Energized by a five-meet win streak, the Yale men’s swimming and diving team is looking to continue its hot streak at the HYP meet in its final week before the Ivy League Championships.
After securing a victory over Southern Connecticut to close out 2017, the Bulldogs launched 2018 in triumphant fashion, securing home victories over three conference opponents — Dartmouth, Penn and Cornell — as well as Seton Hall. The building momentum now carries the Elis to HYP, one of the most highly anticipated and competitive meets of the season. Yale enters HYP ranked third in the Ancient Eight, while rivals Harvard and Princeton rank first and second, respectively. Princeton comes off a six-meet win streak, and Harvard maintains an unblemished record for the season.
“There is always a lot of anticipation and excitement surrounding the HYP meet,” assistant coach Kevin Norman said. “We’ve had a very good season but seem to have picked up some great momentum since our team training trip to Florida. [The] energy in practice has been fantastic, and there’s definitely a confidence within the team. The team is fully aware that this is a meet where more attention seems to be drawn, and with breakout performances, we have the ability to do something special.”
HYP has not been an easy meet for the Bulldogs in recent years. Last year, Princeton forfeited the meet after its team was suspended for exchanging misogynistic and racist messages, leaving Yale to face Harvard, just like a regular dual meet. Yale ultimately fell 225–128 to an undefeated Crimson team, which boasted a more experienced team that included 11 seniors over Yale’s seven.
In 2016, the Tigers overtook the Bulldogs 253–98, and the Crimson defeated Yale 263–90, with the Tigers ultimately taking home the title. The 2015 HYP meet also saw the Elis lose by similar margins to both conference foes. The Bulldogs last beat Princeton in 2005, while their drought against Harvard stretches back to 1992.
Harvard’s Dean Farris, who broke four Ivy League Championship records and eight Harvard team records as a freshman last year, returns to race against the Bulldogs this weekend. In last year’s HYP, the Crimson claimed all relay events; Farris played a key role in Harvard’s winning A relays in the 400-yard medley and the 200-yard freestyle relays. In 2016, when Princeton last competed in HYP, the Tigers won 14 of the meet’s 19 events.
The past success of Princeton and Harvard can be attributed partly to how those teams approach the meet, according to Jonathan Rutter ’18. Unlike the Bulldogs, who save strategies reserved for big events, such as resting and wearing championship suits, until the Ivy League Championships that follow HYP, the Tigers and the Crimson rest and don their best suits for the tri-team clash. The other two teams also have a deeper roster than the Elis.
“While we have always taken the meet very seriously, most of us have generally saved our rest and suits for Ivies, which puts us at an immediate disadvantage,” Rutter said. “The challenge was therefore remaining mentally tough in an inevitably uphill battle. This year I think the challenge will be similar, but we are a better team, and no matter what condition we are in, we will be racing to win.”
However, although the final results of the HYP meet in recent years have reflected poorly on the Elis, those scores have often overshadowed numerous standout times, according to Norman. HYP has typically been Yale’s fastest meet aside from Ivy Championships in terms of overall team performance.
Norman emphasized the Bulldogs’ big-picture approach: achieving fast times at HYP without pushing themselves so far that they harm their preparation for the Ivy Championships that closely follow HYP. Competing against two teams instead of one can also pose a strategic challenge, Norman said, as the coaching staff must try to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of twice as many opponents in order to create the two best possible lineups.
Although the competition will be tough and the strategizing poses challenges, several members of the team noted the high level of energy and confidence among teammates heading into the weekend.
“While I am nervous going into my first HYP meet, I am very excited,” said Christian DeVol ’21, a first-year diver who tallied his seventh collegiate win in the Bulldogs’ final dual meet of the season. “Not only for the diving, but I also have friends on both teams that I am looking forward to seeing and competing against. The only expectations I have for myself is to do the best I can. Harvard and Princeton both bring very tough competition, so it should be a very fun while also challenging meet.”
The Bulldogs will travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts, this Friday for two days of competition.
Selena Cho | email@example.com