Although the Yale men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are just beginning to enter the final stretch of their 2018–19 season, the Bulldogs have already started to recognize the contributions of the senior classes.
In their final home meet at the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool of the season last weekend, both the men and women triumphed over Seton Hall to celebrate senior weekend. The teams, who have shared a head coach since Jim Henry took on the men’s team in addition to his prior coaching of the women’s in 2017, will graduate a joint 13 members come this spring — six men and seven women.
“This senior class has been a really special one for the team,” Patrick Frith ’21 said. “All of 2019 has stepped up to be great role models for underclassmen and motivate the team during training. A lot of these guys have made an effort to mentor and guide younger teammates from the moment we stepped on campus, and I know my level of training has been elevated by the seniors.”
For the men, Saturday’s result — a dominant 191–97 point win to follow up a split decision against Penn and Dartmouth the week before — was a well-rounded effort from various team members, and seniors led the way in several events. The Elis swept their opponent in the 200-yard freestyle to earn first, second and third place. Fittingly, team captain Adrian Lin ’19 led the pack with a time of 1:40.40. The class of 2019 also recorded two other first-place finishes — Edward Stolarski ’19 won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 50.77, while Joey Carbone ’19 grabbed a 1:52.28 win in the 200-yard butterfly race.
But, come May, the Bulldogs will lose more than just fast swimmers. Henry, who led the women’s team for five years, was named joint head coach — just after he coached the women to the 2017 Ivy League Championship — following the abrupt resignation of previous head coach Tim Wise in April 2017. The Class of 2019 has navigated that transition, modeling behavior for younger classes.
The six seniors on the men’s team — Lin, Stolarski, Carbone, William Drexler ’19, Jacob Limaldi ’19 and Clay Skoda ’19 — run the gamut in their stroke and distance specializations and are involved in a similar variety of activities outside of the pool. Skoda, for example, is a member of Yale’s ROTC program and a double major in electrical engineering and computer science.
Against Seton Hall, the women triumphed even more resoundingly, scoring 254.5 points to the Pirates’ 54.5 — a fortuitous sign for the spring season and upcoming Ivy Championships. Yet while the team fired on all cylinders, the seniors stood out for setting two Yale records in the final home match of their collegiate careers.
In the 200-yard individual medley, Destiny Nelson ’19 set a pool record with her lightning-fast time of 1:59.41. Her team has come to expect such impressive times from the Texas senior, whose final year has been marked by several records. Most notably, Nelson qualified for the Olympic Trials at NCAA Nationals in December, with her 17th place finish allowing her to join Henry Gaissert ’20 as Yale’s two qualifying swimmers.
“I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to not only meet some of my best friends but also to experience college from a completely different perspective,” Nelson said. “Wearing the Yale name on my cap every practice and every meet is something I don’t take for granted and will be forever grateful for in the years to come.”
Indicative of her strong swimming all season, Bella Hindley ’19 also set a pool record against Seton Hall with her time of 22.17 in the 50-yard freestyle. Coming off of an impressive fall competition themselves, Lilla Felix ’19 and Carrie Heilbrun ’19 will look to match Hindley in the stroke events this season to round out their final year with the Bulldogs.
The spring season will be particularly bittersweet for captain Sophie Pilkinton ’19, who has had the chance to lead the Bulldogs to an undefeated dual-meet record so far.
Hannah Walsh ’19 and Talbott Paulsen ’19 have dominated in diving events as the team’s two senior divers this season. The duo has consistently traded first and second place in the one- and three-meter diving events at matchups to give Yale an important edge in the final team scores.
Although the class of 2019 has raced in Kiphuth Exhibition Pool for the last time in their collegiate careers, both teams are still in the midst of racing and will take on the bulk of Ivy and postseason racing in the upcoming weeks.
The seniors will join their teammates to compete against Cornell on Friday in their final head-to-head match before traveling to Cambridge to take on Ancient Eight rivals Harvard and Princeton. With these matches under their belt, the women will hope to reclaim the Ivy League conference title at the end of February, while the men will look to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish.
“We’ve still got a couple of weeks of hard training left before we start to wind down on intensity,” Gaissert said. “We’re all looking forward to adding some more wins to our record and clocking in some more fast times along the way.”
The Bulldogs take on Cornell at 5 p.m. on Friday in Ithaca.
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