Caleb Rhodes

As frigid winds blew outside in Cambridge, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team warmed up for the Ivy League Championships by defeating both Harvard and Princeton, its main competitors for the conference crown, for the third consecutive year.

After trailing at the end of the first day of competition on Saturday, the Elis finished strong and notched their 30th and 31st wins in a row. They beat hosts Harvard 162–138 and Princeton 161–139 in their tightest Ancient Eight meets this year. The results set up an exciting Ivy League Championships, which will begin Feb. 14, where the Crimson and the Tigers will be out for revenge.

“Last year was definitely a completely different meet,” Cha O’Leary ’20 said. “The atmosphere this year was a lot more positive and exciting because the outcome of the meet was really coming down to the last races. It’s a meet like this one that really pulls our team together and forms this cohesive force.”

The meet began inauspiciously for Yale in the 200-yard medley relay. The Crimson swept the podium as the Bulldogs just missed out on third by 0.01 seconds. While the Elis continued to grow into the competition from that point on, the relay foreshadowed the intense tone of the proceedings to come.

Yale’s delegation of distance swimmers raked in the points. In the 1,000-yard freestyle, Cailley Silbert ’18 swam her best time of the season, 9:55.86, to grab second place in the event. Lilla Felix ’19 posted a personal best of 9:57.97 in her third-placed finish, while Kendall Brent ’20 and Danielle Liu ’18 followed in fourth and fifth.

In the 500-yard freestyle, the Yale’s dominance continued. Led by a personal-best mark of 4:49.36 by Sophie Fontaine ’20, the Elis swept the podium and also snatched fifth and seventh. Princeton’s Courtney Tseng, who finished fourth, was more than three seconds off the pace.

The 200-yard freestyle was a difficult event for the Elis. Cheryl Xiang ’18 and Claire O’Mara ’21 finished within 0.01 seconds of each other but had to settle for eight and ninth. In both the 100 and 50-yard, however, freestyle Bella Hindley ’19 stormed to victory. Creating more than a second of separation in the former race, Hindley was the only swimmer to break the 50-second barrier with a time of 48.97. In the 50, Hindley’s 23.43 set a new pool record.

“I wasn’t even thinking about times at this meet, I was just racing,” Hindley said. “I was definitely happy with my times, but my only aim was to try and get my hand on the wall first to win as many points as I could for the team.”

The Bulldogs had mixed results in the backstroke. Heidi Vanderwel ’18 and Jacquelyn Du ’19 barely missed out on the top three in the 100-yard backstroke, with the spread between first and fifth spanning only a half second. In the 200-yard backstroke, Destiny Nelson ’19 and Vanderwel took charge with season-best times and finished first and second.

O’Leary and Ashley Pales ’20 teamed up in the 100-yard breaststroke and set personal bests as they claimed first and third. In the 200-yard breaststroke, a duel broke out between Harvard’s Jaycee Yegher and O’Leary, with the Eli missing first by 0.08 seconds. Pales rounded out the podium a few seconds later.

Among a streak of Tigers in first, second and fourth, Fontaine snuck into third in the 200-yard butterfly. In the 100-yard butterfly, Maddy Zimmerman ’18 fended off challenges from three Princeton swimmers to capture first place.

The Bulldogs struggled on the diving board with Talbott Paulsen’s ’19 fourth-place finish in the one-meter competition the best result for the group. However, in the 400- and 200-yard individual medley, Nelson continued her rampage through the Ivy League, handily winning both.

Now Yale begins its final preparations for the Ivy League Championships. With these wins in hand, the team now has a clearer sense of the competition it will face in just over a week’s time.

“In the next 10 days, we are going to begin tapering and really try to focus on the details,” Nelson said. “We are lucky in the sense that since HYP is so close to Ivies, we are able to get a really good sense of where we are both mentally and physically.”

Yale starts its title defense Feb. 14th.

Caleb Rhodes | caleb.rhodes@yale.edu