Cardinal swimming is chomping at the bit to generate some noise before touching the final wall of the 2016 season. This weekend the women take their talents to the confines of Middlebury, Vt., where a mammoth 18-lane natatorium awaits. The Red and Black are itching to chase down Tufts after a successful taper process filled with carbohydrates, and they’re going to need all hands on deck in order to record their fastest swims of the year and improve upone the 216.5-point deficit from the 2015 NESCAC meet, and the 46-point defeat to the Jumbos two months ago. The meet will commence this weekend with preliminaries at 10 a.m. and the finals kick off at 6 p.m. on Friday, 5:50 p.m. on Saturday, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The women have a tri-captain system that includes diver Carly Feinman ’16, Martha Smith ’17, and Liyan Yao ’16. Yao chatted with The Argus this past week, and the Laurel Hollow, N.Y. native was psyched about closing out her Wes swim career with a splash. The senior swims some of the most challenging events on the docket, including the 400-yard individual medley, which is four laps each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. She also participates in the 200-yard backstroke, which is over two minutes of swimming without being able to see where you are going, only using the blank ceiling to direct the stroke. Yao spoke highly of her teammates, revealed her admiration for some of the professional swimming world’s finest, and explained her aspirations to become a doctor.
The Argus: When did you start swimming?
Liyan Yao: I started swimming competitively with a swim team when I was eight, but first got into the water when I was five.
A: What events do you swim?
LY: I swim the 200-yard individual medley, 400-yard individual medley, and the 200-yard backstroke.
A: What are you studying and what extracurricular activities do you participate in around campus?
LY: I’m a Neuroscience and Behavior/Biology double major. I’m also on the pre-med track with future hopes of attending medical school. I volunteer as a research assistant in the emergency department at Hartford Hospital. I also tutor kids at MacDonough Elementary school in Middletown, Conn. I’m also in the process of getting EMT certified.
A: What is your dream job? Why?
LY: My dream career is to become a pediatrician. I want to make an impact in people’s lives by helping them, and I love working with kids. I find it so fulfilling.
A: What are your thoughts on the team chemistry so far this season?
LY: It’s been very good, and now that we’re headed into NESCACs, everyone is coming together even more. Even though the men’s and women’s teams are separate, all is great, and I’m really excited for this weekend.
A: How do you think you’re swimming has been in 2015-2016?
LY: Personally, for the dual-meet season, I haven’t swam my best, but now that we’re tapered and nearing the conclusion of the swimming, I feel good and am enthusiastic to see what I’m going to do at NESCACs. For other sports, all the games and non-conference match-ups matter, but for swimming, the conference meet is the one meet that really matters.
A: How has the training picked up over the course of your time at Wesleyan?
LY: It hasn’t really, but Coach Peter [Solomon] puts a lot of emphasis on technique work, instead of hard yardage.
A: Is there any music that you like to listen to before you race?
LY: Not specifically, since I don’t discriminate against any particular genre. If I had to choose, I like up-beat EDM style music.
A: If you could play any other sport, what would it be?
LY: I probably wouldn’t (laughs). I’m not really a land-sport person. I can’t do any other sport, but maybe hockey.
A: Is there any professional swimmer that you viewed as a role model when you were younger?
LY: Definitely Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
A: As someone who used to swim, I know I often though a lot about quitting. What keeps you motivated about swimming?
LY: I’ve thought about quitting so many times. This sport is a love/hate relationship. The people I am surrounded by are what have kept me in the sport. I love my teammates so much and if it weren’t for them I probably would have quit a long time ago. Coach Peter [Solomon] is also great. I love him too.
A: How would you describe the team’s goals for this weekend in Vermont?
LY: We want to definitely place eighth or better. In the previous five years, we’ve finished eighth in the NESCAC, and we absolutely want to hunt down Tufts, who are currently seeded seventh. They have a lot of depth and can choose which swimmers to bring for the NESCAC meet, while we just take everyone because we don’t have that many people.
A: Could you please discuss what events you’re entered into this weekend, and also some of your aspirations for the meet?
LY: I’m swimming my usual events, which again are the two individual medleys and the 200-yard backstroke. I’m looking to final in all three. I made the finals in the 200-yard and 400-yard IM the three previous years, and I’m hoping to do so again this year. I’ve never made the finals in the 200-yard backstroke at NESCACS, ever, so hopefully this year.
A: How do you feel your exposure to athletics and academics will aid you in your future challenges?
LY: Swimming has definitely taught me discipline and time management skills that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life. You kind of have to be on top of everything when you’re spending four to five hours at the pool each day and you still have to balance school work and other extracurriculars. Being captain of the swim team, swimming has also taught me valuable leadership skills that will definitely help me down the road in whatever I do.
Yao will look to top last season’s 19th place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, 18th place in the 400-yard individual medley, and 36th in the 200-yard backstroke. The senior will be looking to drop time just like she did in the 2015 meet, which saw the taper process help her cut almost five seconds in the 200-yard IM, and just under four seconds in the 400-yard IM. If you’re procrastinating this weekend on a paper or problem set, tune into to http://nescac.nsnsports.net/ to watch Yao and the rest of the Cardinals take on all of the NESCAC.