It was a weekend of ups and downs in DeNunzio Pool for the women’s swimming and diving team, as they finished third overall in an Ivy League championship meet that head coach Bret Lundgaard knew would be difficult to win from the onset.
“It’ll be tough for us to move up from third,” he confessed after only the second of seven sessions.
It was, perhaps, not a shocking assertion. In the opening relays on Wednesday night, the one-seed team in the 200-yard medley relay was from Princeton, but they finished fourth in the event. The Tigers’ 800-free relay team was unable to flip the tale, as they held seed for a third-place finish. As a result, Lundgaard’s squad sat squarely in third after the first night, behind the two teams who had given them the most trouble in their 8–4 (4–3 Ivy) regular season effort: Harvard and Yale.
“We left some swims out there,” Lundgaard said when asked about the opening night. Nevertheless, the swims he saw on Thursday morning gave more cause for optimism. Four individual swimmers qualified in the top eight for their finals that night, and three divers made the cut in the 1-meter event.
“We've got people in the A-final in all three events,” he said, looking forward to that evening’s races. “That will bring some energy to our team and to the environment. Tonight should be good.”
While the first three events of the night saw only first-year Cathy Teng break seed, stepping up from eighth to sixth in the finals of the 50-yard freestyle, the diving event provided the excitement Lundgaard had been expecting.
Sophomore Sine Scribbick dove her way to Princeton’s first event win, edging out Yale’s Talbott Paulson by one-tenth of a point in the 1-meter dive with a score of 282.10. She was joined on the podium by senior Carolyn MacFarlane, who placed third, and junior Mimi Lin, who finished seventh.
After the event, MacFarlane was thrilled for her teammates. “It was really, really great,” she said on being on the podium with the two of them. “I think it's been a long time coming for Sine, and Mimi just dove out of this world today, so I'm really, really excited for both of them.”
Head coach Lundgaard had similar sentiments. “They’ve been working hard as a unit,” he said, commending their efforts and the energy that they brought to DeNunzio.
The Friday morning preliminary session was another strong one for the Tigers, as nine swimmers made the A-finals for five of that night’s individual events.
In a surprising fall-off from the previous night, Scribbick and MacFarlane missed the top eight in the 3-meter dive, but sophomore Sophia Peifer (3-seed) and junior Natasha MacManus (1-seed) filled in for them. They were slated to join Lin (6-seed) in the finals on Saturday night.
The Tigers hardly needed to wait that long for more excitement, however, as the second event of Friday’s finals yielded the second orange-and-black-clad victor of the meet in sophomore Regan Barney. Her 4:13.30 in the 400-yard individual medley was enough to pace the field and give the home crowd reason to cheer.
Unfortunately, it was to be the last such reason of the night, as no Tiger cracked the top three for the rest of the penultimate finals session.
Saturday morning’s session did not bode well for an eventful end to the meet for Princeton, as only four of Lundgaard’s swimmers qualified for A-finals. However, notable among those four were Barney (3-seed in the 200-yard backstroke) and senior Joanna Curry, who was looking to close out her final Ivy League championships emphatically from the fourth seed in the 200-yard butterfly.
Though Barney faltered to fifth in her Saturday night final, Curry truly brought the crowd to its feet. In a thrilling, wire-to-wire effort, she fell just short in her final race of the meet, finishing just .43 seconds behind Dartmouth’s Mia Leko.
“It really meant a lot to my whole experience on this team,” Curry said on finishing in such a manner. When asked how it felt to be so close, yet so far, in her final event, she appeared emotional. “I’m really pleased with it. To win would’ve been amazing, but I’m really proud of how I finished.”
There was no break in excitement, as the focus turned to the diving well for the 3-meter event. Princeton’s Lin had a fantastic start, but was second by three points through four dives to Columbia’s Briget Rosendahl.
Lin faltered on the fifth dive, falling to ten points back, but Rosendahl left the event in the Princeton diver’s hands after a below-average final dive. Lin took full advantage, overtaking Rosendahl at the death to complete a Princeton sweep from the boards. MacManus took fifth, and Peifer eked out a third place finish to smatter the podium with Tigers. Lin would be recognized after the competition as the diver with the most points throughout the meet.
The championships closed on a scintillating note, in a 400-yard freestyle relay which saw Harvard out-touch Yale in a new DeNunzio pool record while Princeton snuck in ahead of Columbia for a fourth place finish.
With the final points tallied, Princeton’s overall standing in third place was finalized. Above the Tigers, Harvard beat out Yale for the 2019 Ivy League crown.
Lundgaard was not available after the meet for comment.
Next weekend, the men’s team travels to Cambridge for their Ivy League Championships, as they look for the perfect ending to their nearly-perfect, 8–1 (5–1 Ivy) campaign. The meet begins Wednesday and will be broadcast on ESPN+.