The Columbia men's swimming team came to Uris Pool this weekend eager to prove that they have what it takes to join the Ivy swimming elite this season. The Lions took the first step, beating Yale 191-128 on Friday. It was the first time Columbia scored a dual-meet win over the Bulldogs in 14 years. Outstanding performances by freshmen Cedric Cheung-Lau and Hyun Lee helped the Light Blue to victory in 13 of 17 events.
The Lions started strongly as sophomore Justin Reardon tied Yale's Douglas Scott in the one-meter diving with a score of 256.58. However, it was when Columbia won the next contest, the 200-yard medley relay, that the Lions began to feel in control. The Light Blue took this event in 1:33.72, with strong showings by senior co-captain Luke Fitzpatrick, junior Michael Nelson, senior Ben Neuwirth, and freshman Steve Ko. As Ko finished one second ahead of the Yale's Cameron Hendrick, the Columbia side of the pool exploded.
"I think probably the most important thing was winning the first relay," Columbia junior Tobin White said. "It really set the tone for the rest of the meet."
In three of the next four races, the Lions captured at least the top two slots. The third event, the 1000-yard freestyle, was won by Cheung-Lau in a time of 9:31.09, with Columbia's sophomore Henning Fog (9:35.85) and junior Jake Abbott (9:40.93) taking second and third, respectively. This was followed by a one-two finish in the 200-yard freestyle by Lee, with a time of 1:39.19, and White, who closely followed in 1:39.28. The swift performance of Lee, who was competing in his first NCAA event, was only 0.4 seconds off the pool record.
After three Columbia wins and a tie in the first four events, Yale finally broke through in the 100-yard backstroke. The Bulldogs' Kieran Locke edged Fitzpatrick by 0.12 seconds to win in a time of 52.56. Columbia captured the top two slots in the next contest, the 100-yard breaststroke, as Nelson and senior John McGrath cruised to victory with times of 58.34 and 59.52 seconds, with McGrath coming out ahead of the Elis' Colin Stalnecker by just 0.05 seconds. Another Yale win followed, as Chris Pool beat Columbia freshman David Collier in the 200-yard butterfly by a little over two seconds.
The Lions lashed back with victories in the next three contests. White, who held the top time in the 50-yard freestyle last year, prevailed with a time of 20.94 seconds. He was followed in third and fourth by Lee and senior co-captain Rusty Corley. Cheung-Lau took the honors in the next race, the 400-yard individual medley, and with a time of 3:57.40, he beat his closest challenger by a full eight seconds. Finally, Columbia's Reardon prevailed in the 3-meter dive.
After victories by Yale seniors Alex Righi and Denned McCloskey in the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke, respectively, Columbia regained its earlier momentum and never relinquished it. The Lions won the last four events by solid margins over the Elis.
In the 200-yard breaststroke, freshman Zach Glassman recorded his first win as a Columbia swimmer, three seconds ahead of teammate Nelson. Lee won the next contest by an impressive eight-seconds, beating teammate Abbott in the 500-yard freestyle. Neuwirth took the 100-yard butterfly, beating Yale opponent Chris Pool by a second. Cheung-Lau notched a third victory that day by winning the 200-yard individual. Columbia swimmers Ko and senior co-captain Mat Rothway rounded out the top three in that event with times of 1:57.39 and 1:58.00, respectively. In the final event of the day, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Lions once again took the honors, as Corley, freshman Kevin Wakefield, Lee, and White brought in a combined time of 3:06.71 to beat the Bulldogs by two seconds.
The victory in Friday's meet highlighted the new additions to the team, with strong performances by several freshmen. Cheung-Lau won three events and Lee won two, in addition to swimming in the winning 400-freestyle relay. With Glassman's win in the 200-yard breast and strong performances by Ko, first-years took six of Columbia's 13 winning events and contributed to wins in both relays.
"The freshmen are a tremendous addition," Fog said. "They've already established themselves on the team."
Despite Columbia's impressive performance in the meet, White saw some problems.
"Our weak point was the backstroke," he said afterwards, noting that Columbia did not win a single backstroke event.
The team will not have much time to rest on their laurels, as the Lions face a challenge next week when they host defending Ivy champion Harvard this Friday. However, the Lions remain optimistic.
"I think we definitely have a very good chance," White said. "I think we're one of the best teams in the league, if we just do what we're capable of doing."