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35 year-old Record Falls at Kiphuth Exhibition Pool

Rob Harder. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Rob Harder. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In a tradition as strong as Yale swimming's, records are rarely safe from year to year, let alone decade to decade. When they are broken, it is often by tenths of a second, tiny increments that mark each generation's progress. But in their Dec. 3 win against the University of Massachusetts, a quartet of Yale freshmen shattered the pool record in 800-yard freestyle relay with a time of 6:43.58. That was more than SIX SECONDS faster than the previous record (6:49.92), set by Fordham in 1976.

That record came the last time the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, built in 1932, hosted the Eastern Championships. Despite an Eastern League Championship, numerous All-Americans, and over 150 home meets since, the record had never fallen. 

Then came Saturday, the Bulldogs' second shot at the 800 relay this season. The first was a win at the Terrier Invitational, a six-team, three-day meet big enough to feature an event not typically on the dual-meet dockett. Normally, those meets end with a freestyle relay, but it is often the 200-yard or 400-yard edition. According to Robert J.H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Tim Wise, coaches have some leeway in choosing events, and while the 800 is not on the Harvard-Yale-Princeton program, he wanted to put his talented freshmen "in that position and give them the opportunity" to down the 35 year-old mark.  

In all likelihood, it won't be nearly that long before the record falls again. The four members of the record-breaking squad, Josh Ginsborg (1:40.91), Andrew Heymann (1:40.69), Alwin Firmansyah (1:41.72), and Rob Harder (1:40.26) were all swimming in their first home meet and not even halfway through their first season of Division I training and competition. At last season's Ivy League Championships, on full rest and completely tapered, the Bulldogs swam a 6:40. But to post a 6:43 four months ahead of that, without the immense and particular preparation afforded the Ivy Championship meet, is impressive.

Also impressive is the individual breakdown of that type of performance. In order to post the time they did, Ginsborg, Heymann, Firmansyah and Harder had to average 1:40.90 splits on their 200-yard times. Only three Yale swimmers swam the 200-yard freestyle in relays in that time last year at any point in the season, and all three of those times - from junior Mike Dominski, sophomore Pat Killian and sophomore Ed Becker - came at the Ivy League Championships in early March.

But this year's freshmen class has impressed since day one. Harder, a Redding, Conn. native, won his first individual event as a Bulldog when he dominated the 1000-yard freestyle against Columbia Nov. 12, and has continued to be one of the top Elis in distance freestyle. Ginsborg has combined with Harder to give Yale quite the freshmen 1-2 punch in those events, most recently edging Harder for a win in the 200-yard freestyle against UMass earlier in the meet (1:40.17), while also taking home a win in the 500-yard freestyle that day. 

While Harder and Ginsborg have emerged as forces in the freestyle, Heymann and Firmansyah have dominated in other events this season. Both have been major components of Wise's relay squads this season, but Heymann has also been one of the go-to swimmers in the breaststroke. Heymann won the 100-yard event against the Minutemen. Firmansyah has been a big winner in the butterfly early on, and took home the 200-yard victory Saturday. 

The record-breaking win was a fitting end to the Bulldogs' 2011 competition schedule, an exclamation point on the first part of a season largely punctuated by the success of a freshmen class that has lifted Yale to contender status in the Ivy League. The Elis' second - and final - home meet of the 2011-12 campaign will also be their first of 2012, a date with Cornell Jan. 7. So while Saturday's record may be safe for the remainder of this year, the Bulldog freshmen will have ample opportunity to rewrite the long and storied Yale record book in their careers in New Haven.

Report filed by Chelsea Janes '12, Yale Sports Publicity