Fresh off victories over Harvard and Princeton at the annual HYP meet earlier this month, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team will try to defend its conference title at the Ivy League Championships on Valentine’s day.
The Elis have beaten every other Ancient Eight team in the run up to the championship meet. While the Bulldogs have strung together 31 meet wins over the past three years, however, the Ivy League title is not a given. This Wednesday, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia will do their best to take the hardware from New Haven.
“I believe we are a very strong group of women that have had an incredible season of training, racing and preparation,” captain Paulina Kaminski ’18 said. “When it comes down to finishing a close race or nailing a tough dive, I’m not scared of the outcome because I trust my teammates to get the job done. I cannot foresee the future, but what I can say is that it will be a very exciting weekend.”
The HYP meet a week ago at the Crimson’s Blodgett Pool served as as a dress rehearsal for the championships. While understudies Harvard and Princeton were not able to take the starring role from triumphant Yale, the scores from this year’s meet were far closer than last year’s. The Elis’ margin of victory shrunk from 147 to 24 against the Crimson and from 160 to 22 against the Tigers.
At the Ivy League Championships, these close results may become tighter as other teams dilute the field, making the same points harder to come by. In some events, like the 200 free — which Yale placed eighth in at HYP — the Bulldogs run the risk of being shut out altogether.
“In this League you can never be confident about anything,” Bella Hindley ’19 said. “Both Harvard and Princeton put up a strong front [at HYP]; they had some incredible swims and some great diving. Every team is going to step it up for Ivies, but I think we’re ready to put up a great fight.”
Diving is one area of promise for the Elis. Heading into HYP, the Bulldogs’ dauntless divers have owned the air and claimed one, two and three at numerous meets this season. Yet the humid atmosphere of the Blodgett Pool seemed to stifle their acrobatic prowess. In the one-meter event, McKenna Tennant ’18 finished highest for Yale in ninth place, with her compatriots following in 10th, 11th and 14th. Five Harvard divers and three Princeton divers finished higher.
The Elis performance improved slightly in the three-meter event. Talbott Paulsen ’19 grabbed a distant fourth with her fellow Bulldogs finishing fifth, ninth and 15th. These were points Yale would not have expected to drop, and not performing in these events contributed to the tight final score.
“I truly believe we have a strong chance at a repeat title this year,” Destiny Nelson ’19 said. “That being said, both Harvard and Princeton showed just as well that they are in the game. [HYP] gave our team a lot of confidence and our plan is just to keep the momentum rolling and trust in each other and our coaches.”
Yale enters the championships after many top performances at HYP, including eight first-place finishes, and they are well-placed to put down equally high-achieving swims this week. Yet while Hindley and Nelson powered the team with multiple individual victories, the Bulldogs could not catch Harvard in either the 200-yard medley or 400-yard free relay.
Last year, as Yale soared to its first title since 1997 with a record 1,681 points, the team coupled countless first place finishes with a sweep of the relays. While this year’s team has the individual talent, it will need to come together in the relays in order to secure victory.
“I am very confident in our team,” Cha O’Leary ’20. “It amazes me every day how strong and fearless these women are and it’s such an honor to race with them. Even under immense pressure, all of my teammates are able to keep their heads down and race with such grace. I’m really in awe every day.”
The Ivy League Championships begin February 14.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org