Yale Athletics

The Yale women’s swimming and diving team blew by Brown in the first competitive meet of the season by a score of 201.5 to 93.5.

The Elis improved on last year’s already-dominant performance, when they won 194 to 104, which that bodes well for their title defense. The Bulldogs dominated a number of events, leading to 14 first-place finishes in 16 events and a sweep of the podium in both the 1- and 3-meter dives. The win gives Yale momentum ahead of next weekend’s away meet against Columbia and the important Ohio State Invitational, which starts Nov. 17.

“We were all really happy with the meet,” Bebe Thompson ’20 said. “We have been training really hard, so the mindset was just to get up, race and finish each race hard. The energy was great and everyone was happy and having a lot of fun on deck — we were all really pumped up. It is always exceptionally fun to compete in our home pool and defend it.”

Yale set the tone early in the 200-yard medley relay, the first event of the day. The quartet of Heidi Vanderwel ’18, Cha O’Leary ’20, Maddy Zimmerman ’18 and Bella Hindley ’19 beat the Bears’ relay team by nearly a second, with a time of 1:42.88, which hinted at the mauling to come.

As adept in individual events events as in group ones, the members of this relay squad would continue to earn the Elis points later in the meet as well. Vanderwel torched the opposition in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing 1.30 seconds ahead of teammate Destiny Nelson ’19. In similar fashion, O’Leary lead the pack in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke while Hindley vaporized the field en route to first place finishes in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races.

Outside of this triumphant tetrad, the Bulldogs saw a number of other great performances. Cailley Silbert ’18 paced the 1000-yard freestyle and had a full quarter minute of recovery before the top Brown swimmer joined her on the wall after a grueling 40 lengths of the pool. Claire O’Mara ’21 won the 200-yard freestyle and was the only swimmer to crack the 1:51 time mark, while Lili Margitai ’20 flew in the 100-yard butterfly and narrowly edged Zimmerman by three-hundredths of a second.

The biggest shout-out of the day goes to the divers, though, who prevented the Bears from picking up a single point in either the 3- or 1-meter dives. Hannah Walsh ’19 and McKenna Tennant ’18 used their veteran status to outcompete the Bears, but it was rookie Nikki Watters ’21 who impressed most. Watters claimed first place in the three-meter dive with a score of 303.22, which she followed up with a second place result in the 1-meter event.

While Watters may have been one of the most conspicuous of the new members to the team on the day, the nine first years who made their competitive debuts all contributed in one way or another. Nathalie Eid ’21 crushed the 1000-yard freestyle, earning a second place finish with a time of 10:13.94, which, while a ways off her career best 9:59.4, demonstrates how much more dominant the Elis can be once they hit midseason form.

Cate Sawkins ’21 and Charlotte Hylinski ’21 also made waves this week with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the 200-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly respectively. The debutants did not look out of place on a team looking to win back-to-back titles.

“I think overall, the first years felt honored and proud to be racing for a team that [set] such a precedent in the league,” Eid said. “Also, we felt really lucky to be part of such an amazing group of girls. I was also a little nervous about pulling my weight and contributing to a team that set such a high standard last season, but I really loved being able to compete with them. The energy on deck was unlike anything I experienced in club swimming, and that really motivated me.”

The only blemish on the day came on Yale’s disappointing performance in the 200-yard individual medley and 400-yard freestyle relay, where Brown took all the points.

Next week, the Bulldogs visit Columbia, which lost its first meet against Penn and Harvard. While the Lions put up a good fight against the Quakers and only lost by 5 points, Columbia fared far worse against the Crimson, falling by a 150–87.5 margin. Last year, the Elis defeated the Lions 176–113 and will be looking to replicate.

“Columbia is coming up in less than a week,” captain Paulina Kaminski said. “That is a pretty quick turnaround from a Saturday to a Friday meet. We are focusing on keeping up with the workouts and keeping up the intensity in practices this week in preparation for another challenge. We need to prepare ourselves mentally as well as physically.”

The Columbia meet will be Yale’s final preparation for the Ohio State Invitational.

Caleb Rhodes | caleb.rhodes@yale.edu