals and six in the 3-meter finals, providing 247 points towards Yale’s 1681-point total.
“The divers had amazing performances this week at Ivys, and I cannot express how proud I am of how everyone competed,” Tennant said. “I believe that our performance really demonstrated the dedication and work that we put in throughout the whole season. This win is the result of every team member’s contribution and commitment, and seeing our team’s ultimate goal realized is an unforgettable moment.”
Though Yale’s team competition has concluded, individual swimmers and divers may have the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Championships beginning on March 15. In order to qualify, the divers will compete at the Zone Diving Championships in Blacksburg, Va., beginning March 6. The swimmers with NCAA ‘B’ qualifying times will be notified if they will have the chance to compete following the conclusion of the remaining conference championship.
This year marks the first time in 17 years that either Harvard or Princeton have not claimed the trophy.