Take tall, female Southerner with lot of energy. Mix with talent, team spirit and strong desire to win. Throw into swimming pool and stand back. The result: junior Janice Sweetser.
Sweetser, who began swimming at the age of eight, has been a major factor in the Harvard women's swimming team's rise from joke of the Ivy League to powerhouse of the Eastern seaboard.
In her first two years in Cambridge, the Virginia Beach, Va. native has helped lead the Crimson to consecutive Ivy League championships--the squad's first ever titles.
Sweetser also played volleyball and basketball for four years in high school, but once she arrived at Harvard she decided to concentrate on swimming.
"I loved to swim, and I felt I had the most potential in the sport," she said. "I wanted to do something athletic because it helps you to focus on academics even more, and you can escape every day from academic pressures."
According to Crimson Coach Maura Costin Scalise, Sweetser's "potential" has become a reality. "We got more than we asked for," the fourth-year Crimson coach said. "She has won a lot of meets for us, and she is one of our most valuable swimmers in terms of getting points in a meet."
Sweetser is the kind of athlete a coach likes most. She is both a winner and a leader.
"Janice is strong in her mind, and she has never lost a race mentally," Scalise said. "I can always ask her to talk to underclassmen because she knows what it takes to be a winner.
"She is a great motivator for other swimmers," Scalise continued, "and if I could have 10 of her it would be great. She has both the swimming and the mental capacity to be a true champion."
Sweetser has had numerous outstanding performances in her two years at Harvard. But her coach, friends and teammates all remember the meet at Yale, her freshman year, when nothing was going right for the Crimson.
"It was a Tuesday night, and we weren't even concentrating on the meet," Scalise said. "We were looking past it to a meet at Princeton on Saturday. [Yale] had peaked for us, and we weren't prepared, and some of our swimmers were sick."
The meet came down to the last relay, with Sweetser as the anchor swimmer. Despite diving in nearly a full body length behind the other swimmer, she still won.
"All during the meet she had been saying `I don't care what it takes, I want to win,'" Scalise recalled. "And she did."
The meet was a turning point for the team, which went on to win its first-ever league crown that year. But according to Juliet Thompson, Sweetser's roommate, Sweetser has always been modest about her talent.
"Janice came back after the [Yale] meet and we asked her how it went, and she said `fine,'" Thompson mused. "It wasn't until we read the Crimson article the next day that we knew how amazing she was."
Another of Sweetser's freshman year highlights was her win in the 500 freestyle at Easterns. It marked Harvard's first win--outside of diving--in many years at the tourney. It was also Scalise's first win ever at Easterns.
As a sophomore, Sweetser was a member of one of four relays that qualified for the NCAA championships, marking the first time Harvard had ever sent swimmers on to national competition.
Sweetser said she has high expectations for this season. "We have a really good team this year," she said. "Maura has built up the women's swimming program over the last few years."
Because she must fulfill her Marine Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship requirements, Sweetser is unable to swim competitively over the summers.
The summer provides a good break for Sweetser, a middle distance freestyler who competes in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle events and practices with the team nine times a week during the school year.
"We have a very close-knit team," Sweetser said. "Swimming takes up a lot of time and the training is really hard. You are so tired that you tend to gravitate toward others in the same position."
Sweetser said swimming for Harvard--and especially winning an Ivy League title freshman year--isvery special. "Wearing Harvard on your back isgreat," she said. "It is a great concept that anacademic school like Harvard can do somethingathletic like that."
Sweetser will have to continue fulfilling herfour-year ROTC commitment after graduation, and isunsure of her plans after that.
"Swimming is a great experience in college,"she said. "There are a lot of team things and teamgoals, but there are also individual goals whichpay off. I swim because I love it, and I don't seemyself finding something this special aftercollege.