Courtesy of Derik Hamilton

Despite four days of hard-fought races and broken records, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team ultimately came up short this week in the Ivy League championships, finishing second to Harvard for the second consecutive year.

Coming off a 10–0 undefeated streak in head-to-head matches this season, the Bulldogs headed to Princeton this week with high hopes of reclaiming the conference title. In what quickly became a two-team duel between Yale and Harvard, the two Ancient Eight rivals soared past the rest of field. Yet just like last year, Harvard gained the upper hand and eventually finished with an even 1,500 points, 109.5 points more than Yale and 323 points ahead of third-place Princeton.

“Every single member of the team contributed, and it showed on deck,” Destiny Nelson ’19 said. “Even though we came in second, there were still some incredible swims and dives that came from our team and everyone gave it their all, when it came down to it.”

Competition got off to an exciting start Wednesday, which consisted solely of the 200–yard medley relay and the 800–yard freestyle relay. Bella Hindley ’20, Cha O’Leary ’20, Lili Margitai ’20 and Izzi Henig ’22 claimed first over Harvard, while Harvard won the 800–yard freestyle to tie the score at 120 points apiece.

On Thursday, Yale slipped behind Harvard, but outstanding performances from the Eli swimmers kept the team within striking distance.

Hindley once again set the tone on the second day, with the veteran Bulldog breaking the Yale women’s swimming record for the 50-yard freestyle twice within a few hours. In the morning prelims, Hindley broke the previous record that she had set herself in November after touching the wall in 21.98 seconds, while her even faster time of 21.83 seconds won her first place in the finals that evening, making her the first women’s swimmer in Ivy history to win the 50-yard freestyle for four straight years.

Yale’s success in the relay events continued on Thursday as well with the 200-yard freestyle relay. The team — consisting of Henig, Raime Jones ’22, Claire O’Mara ’21 and Hindley — finished with a time of 1:29.76. It was the third time in the last four years that the Bulldogs won the 200–yard freestyle relay Ivy crown.

In one of the most successful events of the day, Bulldogs occupied three of the top five places in the 200-yard individual medley. Nelson, who earlier this year qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials, took third with a time of 1:58.93, while Margitai placed fourth, touching in at 1:59.15. After finishing eighth in the prelims, Olivia Paoletti ’22 rose three spots in the finals for a fifth-place tie with a time of 2:00.18 in her inaugural Ivy League championships.

“Being the last meet of the season, we all wanted to drop time but more importantly we wanted to be able to score points for the team,” Paoletti said. “The supportive culture of our team was unmatched and we had fun with the meet every step of the way.”

Talbott Paulsen ’19 shined in the one–meter dive on Thursday, contributing 282.00 points to the Bulldogs after finishing second. Her stellar performance qualified her for the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships.

By Thursday night, the Elis sat in second place with 495.5 points, falling short of Harvard’s 526.5 points.

On Friday, Hindley continued her outstanding swimming with a record-setting performance in the 100-yard backstroke. Hindley broke the all-time Ivy League record with a time of 52.34, smashing the previous record set last year during the Ivy League championships by former Bulldog Heidi VanderWel ’18. Hindley’s lightning-speed swim was almost two full seconds faster than that of her closest competitor.

Hindley also participated in the 400-yard medley relay with O’Leary, Margitai, and Jones — all four of whom were coming off first place finishes in relay events on Wednesday and Thursday — that broke the DeNunzio Pool record with a time of 3:36.20. Hindley led off the event swimming backstroke and was followed by O’Leary swimming breaststroke and Margitai swimming butterfly, with Jones anchoring the record-setting relay with freestyle.

Friday’s other highlights saw second-place finishes across several individual events. Jones had an impressive swim in the 200-yard freestyle, swimming the event in 1:47.42 and placing second. Meanwhile, Henig, who finished within milliseconds of Jones, took third.

O’Leary also placed second in her individual event, the 100-yard breaststroke, after touching the wall in 1:00.79, followed closely by MaryKate Buckley ’22, who finished in 101.89 to take fifth.

Margitai, the lone representative for the Bulldogs in the 100-yard butterfly finals, placed second with a time of 53.22 seconds.

Saturday kicked off with a promising start following Hindley’s continued success, with the senior swimmer capturing the 100–yard freestyle at the championships for the third time in her career. The day was particularly meaningful to Hindley, who was announced as the recipient of the Career High Point Swimmer Award and shared the High Point Swimmer of the Meet Award.

Not to be outdone, fellow Bulldogs packed the leaderboard in the 200–yard breaststroke, and claimed three of the top four finishes. Paoletti finished second in 2:12.32, Nelson grabbed third and O’Leary rounded out the Elis in fourth. Yale demonstrated similar depth In the 1650–yard freestyle final, with Kendall Brent ’20 placing fourth in 16:31.42, Ashley Loomis ’22 clinching fifth and Nathalie Eid ’21 snagging sixth.

In the 400–yard freestyle relay swam by Hindley, Margitai, Jones and Henig, the Bulldogs placed second with a time of 3:16.48. The Bulldogs placed first or second in every relay at the championships.

In the final day of competition, the Bulldogs failed to catch up to Harvard, whose lead over Yale increased to 109.5 points. Nonetheless, Elis swam fiercely to amass 1390.5 points, echoing the same strength they have exhibited throughout the regular season.

As for the remainder of the standings outside of Harvard and Yale, Princeton finished in third place with 1,177 points, followed by Brown, Penn, Dartmouth, Columbia and Cornell, respectively.

Selected Bulldogs will prepare for the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships in Annapolis, Maryland, from Mar. 11–12, as well as the NCAA Division I Championships from March 20–23 in Austin, Texas.

Alex Reedy |