Heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the Elis took the weekend to recognize the contributions and successes of its 15 senior swimmers and divers.
Crowds roared deep beneath Payne Whitney Gymnasium for the final time this season as both teams put forth a string of dominant performances to triumph over Cornell. The men’s team (6–1, 4–1 Ivy) battled to a 186–114 win, while the women’s team (7–0, 5–0) seized victory by a 98-point margin to continue its undefeated run.
Before the whistle sounded for the start of the race, the seven seniors on the women’s team — captain Kendall Brent ’20, Sophie Fontaine ’20, Heidi Katter ’20, Lili Margitai ’20, Charlotte O’Leary ’20, Ashley Pales ’20 and Bebe Thompson ’20 — were flanked by their teammates on the pool deck, bouquets in hand, reminiscing upon their years with the team. Following the bittersweet ceremony, the team dismantled a struggling Big Red team (2–6, 0–6) in the process.
Margitai capped off her final home meet with a win in the 100-yard butterfly. She fended off stiff competition from the Big Red, touching in 61 milliseconds faster than her next-fastest opponent to finish with a time of 57.02. According to Margitai, her last race at home was an “incredibly emotional experience” due to the bonds that she has formed with the team over the last three and a half years.
“Swimming for Yale has simply been the greatest opportunity and honor,” Margitai said. “There is no feeling more fulfilling than having a team of 32 strong, determined women all working towards the same goal day in and day out and then stepping up on the blocks, not for yourself, but for the 31 other women that helped you get there. I hope that future teams can continue emulating this unity as well as the positive, supportive team culture that we currently have.”
Brent put in a fine performance to mark her last race at the Robert J. H. Kiphuth exhibition pool. The captain finished 6.4 seconds faster than her competitors in the endurance 1000-yard freestyle event, touching in with a time of 10:15.25.
Despite the loss of the graduating seniors come May, strong performances by the underclassmen showed that the future is full of promise.
The winning quartet from the 200-yard medley relay against Dartmouth and Penn remained intact, with Jamie Yeh ’23, Jessica Whang ’23, Caitlin Tycz ’22 and Izzi Henig ’22 reprising their roles, taking first with a time of 1:43.66.
The sophomore trio of Ashley Loomis ’22, Alessandra Baldari ’22, and Raime Jones ’22 continued Yale’s dominance, taking first, second and third, respectively, in the 500-yard freestyle.
For its part, men’s team will graduate eight seniors — Max Bottene ’20, Tristan Furnary ’20, Henry Gaissert ’20, Ryan Huizing ’20, Chris LaBella ’20, Duncan Lee ’20, Christopher Miller ’20 and captain Matt Slabe ’20 — come this spring.
This group is not only diverse in the range of strokes and strengths that they bring to the team, but also in their pursuits outside of the pool, with interests ranging from engineering to economics. According to Patrick Frith ’21, the graduating class of seniors were “influential” to him, with their “hard working, focused and entertaining” mix of personalities, which helped to model behavior for those around them.
“One of them hosted me on my recruiting trip to Yale, another helped guide me through the decision-making process, and they, as a whole, helped prepare my class for the transition from high school to Yale,” Frith said. “The Class of 2020 holds a very special place in my heart, and it is almost impossible to imagine being a part of this team without them. They will be missed greatly, but we will not forget all that they’ve done for us.”
Last Saturday, the seniors led the charge in avenging the heartbreaking 148-146 loss against Cornell (3–5, 1–5) recorded in the previous season.
Gaissert kept up his hot streak in the 50-yard freestyle, improving upon his event-winning time against Dartmouth and Penn by 2 milliseconds, touching in at 20.37.
Slabe took first after giving it his all in his final home race for Yale, narrowly edging out teammate Nathaniel Hickman-Chow ’23 with a time of 4:37.99.
Coach Jim Henry’s lineup for the 400-yard relay remained largely unchanged from the weeks prior. Gaissert again joined forces with Nathan Stern ’22, Philippe Marcoux ’22 and Joe Page ’23, pulling through with a win — albeit with a time of 2:59.38, almost half a second slower than their previous time.
Despite the regular season soon coming to a close, the Elis still have yet to face its toughest opponents, Harvard and Princeton. Both the Crimson and the Tigers are on hot form as of late, with both their men’s and women’s teams each boasting an undefeated record against other Ivy League teams.
According to associate head coach Kyle Schack, the Elis will do all they can to stake their claim on the Ivy League conference title and close out the regular season with a win.
“[The team’s] work ethic, loyalty and belief in each other has been demonstrated through having the highest graduation rate in the conference and [its] impressive winning record,” Schack said. “This year’s squad is resilient and motivated, which are good things to be when it’s January and the training is challenging. As coaches, we are confident the students will do their best to elevate those around them as much or more than themselves and that leads to great performance.”
The Elis travel next to Princeton the weekend of Jan. 31 for the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet.
Ryan Chiao | firstname.lastname@example.org