Deniz Saip

In the final meet before the Ivy League Championships, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team will look to secure its 30th and 31st wins in a row as it takes on rivals Harvard and Princeton.

At Harvard’s Blodgett Pool — which will host the conference championships a week and a half later — the Elis have the opportunity both to scout their opposition and to acclimate to the water that will decide whether the Ancient Eight title stays in New Haven for a second consecutive year. No Ivy team outside of Yale, Harvard and Princeton has claimed the league championship since 2000. With all three squads going into HYP undefeated in conference meets, this head-to-head competition will be the first glimpse of how the title contenders stack up.

“The team is ready and excited for both HYP and Ivies,” Bebe Thompson ’20 said. “This whole season has been a dress rehearsal for these next two big meets. Some of us will be rested and tapered for HYP, and for others, Ivies will be their championship meet. Regardless, everyone is excited to approach the most challenging, fun and exciting two meets of our season.”

Across conference competition this season, the Bulldogs have outpaced both the Crimson and the Tigers. On average, Yale has outscored Ivy League teams by 161.2 points while Harvard and Princeton have averaged just 73.8 and 104.6 margins of victory.

In the 50-yard freestyle, Bella Hindley’s season best time of 22.46 is more than a half second faster than the best times for the Crimson’s and the Tigers’ best sprinters. Her time in the 100-yard freestyle is just 0.11 seconds behind Princeton’s Isabel Reis’ mark of 49.88.

While Harvard’s Michelle Owens owns the best 500-yard freestyle time, Sophie Fontaine ’20, Kendall Brent ’20 and Cailley Silbert ’18 have posted the second-, third- and fourth-best times between the teams. In the 1,000-yard freestyle, Silbert is uniquely dominant as the lone swimmer in the meet with a time below 10 minutes this season. Brent, Nathalie Eid ’21 and Danielle Liu ’18 follow close behind with the second-, fifth- and sixth-best times in the event.

“We are super excited for HYP and have been training incredibly hard and consistently the past month,” Fontaine said. “It’s definitely a dress rehearsal for Ivies, but gives people who aren’t going to Ivies the opportunity to be a huge help to the team. We definitely couldn’t win HYP or Ivies without everyone’s contribution.”

In the 50-yard backstroke, Jacquelyn Du ’19 and Heidi VanderWel ’18 are currently projected to finish third and fourth, but while the Crimson’s Mei Colby leads the Bulldogs by nearly a second, the Tigers’ Reis is just 0.2 seconds ahead of Du. A tight race for second could be in order. Meanwhile, Hindley has a slight edge in the 100-yard backstroke with VanderWel also poised for a podium finish. In the 200-yard backstroke, Destiny Nelson ’19 has outpaced her opponents with a blistering 1:56.56, nearly two seconds faster than the best Harvard or Princeton has to offer.

For breaststroke, Cha O’Leary ’20 carries the torch for Yale. Her best times this year in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke are almost two seconds better than Harvard’s and Princeton’s top times.

In the butterfly, it may prove difficult for the Elis to compete with a particularly deep group of Crimson swimmers. Harvard has the top three times for the 100-yard butterfly, but Maddie Zimmerman ’18 is only 0.01 seconds behind Colby, so Yale could slide into third. The 200-yard fly will be equally challenging, and Carrie Heilbrun ’19 will need to span a 0.9 second gap to have a chance at third.

“We are determined to defend our HYP title streak, and I believe everyone on our team has put in the hard work necessary to build a strong aerobic base of endurance,” Heilbrun said. “Beginning this week, we’ll start fine-tuning the details of our races, adjusting for the technical changes that come with newfound speed and power. … [HYP is] swimming’s version of The Game.”

In diving, Nikki Watters ’21, McKenna Tennant ’18, Hannah Walsh ’19 and Talbott Paulsen ’19 are well positioned to snag at least two of the top-three places in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events and continue their stellar season.

Two of the most exciting events of the weekend will be the 100- and 200-yard individual medley. While Nelson leads the way with a time of 1:59.29 — the only time below two minutes — another five swimmers have times below 2:02, including Hindley and Lili Margitai ’20. Nelson also has a two-second lead in the 400-yard IM. Additionally, most of the relays are quite close except for the 400-yard medley relay, in which Yale’s time of 3:37.16 has a four-second advantage over Princeton and Harvard.

The intensity of the competition will provide a stern test of the Bulldogs’ fitness and grit, but the team’s performances earlier this season suggest the Elis will ably rise to the challenge.

“The coaches have structured our training and competitions thus far to simulate the fatigue the team will feel on the third and fourth days of [championship] competition,” captain Paulina Kaminski ’18 said. “I believe we have handled these tough situations very well and are prepared for a test run at HYP.”

Yale begins its defense of the HYP meet on Saturday.

Caleb Rhodes |