Yale Athletics

While the Yale men’s swimming and diving team has seen success in its 2017–18 campaign so far, the focus of its season — the Ivy League Championships — still lies ahead.

Yale will enter the finale tied for second in the league. No. 1 Harvard stands apart from the rest of the conference, boasting unblemished conference and nonconference records. The rest of the competition, however, is not so far out of reach. Columbia and Princeton have the same 4–2 conference record as Yale, with the Lions holding just one nonconference victory over the Bulldogs. Penn, Cornell and Dartmouth trail far behind. The Elis will try to flip the script on their end-of-season performance, as their track record in the Ivy Championships is not their proudest: In six of the past seven years, the Bulldogs have finished fourth in the Ancient Eight.

“I’m definitely very excited for my first Ivy Championships,” Patrick Frith ’21 said. “We’ve been training all year for this opportunity, and the opportunity to show the league what we can do at the end of the year is one we won’t pass up.”

The Bulldogs have been unexceptional in recent history, hovering around fourth-place for most of the past seven seasons under former head coach Tim Wise. Yale’s break came in 2015, when the team placed third in the Ivies, but it returned to its fourth-place spot in subsequent seasons.

But with new head coach Jim Henry at the helm this winter, the Bulldogs’ morale has soared. Last season, Henry led the Yale women’s swimming and diving program to its first Ivy Championship title since 1997, and the men’s team hopes for similar success under his leadership.

“There’s a really positive attitude on deck at each practice and that’s always a good indicator,” Tristan Furnary ’20 said.

According to assistant coach Kevin Norman, the Bulldogs’ main challenge at Ivy Championships in recent years has been a lack of depth. Though individual members of the team have had “tremendous swims” that have won them events and qualified them to compete at NCAA Championships, the team has fallen short in “backing those swims up with depth.” In championship meets, where the top 24 in each event earn points for their respective teams, a team must capitalize on every scoring opportunity it can. It is not only the first-place finisher that matters: A well-rounded roster and multiple scoring swimmers are crucial to a successful meet.

“Our overall depth is improved this year with a more balanced lineup and more speed,” Norman said. “Another area where we are much improved this season is our diving.”

This year, the Bulldogs return an all-star cast of seasoned swimmers for the Ivy finale. Kei Hyogo ’18, who shines in long-distance events, returns for his final season, after qualifying for NCAA Championships in each of his first three years at Yale. In his junior season, Hyogo finished ninth in the 500-yard freestyle, first in the 1000-yard freestyle and first in the 1650-yard freestyle, and went on to compete in those events at the NCAA Championships.

Aaron Greenberg ’18 placed first in the 50-yard freestyle and third in the 100-yard freestyle at Ivies last year, qualifying him to compete in those events at the NCAA during his junior campaign. Jonathan Rutter ’18 and Adrian Lin ’19 also will compete for the Bulldogs after earning numerous top-10 spots for the Bulldogs at Ivies last season.

In addition to the experience of veteran swimmers, the Elis will also benefit from an energetic and talented first-year group. Christian DeVol ’21 has made a big splash on the diving side, winning eight events throughout his first collegiate campaign. Sam Pekarek ’21 won critical points for the Bulldogs at HYP, and Tyler Harmon ’21, Tim Dorje Wu ’21 and Frith had strong performances against the Crimson and the Tigers, as well.

“We know that we have an incredibly talented senior class, and a successful end-of-season meet for our class of 2018 would be a great way to thank them for all they’ve done for the program,” Frith said. “We recognize that our team has the potential to surge past a fourth-place finish, and, even as a first-year, I feel as if we have something to prove. The first-year class has a lot to bring to the table this week.”

Thee Bulldogs will have one less foe to worry about this year at Ivy Championships, with Brown ineligible to compete after being suspended in December for team hazing.

The Bulldogs will travel to Princeton to compete in the Ivy League Championships, which begin Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Selena Cho | soomin.cho@yale.edu