Women's Swimming & Diving Back In Action For Homecoming Saturday
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Mike McLaughlin

NEW YORK – The Columbia women's swimming and diving team will jump back into action on Saturday, Jan. 18 as they host Ivy League foe Cornell in Uris Pool at 11 a.m to celebrate Homecoming. The 3-0 Lions have returned from the holiday break and their winter training trip geared to defend their place atop the Ivy League.

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Competing for  just two days of the three-day 2013 Frank Elm Invite, Columbia still put on a commanding performance in the final days to come away with the victory at the Werblin Recreation Center on Sunday, Nov. 24. The Lions delivered dominating show in day two on Saturday and went on to defeat the eight-team field on Sunday.

With 1378.5 points, Columbia bested host Rutgers who compiled 1321.5 points and Army who came in third place with 1312.5. The Lions moved up from starting the day in third place to take the meet.

At 3-0, Columbia is currently the only unbeaten team in the Ivy League. With wins over Harvard, Penn and Yale, the Lions stand first in the conference heading into Saturday’s dual-meet action.

Mikalia Gaffey has emerged as one of the top 100 breaststroke swimmers in the Ivy League this season. She currently holds the top time in the conference with her 1:02.45 effort at the AT&T U.S. Nationals last month. The junior bested teammate Jennifer Shahar, who now holds the second-best time at 1:02.52.

The 200 IM is where Alena Kluge has led the way this season. The senior captain remains unbeaten in dual-meet action in the event with clutch wins against both Harvard and Penn. Kluge posted the Ivy League’s best 200 IM times this season at the AT&T U.S. Nationals in December, clocking in at 2:00.26. Kluge has embraced her roll as leader of the team this season and her performance in the pool has continued to raise the bar for the Columbia squad.

FEATURED INTERVIEW: Captain Alena Kluge Talks 3-0 Start & More…

The future for Columbia swimming looks to be in good hands with a number of young swimmers having strong performances this season. Through the opening dual-meets, first-year Gabbie Toback has been nothing short of stellar for the Lions. The Merrick, N.Y., native has set the 100 backstroke record twice and has collected six wins already this year, including three individual events and three top finishes as a member of the 200 medley relay squad.

In her first collegiate win, Toback set a Uris Pool and program record in the 100 backstroke against Yale. With a time of 54.52, she broke the previous record of 54.54 set just a week earlier by Harvard’s Danielle Lee. Toback also posted a first-place finish in the 200 back on the day and swam for a repeat winning effort in 100 back against Penn.

Toback bested her 100 back record time just two weeks later at the U.S. Nationals. She led the 400 medley relay with the fastest 100 back split in program history at 54:12.

FEATURED INTERVIEW: Gabbie Toback Talks Impressive Start

Along with Toback, the first-year class is off to an amazing start to begin their collegiate careers. The newcomers have combined for a total of 10 individual wins in three Ivy League meets and have also contributed to three relay wins.

Jennifer Shahar picked up her first win in the 100 breaststroke in the home opener against Harvard. The New Jersey native remains unbeaten in the event this season.  Trudi Patrick has emerged as an early contributor to the Lions success with a pair of wins in the 100 butterfly against Yale and Penn. Both Tiffany Warmuth and Celia Frick have also posted victories.

The Lions early success this season has already begun to garner national attention. Following a weekend with dual meet wins over Yale (185-115) and Penn (166-134), Columbia jumped to a No. 15 ranking in the Collegeswimming.com performance poll on Nov. 18. This ranking came just a week following a No. 20 ranking on Nov. 11 earned by the Lions first win over Harvard in program history (163.5-135.5).

Cornell enters Saturday’s meet at 5-2, 3-2 in the Ivy League. The Big Red currently stands fifth in the conference with wins over Dartmouth, Penn and Princeton, handing the Tigers their only loss on the season. After falling to Yale in their last Ivy League meet, the Big Red bounce back in a non-conference meet to defeat Colgate at home for their latest victory.