SWIMMING AND DIVING: Two swimmers and two divers compete at NCAA Championships
The women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams each sent competitors to the NCAA Championships at the University of Tennessee's Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center and the University of Minneapolis’ Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center during Spring Break.
Four Bulldogs represented Yale at the men’s and women’s swim and dive NCAA Championships this past weekend.
Diver Paige Lai ’26 represented the Bulldogs at the University of Tennessee from Mar. 15 to Mar. 18 for the women’s meet. And swimmers Noah Millard ’25 and Connor Lee ’24 and diver JP Ditto ’23 headed to the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center from Mar. 23 to Mar. 25 for the men’s.
“It was enlightening being at that level of competition,” said Ditto. “I learned that I was able to hold my own against the greatest divers in the nation, and it has given me a new view on the sport and a greater sense of confidence in my abilities.”
Ditto scored 321.40 on the 1-meter dive and placed 28th in the prelims. The next day he took on the 3-meter dive, scoring 324.70 and placing 35th all-around in the event.
It “was not [his] best performance,” he said, as he missed a couple of the dives he set out to do.
On the morning of his departure from New Haven to Minneapolis, he slipped off the end of the diving board and injured his foot. Luckily, the pain subsided in time for his first event, but he said that he still felt “timid” on the board.
“I managed to ease up and enter a focused and confident meet mindset as the rounds advanced,” Ditto said. “Going into future meets, I plan to remind myself to start the meet off in such a mindset, where I am controlled yet aggressive in my diving.”
Fellow diver Lai was the only representative from the women’s swim and dive team at the University of Tennessee. Lai, who was named to the USA Diving National Team late last year, scored 254.25 off the 3-meter board and 231.95 in the 1-meter.
She was “shocked” when she made it past the zones part of the season, not even expecting to qualify for championships. However, the turnaround was quick after zones — only four days — so she had to plan her dives before leaving for Tennessee.
“Just being there was such a privilege and eye-opening experience, and I hope to be able to take what I learned this year and bring it into the upcoming seasons, hopefully with a couple more teammates alongside,” she said.
This was Lai’s first season at Yale, saying she now feels more prepared to train for the upcoming season and “plan[s] out when to hit that peak level of competition performance.”
Back in Minnesota, Millard capped off a strong season at the second NCAA championship event of his career. He missed the cut-off for the top-16 finishers that advanced to finals in the 500 freestyle, placing 23rd. He finished 39th in the 200 freestyle and 34th in the 160 freestyle.
Teammate Lee, the school record-holder in the 100-yard butterfly, finished 24th in the event.
“I went into the meet excited because I felt that I had little pressure on myself to do well. I was able to just race and enjoy the moment,” he said.
Later in the competition, he placed 39th in the 200 butterfly, but he is “proud” of his performance, considering that he had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last year. The surgery put him out of the pool for 8 months, so he could only finally start swimming again last spring.
Looking ahead, one diver is looking to work “harder than [he] ever has” ahead of the 2024 Olympics, as Ditto can possibly represent the Turkish National team at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
“I learned that my diving can hold up against some of the greatest in the sport,” he said. Lee is deciding between NCAA’s again, the Olympics or both, ending on the note that “everything is up in the air at the moment, but anything is possible.”
Lee was a 2019 Phillips National Championships and 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier.