Steve Musco

In its final weekend before its championship slate, the Yale men’s swimming and diving team fell short of both its opponents to end an up-and-down season of dual-meet racing.

The Elis traveled up to Cambridge to take on perennial powerhouses Harvard and Princeton in a two-day double-dual. The Bulldogs entered the meet with narrow margins of victory in mind — they fell to Cornell by just two points two weeks ago and defeated Princeton by a single point in last year’s HYP meet. But Yale, who has struggled to string together consistent victories, fell behind early to both the Crimson and the Tigers and never managed to surmount the deficit, ultimately falling 266–87 to Harvard and 237–116 to Princeton.

“We definitely weren’t completely satisfied with our performances from HYP, but we still had some fantastic performances,” Patrick Frith ’21 said. “The depth of our team has been a huge highlight for us this season, and although depth isn’t as important in dual meets, it will pay off in the championship season.”

Last year, the Bulldogs fell to Harvard but defeated Princeton by the narrowest possible margin — the Tigers recovered to place second behind Harvard at the Ivy League championship weeks later, while the Elis settled for third.

This year, despite graduating several key seniors from the class of 2018, the Elis started the season strong, redeeming last season’s close loss to Columbia with a win to open Ivy racing. But in a double-dual against Dartmouth and Penn, the Elis emerged with a pair of decisively split outcomes against teams they comfortably squashed a season ago.

On Friday, Harvard raced to a win in the first event, the 200-yard freestyle relay. The Crimson, who has now closed out league dual-racing undefeated, touched the wall three seconds ahead of the rest of the field. The race for second was much closer, and the Elis emerged victorious against the Tigers with a time of 1:20.26, just 73 hundredths of a second ahead of the Princeton A relay.

Harvard continued to dominate the weekend’s races. Out of the 19 events, the Crimson boasted the top finisher in 13 of them. Princeton accounted for the remaining six, including both diving events.

But the Elis’ depth, which played a critical role in close victories like the win against Columbia, was not enough in closer races for the runner-up spots. In the 200-yard freestyle, captain Adrian Lin ’19 grabbed a third-place finish with a time of 1:37.13 behind competitors from Harvard and Princeton and ahead of another Harvard swimmer by just five hundredths of a second. But Lin and the next Yale finisher were separated by two seconds and four competitors, two from each opposing squad.

While Harvard continued to dominate both the Tigers and the Elis, Princeton put up several consecutive finishes to edge out some podium-worthy Yale swims. In the 100-yard breaststroke, the Crimson grabbed the top spot, but Princeton held on for second, third and fourth, leaving the Elis in the dust despite producing four times between 55.47 and 56.85.

Although Princeton trailed the hosts from the start, it shined in the stroke events with a rookie Tiger grabbing the top spot in both the 200-yard butterfly and individual medley.

Yale continued to struggle in the stroke events, finishing behind all six of Harvard’s and Princeton’s swimmers in the 200-yard butterfly. In the 200-yard individual medley and backstroke races, the first Eli finishers came in seventh and eighth, respectively.

Racing head to head in tight fields resulted in mixed results throughout the weekend. In the 400-yard medley relay, Harvard’s A team proved unquestionably dominant, more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Princeton. The Tigers won the race for second comfortably, more than four seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. The Elis were in tight contention for second runner-up — third through sixth places were separated by just over a second — but they could not edge out their opponents’ B teams and instead settled for fifth with a time of 3:18.66.

However, in the last event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, Yale’s top squad of Ryan Huizing ’20, Max Bottene ’20, Nathan Stern ’22 and Henry Gaissert ’20 fought successfully for second, with a time of 2:57.83 — far off from Harvard’s 2:54.75 but just 0.13 seconds ahead of Princeton’s best team. Ultimately, such swims were not enough. Harvard grabbed two wins, while Princeton settled for a split decision.

Despite the losses, individual Bulldogs delivered strong performances. Gaissert, who qualified for the 2020 United States Olympic trials last semester, finished second in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles with times of 20.00 and 43.84, respectively. In the one-meter diving competition, Christian DeVol ’21 finished as first runner-up.

“The HYP meet provided us with some great competition as well as a chance to regroup and fine-tune some details heading into the Ivy League Championship meet,” said Matt Slabe ’20. “Our dual meet season has set us up really well for the postseason.”

The Ivy League Championships commence Feb. 27 in Providence.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu