The Harvard Men's Swim team entered its meet against Purdue knowing the deck was stacked against it.
With Harvard in heavy training for its upcoming competition in Texas, Purdue decided that this would be a good time to fully rest their squad. It tapered and shaved before the meet to give it every possible competitive edge against the Crimson.
It was almost not enough.
Not until the final race, the 200 meter freestyle, where the Purdue A team edged the Crimson A squad of senior Mike Kiedel, junior Alex Kurmakov, senior Matt Corune and captain Eric Matuszak by .51 seconds did the Boilermakers secure their 6 point victory--152-146.
"We had lots of really good swims today," Kiedel said. "We were barely out-touched on the final race and that made the difference."
The extraordinary preparation of the Boilermakers accounted for the slim margin of victory. The Crimson in essence did not regard this meet as important as Purdue did. Any swim team who tapers--reducing the quantity and quality of its workouts before the meet--and shaves holds a tremendous advantage.
"In the preseason poll, Purdue was anked 19th and we were 18th," said unior Greg Wriede. "Every team singles out a particular meet for their big rest meet and this was their's. It made all the difference in the world."
The Crimson still made an admirable showing led by Kiedel. He posted victories in the 200- and 100- meter freestyle with times of 1:37.73 and 44.94, respectively. Kiedel's 200-meter time probably places him among the top three swimmers in the country for that event.
"Kiedel was great today," Wriede said. "Both of his swims were outstanding. They really got us energized."
In addition, Kiedel took third in the 500 freestyle, an event which Harvard swept. Junior Denis Sirrinhaus touched the wall a mere one hundredth of a second before sophomore Tim Martin could extend his hand.
"Anytime you go 1-2-3 in an event, especially 1-2-3-4 it's exciting," said sophomore Brian Cadman. "It gave us a real morale boost and picked the team up."
Freshman Will Oren had a standout meet, as well. He broke his personal record with a 1:51.84 in the 200-meter butterfly--good for second place. Oren shaved a full five seconds off his time Saturday against Army and Columbia.
Further compounding the Crimson disadvantage against Purdue was the team's meet on Saturday against Colombia and Army. Harvard cruised to victory over Army 176-63, and similarly toppled Columbia 180-62.
However, don't let the margin of victory deceive you. Although the Crimson was a superior team, the swimmers expended just as much energy as they would have against greater opponents.
"It was good to get these wins under our belt," Cadman said. "However, racing is never easy, even if the opposition is weaker, we are always racing against ourselves."
Freshman Greg Walker deserves special mention for sweeping the one meter dive both days. He continues to dominate in this category, turning in outstanding performances every meet.
"Greg Walker was great this weekend," Cadman said. "I don't think I've seem him lose yet."
Overall, the Crimson swimmers have their sights set on their big meet in Texas--the Texas Invitational--two weeks hence. Both contests this weekend further increased their confidence as they prepare to face such top teams as University of California-Berkeley and the University of Tennessee.
"Although we lost, we had some fast racing," Cadman said. "We are pretty confident heading into Texas. This will not bring us down at all."
Now, its time for the Crimson to taper, shave and prove that their heavy training which held them back this weekend is ready to truly pay-off.
"I think this weekend gave us more confidence," Kiedel said. "We swam really well against a tough team knowing we were in hard training. We have lot going for us this year."