When the Harvard women's swimming team emerged on the deck of Blodgett Pool Saturday for its dual meet against Pennsylvania--the last opponent standing between the Crimson and the Ivy League championship--it sounded more like a cheap imitation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra than a soon-to-be champion swim team.
Each one of the squad's 33 members was armed with a brand new, state-of-the-art kazoo, courtesy of Head Coach Maura Costin.
And by the end of the afternoon, the Crimson played taps to its final Ivy League challenger, embarrassing the Quakers, 93-47, and clinching its first-ever Ancient Eight title.
In the process, the aquawomen (10-1 overall, 7-0 Ivy League) became the first Harvard team this year to finish Ivy competition with a perfect record.
Co-Captain Shannon Byrd emphasized the magnitude of the feat by comparing this season to previous years. "Penn was a team that beat us last year, but this meet wasn't even close," Byrd said. "I find it hard to believe that we're Ivy champs considering that it wasn't even a goal of ours until we beat Brown [an 83-57 victory at Blodgett on December 4]."
Saturday's meet left no doubt about who deserved the championship rings. In the victory, the Crimson won 13 of 16 events, including one stretch of 10 straight triumphs that opened an insurmountable 78-28 lead.
There was little time for the squad to bask in its glory, however. Harvard departs tomorrow for State College, Penn. where the Eastern Championships will be held February 27-March 1. By the time that meet gets under way, according to Costin, the Crimson will have to be swimming better than it did against Penn.
"This was a hard meet to have because most of the team had their minds focused on Easterns," Costin said, adding, "we were a little bit flat Saturday, but should be back on edge for the first events on Thursday."
Not every swimmer had an off-day in the conference clincher, however. Freshman Linda Suhs set a new Harvard record in the 100-yd. backstroke with her winning time of 59.74 seconds. Additionally, Suhs won in the 100 freestyle and swam the backstroke led of the victorious 200 medley relay team.
Last Tango at Blodgett
Senior Allison Greis, swimming in her final meet at Blodgett Pool, emerged a triple winner on the afternoon, posting solo victories in both the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley and teaming with Suhs, Karen Schneider and Lani Nelson in the 200 medley relay.
Nelson and Schneider also added to their relay win with individual tallies. Nelson touched out teammate Molly Clark to earn first place in the 200 breaststroke, while Schneider picked up a win in the 200 butterfly event.
Janice Sweetser continued to swim impressively, gaining triumphs in both the 200 and 500 freestyles, besides finishing second to Suhs in the 100 free.
Diving continued to be a strong point of the Crimson attack on Saturday. Jennifer Greene, Byrd and Lisa Pierce teamed up for a one-two-three shutout on the 1-meter board, while Byrd finished her dual meet career in fine form, cruising to victory by over 120 points in the 3-meter competition.
Other wins for Harvard included Karen Dehmel in the 200 backstroke and Tara Gustilo in the 50 freestyle.
While the team played a victory tune on their kazoos to close out a fine dual meet season, its members realize that, even though one goal has been accomplished, still another lies in front of them.
"Swimming in a dual meet and competing in a championship meet like the Easterns are two entirely different things," said Co-Captain Annie Wilson. "While before we could just swim well enough to win a race, now we must be concerned with swimming our best times."
Even though their toughest challenge may still lie in front of them, individual team members did not hesitate to give credit where credit was due. Costin especially pointed out the positive effect that the men's squad has had in her team's success.
"The men's team and its coaches provided us during the entire year with both enthusiasm and support," Costin said. "Without their help, many of our accomplishments would not have been possible."
When the Crimson boards a chartered bus to begin the 10-hour journey to Penn State tomorrow, the series of successes that brought the first-ever Ivy League championship to the Harvard women will be nothing but distant memories.
But regardless of the outcome of this week's meet, the team will be sure to look back on this season and remember both playing kazoos and swimming the exact same way.
In perfect harmony.