The Yale men’s swimming and diving team commenced its season with a scrimmage against Army on Oct. 21. One hundred and twenty-five days of practices, training trips and dual meets later, the Bulldogs will begin the most important meet of their campaign — Ivy League championships.
The Elis will swim the first events of the meet on Wednesday evening in Cambridge, where the Ancient Eight champion will be crowned Saturday. The competition figures to be close this year; Yale felled all of its conference foes save Harvard in dual meets, but two of those meets — against Penn and Columbia — were won by 12 points or fewer. With the undefeated Crimson as the clear favorites and Princeton not participating, the 2017 Ivy League championships will be an exciting race for second place.
“The Harvard-Yale dual meet a couple weeks ago gave us a good preview of how fast our guys can swim once we’re all fully tapered,” swimmer Kei Hyogo ’18 said. “I think a lot of us are nervous but at the same time, we’re all fresh off of the excitement of the HY meet. Ivies is going to be an even bigger meet than that so I think everyone will be at their peak energy level and swim their hearts out.”
Last year, Yale finished the meet in fourth, behind perennial powerhouses Princeton and Harvard as well as an impressive Penn squad. The Bulldogs were far out of contention for a podium finish, recording 836 points to the Quakers’ 1,213.5. In fact, Yale was at risk of missing the top four entirely, as Cornell and Columbia came in just behind the Elis with 790 and 786.5 points, respectively. Yale returned to New Haven with its fifth fourth-place finish in six years.
Princeton will not be in attendance this season, after its team was suspended for a series of racist and sexist messages, but the drama will be in abundance. Penn has seemingly taken a step back in 2017, falling 156–144 to the Bulldogs in January after deflating them 178–122 a year prior. Columbia remains tightly matched with the Elis, as their Nov. 12 meeting ended 152–148 in Yale’s favor. Moreover, though the Bulldogs easily dispatched Cornell a month ago, 193–107, the Big Red is a team well-suited for championship-format meets; the Ivy League championship includes five relay events, and Cornell smashed Yale in the 200-yard medley relay in their dual meet.
“We’re really excited,” swimmer Jonathan Rutter ’18 said. “This has been a great year of training, we’re close as a team and taper is a straight-up blessing. We’ve also raced every single one of these teams this year and beaten nearly all of them. Whatever happens over the next few days, I’m confident we’ll swim fast and have a great time doing it.”
Wednesday night will be a short session, with only two relays on tap. The sixth-seeded Yale squad will have a tough time medaling in the 200-yard medley relay, as they are almost two seconds behind third-seed Penn. The 800-yard freestyle relay, the longest such race in swimming, will see the Bulldogs in a fight with Columbia and Brown for bronze; Harvard and Penn will likely battle for gold alone, as there is a seven-second gap between the second and third seeds.
Thursday will feature four individual events, and the Bulldogs will be competitive in three. Hyogo is seeded second in the 500-yard freestyle but two Harvard swimmers, Logan Houck and Zach Snyder, are within 0.26 seconds of him. Hyogo is also the top entrant in the 200-yard IM by over a second, and Aaron Greenberg ’18 is the leader in the 50-yard freestyle with a season-best time of 19.75.
Three Yale divers will also compete in the 1-meter event on Thursday, where they will dive against reigning champion Jayden Pantel of Columbia.
On Friday, Yale will have its best opportunities for event wins in the 400-yard IM, 200-yard freestyle and 1000-yard freestyle. Hyogo enters as the top seed in both the 400 IM and 1000 free, two of swimming’s most-grueling events. In the 200 free, Hyogo, Rutter and Adrian Lin ’19 are seeded second, third and fourth, respectively.
On the final day of competition, three extraordinary races are in store. Hyogo takes a 0.39-second lead over Harvard’s Houck into the 1650-yard freestyle; their race in New Haven two weeks ago came down to the wire. Greenberg will contest the 100-yard freestyle seeded second, half a second behind the Crimson’s Dean Farris. In the final race of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, Yale, Brown and Cornell will fight for silver as the three teams are separated by 0.15 seconds. Top-seeded Harvard has almost three seconds on the next-best squad.
“Overall, the team is swimming great and really excited for this weekend,” captain Alex Goss ’17 said. “We’ve raced in a lot of close meets this year and feel prepared to take on the challenge an invitational presents.”
Competition commences at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.