The Harvard men's swimming team tuned up for this week's Eastern Championships with a 62-51 victory over Yale in front of 100 spectators at Blodgett Pool Saturday.
Most of the races involved swimmers from both teams attempting to qualify in additional events for the three-day Eastern meet, which begins Thursday at Blodgett. As a result, events like the 100 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay were dropped and less common ones, such as the 400 individual medley and 200 freestyle relay, were added in their place.
Nonetheless, the Crimson (7-3 overall, 6-3 EISL, 5-2 Ivy League) finished the dual meet season with both a victory and some fast swims.
But a defeat by Columbia the first week of the season at Blodgett came back to haunt Harvard, as the squad finished one loss behind both the Lions and Princeton, who share the Ivy crown with 6-1 marks in the league.
Still, the Crimson finished the regular season much stronger than it began, posting a 4-1 mark since January. And while Princeton and Penn State must be viewed as the top contenders for the Eastern crown, Harvard's recent performances have kept the squad in contention.
"Against Yale, we tried to swim with the kind of intensity that we'll need to win Easterns," Co-Captain Keith Kaplan said. "Some people swam off events, but we were still able to win handily."
The most spectacular race of the day came in the 50-yd. freestyle, when Co-Captain and Olympic gold medalist David Berkoff put on a show. With a Japanese film crew in attendance, the flamboyant Berkoff captured first in the event using a most unorthodox style.
While underwater after the start, Berkoff flipped on to his back and launched into his famous "Berkoff Blastoff," with which he propelled himself to the first wall. At that point, he turned back over, made his turn and finished the race on his stomach.
Winning time: 21.38 seconds, his best of the year.
But while Berkoff was having fun, other members of the Crimson were shooting for Eastern qualifying times. One of the best swims of the day came from Mike Lin, who qualified in the 100 butterfly with a time of 51.16 seconds.
Sophomore Dan Hume also made the cut, capturing the 200 butterfly (1:53.75). Other victories for the Crimson came from freshman Chris Kovacs in the 400 individual medley, Kaplan in the 100 freestyle, Kevin Williams (200 individual medley) and Al Wolf (200 breaststroke).
So now Harvard gets to sit back and wait for the rest of the Eastern league to arrive at Blodgett. The team knows that it is going into the Eastern meet as a definite underdog, but it doesn't seem to mind.
"I feel that we keep getting faster and smoother in the water with each meet," Kaplan said. "The attitude of this team can be described as 'quiet determination.' We realize that the Easterns will be close, but if we perform in the water, we'll come out on top."