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Yale Men Take Third at Ivy League

By Josh Mandell

The Yale Bulldogs scored 1,162.5 points and broke many team records en route to their third-place finish at the 2015 Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, which concluded on Saturday at Princeton's DeNunzio pool. They achieved their highest finish and point total since the 2008 Championships.

"The whole weekend is one big highlight," said Tim Wise, the Robert J. H. Kiphuth Director of Men's Swimming and Diving. 

"A team's energy can ebb and flow, but we started and ended the meet at full strength. This is definitely something we can build upon in the future." 

Yale started Saturday's finals with a stellar showing in the 1,650-yard freestyle. The Bulldogs claimed three of the top five places in the event, led by freshman Kei Hyogo, who finished second. Hyogo's time of 14:50.88 is a Yale record, and is the second-fastest time ever recorded at the Ivy League Championships. He maintained a remarkably steady pace throughout the lengthy race; his 50-yard splits all fell between 26.87 and 27.50.

Junior Brian Hogan finished third with a time of 14:53.54, just .18 behind his Yale record pace at last year's Championships. Sophomore Ben Lerude dropped 25.75 from his seed time, winning his heat and taking fifth place with a time of 15:11.57. Freshman Dirk Bell saw even greater improvement— a 45.83-second drop— in his 11th place finish. Coach Wise said that Bell and Lerude's swims were inspiring for Hogan, Hyogo and the entire team.

"Their miles set the tone for the entire night. They gave Hogan, Hyogo and everyone else the confidence to swim their best race," Wise said.

Senior Rob Harder was the only Yale swimmer to win an individual event at this year's Championships. He smashed his Yale 200-yard backstroke record in the prelims prelims, and beat it again in the finals with a time of 1:41.69 to secure his third career victory at Ivies. Harvard sophomoreJack Manchester set an Ivy League record in the prelims with a time of 1:41.44, but his 1:42.05 finals time was not enough to defeat Harder. 

"Harder's win was phenomenal. He's such a tough racer," Wise said. 

Freshman Shawn Nee, sophomore Alex Schultz and junior Kevin Stang added 42.5 points to Yale's total with their races in the B final of the 200-yard backstroke.

Sophomore Aaron Greenberg and junior Victor Zhang helped put Yale's sprint freestyle talent back in the spotlight with top 10 finishes in the 100-yard freestyle. Greenberg qualified for the top heat with a prelims time of 44.05, and dropped another .03 seconds in the final. Zhang was 10th at prelims and ninth overall, but he won the B final with an even faster time than Greenberg's, stopping the clock at 43.80.

Freshman Jonathan Rutter showed that he will be able to keep Yale at the forefront of the breaststroke events after seniors Andrew Heymann and Ronald Tsuiare no longer with the team. Rutter was Yale's top finisher in the 200-yard breaststroke, and set a Yale record of 1:56.82 in his sixth-place finals finish. Heymann and Tsui finished in ninth and 12th place, respectively. All three breaststrokers swam the fastest 200-yard races of their career on Saturday.

The Bulldogs didn't get a swimmer into the A final for the 200-yard butterfly, but seniors Alwin Firmansyah and Mike Lazris kept Yale competitive in the event by finishing in 10th and 11th place, respectively. Schultz chipped in four points with a 20th place finish. 

The Yale divers wrapped up their season with the three-meter diving competition. Freshman Wayne Zhang was Yale's only finals qualifier; he finished in 15th place with a score of 268.25 points. Junior James McNelis and sophomore Anthony Mercadante also scored points in prelims. 

The Elis ended the meet with a third-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. With emotions running high, Greenberg and Zhang helped send off the seniors on the relay, Firmansyah and Harder, as they beat out the Harvard team by .37.

The 400 free relay time of 2:56.19 was not a Yale record, but the Bulldogs' 200-yard freestyle, 800-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relays did set new team records. 

"The relay records really speak to the depth and the talent level of the program," Wise said. 

Five swimmers— Harder, Heymann, Hyogo, Rutter and Tsui— together broke seven Yale records in individual events. Throughout the meet, Lerude, Schultz and other Yale swimmers emerged as major players in the increasingly talented Ivy League. And the Elis achieved dozens of NCAA B-cuts, likely more than they have at any previous championship meet.

"Just about everyone improved on every swim. That doesn't happen very often. Saturday's session was particularly special. It  brought the team together as a group and really focused them."

After a three days of incredible racing, the team now awaits the announcement of NCAA qualifiers on Tuesday, March 3.