Every year, the Harvard women's swim team fields a contender. And this year was no exception.
From the very start of the season, the team set its sights on winning the Eastern Championships, which were held at Harvard in February.
"Our plan for the year was to train really hard through the season and then do well at Easterns," co-captain Deborah Kory said. "We decided to give everything for the Eastern Championships."
After starting the season with two quick wins over Brown and Columbia, the swimmers headed into the annual Harvard Invitational, taking on powerhouse Florida, Boston University and arch-rival Yale. The women upset Florida on their way to winning the Invitational championship.
"We invited powerhouse Florida to come up, and we rose to the challenge," senior Valerie Gilson said. "It took a lot of hard work and gutsy swimming."
From there, the team went on to crush Yale in a dual meet January 12, 191-109.
Co-captain Deborah Kory recorded a fine performance with wins in the 100-and 200-yard breaststroke, freshman Keiko Iwahara won the 50-yard freestyle meet, junior Stephanie Lawrence took the 100 backstroke and junior Carrie Miller placed first in the 200-yard butterfly.
The next big meet of the season was against defending Easterns champion Princeton.
"It was one of the best meets I've ever been in," Kory said. "We were constantly touching people out, and we were one-two on the diving boards."
Despite coming up on the short end of a 158.5-141.5 score at Princeton, the team was exuberant about its performance.
"Everyone swam their hearts out, everyone did their best," Gilson said. "It was telling of team character: even though it was a loss, it didn't feel like a loss because we raced our hardest."
Though they lost to Princeton, by virtue of Yale's later defeat of Princeton and Harvard's defeat of Yale, the three teams ended up sharing the Ivy League crown.
The final meet of the year, the Eastern Championships, turned out to be the most exciting meet of the season for the women.
Last year, Harvard finished 200 points behind Princeton. This year, they vowed it would be different, and the swimmers stepped up to prove it.
Miller won the 100-and 200-yard butterfly. Junior Greta Steffenson finished a close second in the Mile. Kory took the 200-and 400-yard individual medley. The women also won the 400-and 800-yard free relay.
Harvard also used its home-pool advantage to the fullest.
"One of the reasons we held on was because of the support," Kory said. "Anytime we won, there were waves of emotion."
Unfortunately, Princeton nudged Harvard out at the end, winning with 635 points to Harvard's 604 points.
The freshman class proved to be a strong shot in the arm for the team, with Stephanie Lawrence winning the 100-yard backstroke in the Princeton duel meet and Mary Naber finishing second in the 100-yard butterfly at Easterns.
"The freshmen were fabulous," Kory said. "They had a lot of spirit and motivation, and they were very solid swimmers."
Behind every successful team is a fine coach, and the women's swim team, with head Coach Maura Costin Scalise, was no exception.
"I've never had a coaching experience like I've had here," Gilson said. "I don't think our season would have been possible without our coaches."