This weekend Harvard's women swimmers faced two huge meets and found two very different results.
The Crimson, as expected, downed Columbia in a dominating fashion (135.5-106.5) but fell to a partially shaven Brown team (101-198).
The squad's pair of meets began with a long, draining bus ride to the Big Apple on Friday. Because of the Lions relatively weak line-up, this meet was planned to be a chance for each Crimson swimmer to compete in her weaker events.
"Before the meet we played with the line-up a lot," said senior Sandie Stringfellow. "The meet got a little closer than we had predicted, but we came through with some great races. It turned out to be a lot of fun and a great meet to start this year's Ivy competition and the freshmen's careers here."
The Harvard swimmers easily surpassed Columbia, winning by almost 30 points, but it also gained some experience and preparation for the weekend's much more important battle against Brown.
"At Columbia, the team was able to step up even though we weren't planning on having to," said sophomore Sue Machorek. "That really helped our confidence going into the Brown meet."
Several individuals managed to shine at both meets. Alexis Todor led the breaststrokers with impressive wins at both meets. Senior Keiko Iwahara also had multiple wins, this time in the sprint events.
"The breaststroke, sprints and middistance races were especially strong for us at Columbia," said senior co-captain Jen Steffen. "We knew these would be strong areas against Brown, but we also knew that the team has talented swimmers that could make a big impact in the other events as well."
That confidence would not be enough for the Crimson, though, when they encountered the defending Ivy champion Bears.
Harvard fell behind quickly and never recovered from a disappointing first couple of events.
"We didn't know that Brown was going to be swimming so fast this early in the season," said sophomore Ana Cenanovic. "Some of their swimmers even shaved, which was a big surprise.
"On the whole, we actually had good times, they were just swimming incredibly well. Our unity and spirit was the only thing that kept us fighting throughout."
Despite the overwhelming 97-point spread, the Crimson swimmers did keep their cheers loud and chins high.
"This was a great learning experience for the new swimmers," Steffen said. "We never gave up. We wanted to fight all the way to the end, even though Brown swam so well."
And indeed the freshmen did feel that they learned from the experience and remained confident in the rest of the team's season.
"If you combine our spirit and the points we scored, we would have kicked Brown's butt," said freshman Kirra Brandon.
Even after the loss, the Crimson have high hopes for the rest of the season.
"The team has been training much harder this year," Stringfellow said. "At the beginning of the season, we decided to focus entirely on the Ivy title which will not be determined by dual meet records, but by the results of the Eastern Championships. Expect us to be swimming at our peak there."