Swimming Stuck on You(th) in Coming Year of High Hope
Freshmen Key in Men's Planned Return to Swim Heaven
The Harvard's men's swimming team has great expectations of its youth this season. A bottom-heavy squad that has only two seniors and 16 sophomores and freshmen hopes that the strength of youth will triumph over inexperience in the pool.
The Crimson has set high--but reachable--goals for the upcoming season. The team desperately hopes to capture the Eastern and Ivy League titles, crowns that the Pranceton Tigers wore last year.
Last year's squad finished at 9-2 but lost it's three-year hold on the Eastern Championships. The team did maintain its streak of 23 years with a third place or better finish at the Easterns.
"We are looking to win the Easterns and the Ivies," sophomore Ben Odell said. "In the process we hope to qualify as many people for the NCAA tournament as possible."
Harvard's talent has also been bolstered by a stellar recruiting class.
"We have a very talented and dedicated team," junior Dave Alpert said. "We're in a better position that in years. Our freshman class is definitely one of the strongest in the nation."
Most of the hopes and fears of the Crimson seem to lie on the shoulders of that impressive freshman class, led by Alex Kurmakov, Jon Samuel, and Denis Sirringhaus.
"We have a really talented freshman class that are ready to step up," said Odell. "If they do we will rise above what we did last year."
"I think our strength is that we are young and native," said sophomore freestyler Matt Cornue. "I think our weakness is that we are weak and native. When it comes down to the pressure situations I expect that those freshman will step up and rise to the occasion. I swam very slow all throughout the season but came up with my best times in the clutch last year."
Odell had a different experience his freshman year.
"Freshman year is always tough," said Odell. "There is always a challenge adjusting to the competition and the style of racing. I had a tough time, but I ended up doing well. The pressure got to me at the end of the season. Freshman, generally, don't go as fast as they expect to."
To help them, the swimmers of the class of '99 have a strong support system ready to help them.
"We have two good captains and four great coaches," said sophomore transfer Eric Matuszak. "We are a young group that hasn't competed together, yet. We have put in a lot of good work in, but we just need to come together as a team. By the end of the season I expect that [team chemistry] to be one of our strengths."
Captains senior Jeff Marks and junior Karl Scheer are expected to bear a heavy burden in helping this young team to overcome the perils of inexperience. However, the job should be easier because of the character of the freshman class.
"There are a lot of leaders in that freshman class," said Odell. "There are a lot of gutsy kids that will help the team to gel."
The group needs to come together quickly because their biggest non-tournament meet will come early. December eighth marks the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Tri-meet at Yale.
"We want to beat Yale and Princeton," said Alpert. "Princeton is our only real competition in the Eastern Division."
Harvard's greatest strength appears to lie in its freestyle swimmers. Returning is the accomplished Brain Younger, a distance freestyle swimmer who was the top-scoring individual swimmer at last year's Eastern meet and was an All-America in the 1650 and 500 freestyle.
"Brain Younger is, of course expected to have a great season," said Cornue. "He has a real shot at making the Olympic team."
The rest of the free styles are also expected to perform well.
"We hope to have most of the finalists in many of the freestyle events at Easterns," said Alpert "Matuszak, Younger, Kurmakov, and Samuel are really big competitors that should do well."
Kurmakov and Samuel are both freshmen, and thus the pattern already seems to be forming for this year's squad. If the Crimson is to achieve its goals, the freshmen will have to live up to their advanced billing.