The Yale men’s swimming and diving team (6–3, 4–3 Ivy) took third place at the 2020 Ivy League Championships, tying its best finish in the last decade with a combination of standout individual performances and top-tier relay swims.
Races took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Elis, dead set on righting their wrongs from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the year prior, racked up 1027.5 points to finish in a podium spot behind winners No. 23 Harvard (8–2, 7–0) and runner-up Princeton (7–2, 5–1). The four-day championship meet saw Yale occupy three different positions on the leaderboard — at one point working its way up from a tied-for-sixth result to its eventual resting place above fourth-placed Brown.
“We were [within] striking distance of second and just needed a better start to the meet to be in position to win,” associate head coach Kyle Schack said. “We have a lot of momentum right now as a team. We have been winning recruiting battles and performing better and better so we will just look to continue that progress … It’s not easy to replace this senior class so we need to continue developing leadership in our youth.”
The Blue and White captured the 200-yard freestyle relay title for the first time since 1992, edging out Columbia by just over four-tenths of a second. Henry Gaissert ’20, Philippe Marcoux ’22, Joseph Page ’23 and Michael Blank ’22 formed the winning quartet, with the representation from three different recruiting classes showcasing the Elis’ future potential — as well as its past pedigree.
Page, Marcoux and Gaissert also shone in their individual events, taking third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 50-yard freestyle final, touching the wall within 20 milliseconds of each other in the lightning-fast event. The trio traded places in the 100-yard freestyle, with Page and Gaissert taking third and fourth, and Marcoux following closely behind in sixth.
Connor Lee ’23 had a standout performance in the 100-yard butterfly, improving upon his preliminary time by 80 milliseconds to clinch a silver medal over his Columbia opponent. The first year from South Pasadena, California, touched in at 46.12 to achieve success in a field that was completely comprised of upperclassmen.
Diver Christian DeVol ’21 made a splash in both of his events, stunning his teammates and competitors as he swept the field. The Kimberton, Pennsylvania native improved upon both of his preliminary scores by more than 20 points, besting his podium rivals by notching a 363.80 and a 383.80 in the one-meter and three-meter events, respectively.
“I couldn’t be happier with my performance — a sport like diving is difficult because it’s hard to stay consistent through an entire event, and one little mistake can ruin the whole event,” DeVol said. “I’ve historically seen better results on one meter, and that was the event where I believed I had a realistic chance of winning. Winning [the] three meter never truly crossed my mind until about halfway through the event. I am very happy that I was able to demonstrate how hard I have worked this season and help our team achieve a third-place finish.”
DeVol’s heroics earned him the High Point Diver of the Meet award and a pair of qualifications to the NCAA Zone A Diving championships early next week. According to him, the recognition was “a great honor” and he hopes that the accolade, along with the team’s results, can showcase “the great progress Yale swimming and diving has made this year.”
The Bulldogs ended the Ivy League championship meet with one last triumphant display, this time arriving in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Gaissert, Page and Marcoux joined forces with butterfly phenom Lee, sweeping the field by margin of almost two seconds.
“Satisfaction is a fairly hard thing to come by in this sport — after a season of early mornings in the weight room and long afternoons in the pool, it’s hard to walk away from a championship meet with the sense that you’ve accomplished everything you trained for,” Gaissert said. “However, touching the wall at the end of the 4×100 was without a doubt the most euphoric and gratifying moment of my career. We’ve been chasing after first place in that relay for several years now, so to be able to bring home the gold in that event is rewarding not only to the current team but also countless other graduated members.”
But he walked away with more than his two team relay golds.
Gaissert, alongside a Harvard senior, was awarded the Career High Point Award for having scored the most points over his four years out of all swimmers in the Ancient Eight. The Olympic Trials qualifier’s 289 points were not only earned through his successes in his individual freestyle and butterfly sprint events, but also as a mainstay in the freestyle relay teams — propelling his teammates to a podium spot at every single Ivy League championship during his four years.
The Elis will compete in a number of time trials over the coming weeks in a last-ditch attempt to qualify swimmers for the NCAA Division I National Championships held at the end of the month. DeVol will be perfecting his craft for the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships, with a goal of making it as far as possible within the competition.
“Getting third place is a pleasant reminder of our continued progress from previous years, but it’s by no means a reflection of our true potential,” Gaissert said. “The young stars that have emerged this past season are primed to take on the reigns once the seniors graduate, and I’m certain they’ll take the team to new heights. Though we’re not quite done yet — since we will be traveling to Princeton for another chance to qualify for the NCAAs — I am excited to begin my spectating career.”
The Zone A Diving Championships will be held in Morgantown, West Virginia, while the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships will take place in Indianapolis.
Ryan Chiao | firstname.lastname@example.org