No, the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team couldn’t extend its streak of six consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League (EISL) titles. But it wasn’t all bad news for the Harvard men’s swimming team in 2002. Not by a long shot.
Though Harvard finished the season in an unexpected position—second place—the Crimson can take solace in individual successes both in the EISL meet and at NCAAs, as well as in its undefeated dual season.
Only two Harvard swimmers—sophomore John Cole and junior Dan Shevchik—qualified to compete in the NCAA Championships, but it was all the Crimson needed to earn 17th place out of the 35 schools that scored points. The two combined for 42 total points, compared with just two for EISL champion Princeton.
Cole shined on the NCAA stage with two All-American performances, finishing second in the 1,650-yard freestyle and third in the 500 freestyle. Shevchik earned Honorable Mention All-American accolades with top-15 finishes in the 200 backstroke and the 400 individual medley.
In the 1,650 free, only 2000 Olympic Medalist Erik Vendt of USC finished ahead of Cole, and only by two seconds, with a time of 14:37.48. Cole’s 14:39.71 improved on his previous Harvard record of 14:49.48 by 10 seconds. It was the best performance by a Harvard swimmer at NCAAs since David Berkoff ’89 won the 100-yard backstroke in 1989.
In the 500 free, Trojans Klete Keller and Vendt took early leads, but Cole swam back for a personal best 4:16.91, earning third place.
Cole managed to earn 33 points for Harvard, a higher mark than all but 21 schools in the nation.
“[Cole is] an extremely gifted and humble swimmer,” said senior Kyle Egan.
Harvard finished the dual season with a perfect 9-0 record, including the top place at the H-Y-P meet on Feb. 1-2, where the Tigers placed only third.
“In the past, [the Tigers] have normally tapered and shaved for H-Y-P,” junior co-captain John Persinger said after EISLs. “This year, they decided to pick their Eastern team ahead of time and wait and shave for this weekend.”
The decision paid off for the Tigers. After jumping out to a 42.5-point lead in the first two days of the EISL Championship, the Crimson saw its advantage fade away in a swirl of Princeton records, relays and dives. The Tigers rallied back on the last day of competition to foil Harvard’s plans for a seventh-straight title.
Still, the Crimson’s decision to put off naming its Easterns lineup until a week prior to the meet kept swimmers on their toes and prevented divisions within the team.
That team unity was a priority for the Crimson from the very start. Harvard’s underclassmen found their niches during the team’s excursion to Acapulco, Mexico, when the rigorous training brought the team together.
“When we were just swimming every day, it was good to see that the team did it together,” Egan said. “It wasn’t a bunch of individuals in a pool—it was one team. There was arguing and bickering up until that point, but after we left Mexico, it was clear that it was one group.”
From then on, it was all wins for Harvard, in spite of the setbacks like the illness that kept junior co-captain Cory Walker from racing at EISLs.
And though second place may be an uncomfortable place for a team accustomed to first, the Crimson’s swims at EISLs still placed 11 individuals and five relays on the All-Ivy roster.
“I don’t think the end result was really representative of what we could have accomplished,” Egan said. “We really have the talent to win that last meet. We all had some really great swims in terms of times and individual performances, but as a team, something just didn’t click that weekend.”
At the championship meet, Cole and Shevchik won three events apiece. Cole took first in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle races, while Shevchik won the 200 and 400 IMs and the 200 backstroke. Shevchik’s time of 3:48.2 in the backstroke set a pool record.
Sophomore Rassan Grant took third in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. Kyle Egan won second in the 100 butterfly, while his twin brother Ryan Egan won third in the 200 butterfly.
Princeton freshman Kent DeMond, the meet’s most outstanding diver, won the three-meter diving event while Harvard sophomore Roy Enrique placed fourth—securing the Tigers’ advantage going into the final event—the 400 freestyle relay.
In the final, Harvard came in second, thanks to the team of junior Ryan Parmenter, freshman Nick Langan and sophomores James Lawler and Brad Burns.
Lawler posted other top finishes, placing first in the 200 free and second in the 100 free.
Next year, Princeton loses nine swimmers to graduation compared to Harvard’s four—the Egans, Erik Frost and Michael Sabala, who is also a Crimson editor.
“There’s a lot of young talent that’s really only starting to make an impression,” Kyle Egan said. “Freshman Ryan Smith making a name for himself and I see John Persinger really driving the team next year and stepping it up.”
Harvard’s prospects for next year look bright enough to carry the Crimson to a more agreeable finish—first.
“It’s really kind of interesting to see them celebrating in your pool,” Ryan Egan said. “I’m sure that the guys next year will respond to that and do whatever they can to win.”
MEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING
RESULTS 9-0 in duels, 2nd at EISLs, 17th at NCAAs
COACH Timothy D. Murphy
CAPTAINS John Persinger, Cory Walker
HIGHLIGHTS John Cole earns All-American honors at NCAAs by finishing 3rd in the 500 freestyle and 2nd in the 1,650 freestyle—just back of Olympic medalist Erik Vendt.
Dan Shevchik’s top-15 finishes in both the 200 backstroke and 400 individual medley earn him Honorable Mention.