Steve Musco

In its penultimate weekend of dual-meet racing, the Yale men’s swimming and diving team suffered heartbreak as it fell to Cornell by just two points.

The Elis, who have just two meets remaining as a full team, travelled to Ithaca over the weekend to take on another Ivy League opponent — the Big Red. Yale opened 2019 with a mixed weekend of conference racing, emerging victorious against Dartmouth and falling to Penn before cruising to an easy home win last weekend against Seton Hall. Although the Bulldogs swam strong races on Saturday, no divers competed, and the Bulldogs ultimately fell to the Big Red 148–146. Yale now has just one weekend of dual-style racing left on the docket before it dives into the season’s championship competitions.

“The loss to Cornell was tough, but we’re definitely coming away with some valuable lessons,” Patrick Frith ’21 said. “We lost a couple of close races that really came down to toughness on the last 25, and we all know now that each race could have swung the meet in favor of our guys. We obviously don’t enjoy taking a loss to a team that we would usually win against, but we recognize that Cornell put up some big swims and raced hard.”

Although Cornell opened the day with a win in the 200-yard medley relay, the Elis kept themselves close by grabbing both the second and third place finishes. The A-relay clocked a time of 1:31.64, touching in less than two tenths of a second after Cornell’s winning team.

Previous clutch performers continued to be reliable for the Elis. Rookie Liam Bogart ’22 maintained his season-long dominance in the distance freestyle events, grabbing first-place finishes in both the 1000-yard and the 500-yard freestyle races. In the 1000-yard, Bogart bested runner-up Tyler Harmon ’21 by five seconds. Less than a second separated Harmon and fourth-place Matt Slabe ’20.

As the season has worn on and the fields have grown tighter, the Elis have proved their ability to compete in close races. They topped the podium several times in the stroke events. In the 100-yard backstroke, first through fifth place were separated by just over three tenths of a second. In the tight race, the Elis emerged victorious — Max Bottene ’20 came in first, while Ed Stolarski ’19 came in third.

In the 100-yard breaststroke, Yale narrowly missed out on the top spot but grabbed second through fourth place in yet another tight race. The 200-yard butterfly was similarly close — Frith came in second with a time of 1:51.00, just a tenth of a second after Cornell’s top swimmer. Closer runner-up performances continued as rookie Cristian Bell ’22 registered a time of 1:50.43 in the 200-yard backstroke, just 0.21 seconds short of the first finisher.

Although their stroke swims were close, the Bulldogs were most effective in the sprint freestyle events. Henry Gaissert ’20 emerged with a comfortable 20.07 time in the 50-yard race to grab first — his closest competitor clocked a 20.61. Meanwhile, Ryan Huizing ’20 and Michael Blank ’22 came in third and fourth, respectively.

Gaissert also emerged on top in the 100-yard event, this time with an even more comfortable margin of victory. His time of 44.31 beat runner-up Bottene’s by more than two seconds. The event was a sweep for the Bulldogs — captain Adrian Lin ’19 eked out a 0.02 second win over Cornell’s top finisher to clinch an all-podium finish for Yale.

Gaissert, who qualified for the 2020 United States Olympic Trials in the fall, continued his dominant performance in the 100-yard butterfly, this time grabbing a win by a narrow margin of 0.03 seconds.

“The meet was a tough loss, and a lot of races came down to the last stroke,” Slabe said. “But there were plenty of positives and in-season best times to build from going into our championship season. We are set up well moving into the homestretch of the season.”

With a full day of close, back-and-forth races punctuated by strong finishes, the Elis seemed poised to take down the Big Red. But Yale was hindered, points-wise, by its lack of divers. In both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events, Yale entered no divers while Cornell entered the maximum three per event. Across the two events, Cornell — unopposed — picked up a total of 32 unanswered points, 30 more than the Big Red’s ultimate margin of victory.

“Going in without divers, we knew we had to get as many 1–2 finishes as possible to secure the win,” Gaissert said. “It was a valuable lesson for the underclassmen in preparation and readiness, and I don’t expect us to make the same mistakes in the future.”

The Elis will next look to avenge Saturday’s narrow defeat in their final weekend of dual racing when they swim against Harvard and Princeton. Last year, Yale eked out a single-point win over the Tigers.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu