Monday, February 23, 2015

Swimming And Diving To The Top, Again

Maddie Sachson is a first-grader whose father made a deal with her Saturday evening.

If she'd let him finish watching the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championships on the Ivy League Digital Network, he'd give her extra reading time before bed.

An hour later, he went upstairs, and this is what he found waiting for him:
How cute is that?

TigerBlog was at Baker Rink at the time, following not on the digital network but on Twitter, which was being updated by Maddie's dad, Craig, TB's colleague in the Office of Athletic Communications.

TB was sitting with Steve Conn, his counterpart at Yale, watching the Tigers play the Bulldogs in men's hockey. At the moment that TB checked Twitter, Princeton was 100 points back of the leader, Harvard, with Yale right in the mix. Then Yale took the lead, something that Conn seemed to be okay with.

More than any other sport, though, a 100-point deficit in swimming and diving means less than the events that remain and who has qualified for them. And so, even down 100 points, Princeton was still in great shape.

Shortly thereafter the Tigers had erased that entire deficit and come away with the Ivy League championship.

Princeton made its move in the 200 free, with individual winner Claire McIlmail and then three others in the top eight. Caitlin Chambers won the three-meter diving, and the Tigers entered the final event, the 400 free relay, with an 11.5 point lead, needing to finish third or better to win the championship.

And what did they do? They finished first, with a meet record to boot, as McIlmail, Nikki Larson, Elizabeth McDonald and Madelyn Veith won in 3:18.5.

Few teams have been as consistently successful through the years as the Princeton women's swimming and diving team. For starters, the program has not gone consecutive years without winning an Ivy title this century, a streak in danger after Harvard's win last year.

In fact, it's been either Princeton or Harvard every year since 1999, when Brown won. TigerBlog knew that stat, and that's why he was taken aback that Yale was making such a run at the championship.

In the end, though, it was Princeton.

The Tigers have now won 12 of the last 17 Ivy League championships. Would you like some historical context for that?

Sure you would.

As TB said, Princeton is on a 12 for 17 run of Ivy League championships. Do you know how many Princeton varsity teams have ever had a similar (or better) stretch?

Princeton has 38 teams. As near as TB can figure it, only field hockey, men's lacrosse, softball and men's and women's swimming and diving have ever won at least 12 Ivy titles in 17 years.

If TB is wrong he apologizes to the team he's overlooked.

As for those five teams, only two of them - field hockey and women's swimming and diving - have an active such streak.

To have that kind of sustained excellence is not easy.

Winning 12 Ivy titles in 17 years means winning 71% of the Ivy League titles awarded in a 17-year period. This means consistently winning through multiple generations, as the roster turns over completely more than four times.

Also, because only Princeton and Harvard have won it that time, that means that Ivy League swimmers and divers who want to win an Ivy title know they have to go to one of those two schools. And hey, it just so happens that the ones who chose Princeton have won 71% of the time this century.

When Princeton and Penn dominated Ivy League men's baskeball, the pendulum swung back and forth between the two. Neither ever won more than 10 outright titles in 17 years.

In Ivy women's swimming, Princeton has dominated Harvard during the last 17 years.

It's hard to say the most recent championship was domination. Quite the opposite.

In some years, the Tigers have swum so far away from the field that there was no drama at all.

This one came down to the wire. In the end, though, it was the Princeton women's swimming and diving team.

Once again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just want to say thanks for providing commentary on these sorts of events that I'm not able to get elsewhere. The context you provide and your insights are most interesting and appreciated.

Henry Von Kohorn '66