PRINCETON, New Jersey, March 5. OVER the last three years, the Princeton men's swimming and diving team won a grand total of two individual events at the Ivy League (formerly EISL) Championship meet. Through one night at the 2009 championships, the Tigers more than doubled that total, and they did it in only six events. Princeton won five events, including two relays, and had three first-time winners to take a lead through Day 1 of the three-day championship meet at DeNunzio Pool.
Through the first championship session, the undefeated and 17th-ranked Princeton men's swimming and diving team scored 539 points to grab a commanding lead over the field. Defending champion Harvard stands second with 360 points, while the Cornell Big Red put forth a strong showing and stands third with 355 points.
The championships started in terrific fashion for the Tigers, who won the 200 free relay in an Ivy League record time of 1:17.93. The quartet of senior Doug Lennox, senior Mike Carter, freshman Michael Monovoukas and junior Jonathan Hartmann finished in 1:17.93, which topped second-place Yale by more than one and a half seconds. During Princeton's two-year title reign in 2006 and 2007, the Tigers didn't win a single relay title.
Cornell senior Wes Newman and Harvard senior Eric Lynch both finished in the top three of the 500 free final at the 2008 championship meet. They did the same during the 2009 meet, but they both fell to a face who wasn't part of last year's meet. Highly touted Princeton freshman Travis McNamara won the 500 in a meet and DeNunzio Pool record time of 4:18.04, topping both Newman and Lynch, who also happened to break the original meet marks.
Championship meets are all about depth, and Princeton showed it in this event. While McNamara ended up on the top of the medal stand, Princeton ended up with four of the eight championship finalists. Sophomore Patrick Biggs placed fourth overall with a time of 4:20.19, which topped his 13th-place finish from last season. Senior tri-captain Robert Griest, a top contender for the longer distance events of the next two days, placed seventh overall in 4:25.68, while senior Dan Eckel placed eighth in 4:25.96. Princeton also got a 10th-place finish from sophomore Colin Hanna, who swam his consolation final in 4:23.88.
Few swimmers have delivered points over the years like senior tri-captain Will Schaffer, who has earned three second-place finishes over the last two years and has scored 219 individual points for Princeton since 2006. He was only missing an individual title heading into his final championship meet, but he took care of that during a tight showdown against one his own teammates in the 200 IM. Schaffer won his first Ivy League title with an NCAA B-cut time of 1:46.44, while Hartmann placed second overall in 1:46.93. Once again, Princeton loaded the championship final, as junior Chris Quemana placed fifth in 1:47.79 and freshman Jonathan Christensen finished sixth in 1:48.23. Senior Bern Ebersole added a 10th-place finish in 1:49.04.
The only championship final Princeton didn't win during the first night came in a showdown of arguably the two top swimmers in the Ivy League. The championship meet record in the 50 free fell during the preliminaries, as Lennox set the mark at 19.49. He would face off against three-time 50 free Ivy champion Alex Righi of Yale, and the record was going to fall once again. Righi became a four-time champion with an A-cut, Ivy League and DeNunzio record time of 18.90. Lennox finished second and missed an A-cut by .01 of a second with a time of 19.36. Carter finished fourth overall with a time of 19.91, while Monovoukas finished eighth in 20.50. Freshman Colin Cordes added a 12th-place finish in 20.47.
When the focus turned towards the diving boards, another Princeton junior was ready to come up big. Dan Dickerson recorded an A-cut score and won his first league title with 317.85 points in the 1-meter competition, while senior Yarden Fraiman followed up with a sixth-place finish (259.90). It was a tremendous step forward for both competitors; Dickerson finished seventh in the same event last year, while Fraiman qualified for his first championship final. Going back to the Ivy League women's championships last weekend, Tiger diving coach Greg Gunn has guided each of the three Ivy champions so far and will hope for a clean sweep Saturday in the 3-meter competition.
Princeton capped a terrific first night by winning the 400 medley relay in a meet and DeNunzio record time of 3:11.44. The quartet of Cordes (back), Christensen (breast), Lennox (fly) and Carter (free) topped Harvard's squad by nearly a full second to take the second of five championship relays.
Special thanks to Princeton for contributing this report.