If there was a single moment that best exemplified the weekend for Princeton's tough-as-nails men's swimming and diving team, it didn't come in any of the finals sessions. It wasn't really even a preliminary swim. It was a swim-off — a showdown between Princeton and Harvard — and it went the way of the five-time Ivy League champion Tigers.
The swimmer was freshman Sandy Bole, one piece of the incredible Class of 2016 that was supposed to be arriving at Princeton at the wrong time. After all, who figured Princeton could keep winning Ivy League championships when the Class of 2012 finally went from the starting blocks to the stands for a championship weekend?
As it turns out, this particular team thought it could win. And it proved it over three days and six sessions, one swim and one dive at a time.
Princeton won the 2013 Ivy League championship with 1,514 team points, while Harvard placed second with 1,446 points. Columbia held off Yale for third with 1,135 points.
"The key to this weekend was resilience," said junior Daniel Hasler. "Going down by 40+ points after a Thursday dominated by a tough, well-rounded Harvard squad was a test of our resolve. After that first day, though, these 18 guys simply would not be denied.
"Our underclassmen may be young in age, but make no mistake, they are not faint of heart," Hasler added. "It was these freshmen and sophomores who led the charge event after event, augmented by seasoned vets like senior Kaspar Raigla, and decided they would accept nothing less than victory."
Princeton entered the final day with a slim lead over Harvard (23 points), but it basically clinched the title Saturday morning. The Tigers sent 15 swimmers into the final preliminary session of the championships, and 14 of them earned spots in the 'A' finals. One of them was Bole, who had to go into a three-man swim-off for the eighth and final spot in the championship final.
He faced swimmers from both Harvard and Columbia, and he beat them both. It was that kind of weekend for Princeton; when the Tigers needed to win a head-to-head showdown, from Teo D'Alessandro beating Chuck Katis in Thursday's 200 IM to this swim-off on Saturday, the Tigers had all the answers.
And now they have the Bob Kiputh Trophy back.
"We were very fortunate to win this championship against a very strong Ivy League field," said head coach Rob Orr, who has now led Princeton to 21 Ivy League titles. "I was very proud of the way our team competed this weekend."
"It was extremely fun to see the team come together throughout the meet, and have all of us step up one after another," Bole said. "We had incredible support from dedicated Princeton alumni and parents, and we were able to ride their energy to win our fifth consecutive Ivy Championship title."
Sophomore Connor Maher, who placed second in the 200 back last season, earned his first Ivy League individual title by going 1:43.76 in the 200 back Saturday. He was one of four Princeton finalists, which helped expand a lead that was only one point after the mile. Freshman En-Wei Hu-Van Wright took third in 1:44.31, while sophomore Michael Strand (the 100 back champion) took seventh in 1:47.69.
Senior Kaspar Raigla, now a four-time Ivy League team champion, added an eighth-place finish in 1:51.59.
"After a season of ups and downs the team never lost its spirit," said Raigla. "We came together when we needed it the most and swam lights out in the mornings. The energy on the team was amazing and I couldn't wish for a better ending to a wonderful four years."
Harvard made another move in the 100 free, though Bole's win over Harvard's Zachary Walters assured the Tigers three people in the 'A' final. Sophomore Harrison Wagner, the 50 champion, took fourth in 44.12, while freshman Jeremy Wong placed fifth in 44.16. Bole ended up seventh in 44.39.
That move was answered in the 200 breast, as Princeton put four more in the 'A' final. Freshman Byron Sanborn may have earned a spot at the NCAAs with his second-place finish in 1:55.58, while Hasler placed fourth in 1:58.41. Freshman Jack Pohlmann took sixth in 1:59.19, while D'Alessandro ended up eighth in 2:00.07.
Princeton had earned some hidden points Friday by putting three into the 'A' finals in the 3-meter diving competition, while Harvard had two. Senior Stevie Vines, the most decorated member of the Class of 2013, finished his Ivy League Championships career with a second-place finish with 372.65 points. Vines was the 2011 Ivy League Championships Diver of the Meet, and he never finished below second in a championship event."I couldn't be more proud of Princeton Diving this weekend," said Vines, the Harold Ulen Career Diving Scoring Champion award recipient. "We had our share of ups and downs, but we kept our heads up through it all and did some pretty amazing things. I've been truly blessed to train with such a talented group of guys, and I look forward to joining our fabulous alumni in the stands next year."
The Tigers finished the meet in style, finishing second and earning an 'A' cut in the 400 free relay with a quartet of underclassmen. Wong, Wagner, Maher and Bole finished the event in 2:53.00."It was an incredibly emotional weekend," said Wagner, who will be one of a handful of Princeton swimmers who will continue training for the NCAA Championships later this month. "In the end our whole team was able to excel in the face of a very deep Harvard team. Our freshmen definitely provided an intensity and desire that we all fed off."