After two memorable meets over the last three years, there was no reason to expect anything other than a third thriller when the Princeton and Navy men's swimming and diving teams met Saturday afternoon in Annapolis. That's what the two reigning conference champions put together, and Princeton was the team to come away with a 152.5-147.5 victory.
Senior Jon Christensen won three events and junior Stevie Vines scored a thrilling late win in the 3-meter diving competition to keep 22nd-ranked Princeton perfect in a battle of undefeated teams. Navy, the reigning Patriot League champion, had ended Princeton's two-decade win streak at DeNunzio Pool the previous season, and the Tigers were excited at the opportunity to compete again with their talented former EISL rival.
"This meet was what college swimming is all about," second-year assistant coach Mitch Dalton said. "Navy is coming off the tail end of their training trip and we are right in themiddle of our training camp. Although both teams were extremely tired, all the athletes got up and swam with a lot pride in their team and University."
Princeton opened the meet with a victory in the 200 meter medley relay, as the quartet of Kaspar Raigla, Jon Christensen, Mike Monovoukas and Harrison Wagner won in a time of 1:40.29, which was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the top Naval team. In a meet as close as this one, every point would make a difference, and Princeton picked up third with the quartet of Michael Strand, Brian Barrett, Charley Wang and Matt LaMonaca (1:43.55). Their margin of victory was only .2 of a second faster than Navy's second squad.
Sophomore Paul Nolle continued his excellent sophomore season by winning the 800 free relay in 8:18.92, more than four seconds faster than anybody in the race. Freshman Caleb Tuten added a third-place finish in 8:32.72.
Princeton went 2-3 in the 200 free, with junior Will Lawley taking second in 1:53.00 and senior Colin Cordes placing third in 1:53.23. Strand, a freshman, got Princeton back in the win column in the 100 back. His time of 56.54 topped Navy's Gage Trotter (57.27) and classmate Maher (57.51).
Multiple-time Ivy League champion Jon Christensen scored a convincing win in the 100 breast with a time of 1:01.15. Navy placed second and third, but sophomore Daniel Hasler claimed fourth in 1:05.11.
Navy went 1-2 in the 200 fly, but Princeton freshman Oliver Bennett grabbed third in 2:04.47. The Midshipmen also won the 50 free in a thrilling showdown which featured five racers breaking 24 seconds. Princeton's top finisher was Wagner, who took second in 23.19, while Monovoukas placed third in 23.74.
The Tigers got a big lift on the 1-meter board, and it was led by a pair of talented juniors. While Navy's Ben Freedman won the event with an impressive 325.20 points, juniors Stevie Vines (second, 301.90) and Christopher Kelly (third, 300.65). Sophomore Mark O'Connell rounded out the scoring with a fifth-place score of 270.45.
Cordes finished in a second-place tie (51.01) in the 100 free, and Wagner took fourth in 51.40. Maher placed second in the 200 back in 2:04.61, while sophomore Adam Lebovitz placed third in 2:08.36.
At this stage of the meet, it was very clear that the team competition was going to come down to the final event, just as it did in a Princeton win three years ago. Christensen aided the effort with another victory, this time in the 200 breast. He took the event in 2:15.04, while Hasler placed third in 2:19.64 and Materniak finished fourth in 2:21.06.
Nolle picked up a second win when he beat the field in the 400 free. He won in 4:00.20, while Lawley finished third in 4:02.23. Strand followed with a second-place finish in the 100 fly (56.14), leaving only the three-meter diving competition, the 200 IM and the 400 free relay to close the meet.
Vines came up with what would ultimately be a huge quarter point in the final diving competition. After falling to Freedman by more than 20 points on the 1-meter board, he edged his Naval opponent by a score of 292.50-292.25 to win the 3-meter competition. Should Vines have scored a half-point less, it would have been a 10-point swing and, in the end, a team win for Navy. Kelly took third with 282.5 points, while freshman Michael Manhard finished fourth with 269.25 points.
Christensen completed his trifecta by winning the 200 IM in 2:01.94, more than three seconds faster than Navy's Ben Bndurant. Hasler took third in 2:06.30.
Princeton ended the meet with a second-place finish in the 400 free relay, as the team of Maher, Wagner, Monovoukas and Cordes touched the wall in 3:23.13. That time was less than one tenth of a second behind Navy, but it was enough to finish off Princeton's fourth team win of the season.
"We saw some great swims across the board today," Dalton said. "Paul Nolle was able to step up and win the 800, an event in which were were swept by Navy the previous year. Freshman Caleb Tuten also score big with a terrific back half, charging from sixth place to third over the final 100 meters. These two swims came right after our win in the 200 medley relay, so we were fortunate to have some early momentum to start the meet."
Princeton will return to the water Jan. 29 at Dartmouth, and then will compete in the annual H-Y-P meet the following weekend in Harvard.