For the 28th and 29th consecutive meet, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team emerged with its lengthy winning streak intact, with the Ivy League Championships looming on the horizon. The last time the Bulldogs tasted defeat came more than two full years ago, against Penn State on Jan. 15, 2016.
On Friday, the Elis began their quick road trip with a visit to Seton Hall, whom the Bulldogs defeated 200–98. The next day, the team drove from New Jersey to Maryland to face a strong Navy team. In its most competitive meet so far this season, Yale fought fatigue to pull out a tight 164–131 victory. With these meets complete, the Bulldogs have two weeks to prepare for the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, which will give them the best sense of how they stand with their rivals before the Ivy League Championships.
“The back-to-back meets were challenging, but we have had many two-day meets this year, so we were well prepared for it,” Bebe Thompson ’20 said. “The team handled it really well — I actually think the energy on deck was higher on the second day, which is quite encouraging. Racing back-to-back prepares us well for the upcoming two-day HYP and three-day Ivy League Championships.”
The Elis performance against Seton Hall was consistent with the dominance the team has shown this season. The Bulldogs won 13 of the events and shut the Pirates out of the podium in three of them. From the first race, the 200-yard medley relay, which it won by over two seconds, to the final race, the 400-yard freestyle relay, which it won by just over a second, Yale made Seton Hall’s pool its own.
In between, distance duos Danielle Liu ’18 and Nathalie Eid ’21 and Sophie Fontaine ’20 and Claire O’Mara ’21 claimed top spots in the 1,000 and 500-yard freestyles while Carrie Heilbrun ’19 and Cheryl Xiang ’18 seized victory in the 200 and 100-yard freestyles. Finishing third, Kate Rogers ’18 could not quite catch Seton Hall in the 50-yard freestyle and trailed the winner Jordan Decker by just 0.13 seconds.
Yale continued to rack up points in the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly led by Fontaine, who clinched her second win of the day in the 100-yard backstroke, and Ashley Pales ’20, who beat out teammate Mary Tate ’21 for the victory in the 100-yard breaststroke. In butterfly, Heilbrun and Thompson guided the Bulldogs to five of the top six spots across the 100 and 200-yard butterfly.
Navy presented a completely different challenge.
“Although we capped a perfect dual meet record, Navy was our stiffest competition yet,” Heilbrun said. “We had to practice controlling our adrenaline and sticking to our race plan to prepare for the competition we will face within our conference.”
While the Elis did win 10 out of the 16 events, the Midshipmen put all their effort into not letting their team capsize. Other than in diving where Nikki Watters ’21, Hannah Walsh ’19 and McKenna Tennant ’18 have established sovereignty over the air with of sweeps the 1- and 3-meter competitions, Navy prevented the Bulldogs from controlling the podium as regularly. The result was that while Yale prevailed in many events, Navy squeezed more points from the runners-up spots than usual, leading to a closer meet overall, decided by only 33 points.
However, the Elis did turn out a number of impressive races. Cailley Silbert ’18 took hold of the 1,000-yard freestyle and beat the nearest Navy swimmer by 12 seconds, with a time of 10:06:58. Cha O’Leary ’20 twice fended off the challenges of Navy’s Lauren Barber to represent the Bulldogs as winner of the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. No other Eli finished in the top three of those events.
“Going against a strong team like Navy was really great preparation for us,” captain Paulina Kaminski ’18 said. “[It was good] both in getting into the tough racing mindset and rising to the occasion of racing when tired, especially with our tri-meet against Harvard and Princeton coming up in two weeks.”
Both the frenetic pace of the weekend and the tougher competition could help the team reach another level as championship season rapidly approaches. As defending Ancient Eight champions, the Bulldogs have the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
Next on the docket is HYP, which will serve as a proxy for the Ivy League Championships that follow. Both the Crimson and the Tigers have posted undefeated marks in the Ivy League so far, so the importance of the meet cannot be overstated.
“We love the history and tradition of HYP,” head coach Jim Henry said. “We will be prepared to have a great meet. Yes, it is a great dress rehearsal for Ivies. We have much respect for both teams and know we need to be at our best. I have confidence that we will be ready. This team is made up of incredible teammates who only want the best for each other. Together we will be ready for all challenges.”
Yale will face Harvard and Princeton in Cambridge on Feb. 3 and 4.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org