The Harvard women’s swimming and diving team took its first step toward proving that last year’s second-place finish at the Ivy Championships was no fluke by thoroughly routing Brown Friday evening at Blodgett Pool, winning 198- 102.
“We beat them last year and it was really close,” tri-captain Abbie Davies said. “It was the first time we beat them in a while. If we beat them this time we knew we had the same power.”
The Bears, who in years past had combined with Princeton to ensure that the Crimson finished no better than third in the Ancient Eight, took third place last season behind Harvard (3-0, 3-0 Ivy) and the Tigers.
The Crimson thoroughly dominated Brown (0-1, 0-1 Ivy) from the outset, with Harvard’s ‘A’ relay—comprised of junior Alli Bates, tricaptain Erica De Benedetto, freshman LeeAnn Chang and junior Molly Ward—capturing the opening 200-yard medley relay before the Crimson swept the top-three spots in the 1000-yard freestyle event.
“It made everyone feel better,” Chang said. “We all thought it would be close.” Freshman Laurin Weisenthal swam away from her teammates, finishing in 10:12.93—15.2 seconds ahead of junior teammate Stephanie Greco. Freshman Rachel Walker finished third in 10:36.22.
Following the second event, Harvard led 27-9 and never looked back, touching the wall first in 10 of the remaining 14 races as Chang, junior Emily Stapleton and sophomore Jane Evans turned in multiple first place performances.
Riding high off her strong butterfly leg in the medley relay, Chang captured three individual events to maintain an unblemished college record, following up on her three overall firsts last weekend.
In the 100-yard breaststroke, Chang battled Brown freshman Karlyanna Kopra down to the wire before eventually edging her out at the wall 1:05.31 to 1:06.47.
“I think the last 25 was the better part,” Chang said. “After seeing her next to me I was like, ‘Uh-oh.’ A lot of us were even, but then I guess I have maybe a little more endurance.”
It wasn’t nearly so close in the 200-yard go-around.
Chang broke away from her competition—fellow Crimson freshman Kelly Blondin and Kopra—early on and gradually built up her lead over the course of the eight laps, finishing in 2:16.68, a comfortable 7.1 seconds ahead of Blondin and nine seconds ahead of Kopra.
But her third individual victory would need to wait.
Meanwhile, Stapleton sliced through her opponents and the water in the backstroke competitions, winning both the 100- and 200-yard races.
Success did not come easily in the 100, as Bear freshman Emily Brush pushed her to the limit. The two finished just 0.42 seconds apart, with Stapleton barely finding the pad first at 58.27.
Brush did not provide as much competition in the 200. Stapleton fended off fellow junior Molly Brethauer, clocking in 2.51 seconds faster, but leaving Brush in her wake by 3.02 seconds.
“It’s a really good in-season time for her,” Davies said. “It’s the fastest the Ivy League teams have posted thus far.”
Evans turned in her standard two-win performance in the butterfly events, leading freshman Stacy Blondin and senior Kate Nadeau in a top-three sweep in both the 100- and the 200-yard contests.
“She also is not going to let anybody take away her steam,” Davies said. “She’s doing really well. She’s very versatile. In the middle of the meet they decided to switch her from the 200 breast to the 100 fly.”
Blondin took second in the 200, while Nadeau bested the first-year by 0.01 seconds in the 100.
In the penultimate event of the day, Chang, Stapleton and Evans squared off in the 200-yard individual medley. Despite her relative inexperience, Chang upstaged both her upperclass teammates, winning in 2:05.25—2.81 seconds faster than Stapleton and 5.1 seconds faster than Evans.
“Because we weren’t as uptight about winning anymore, we maybe swam a little bit better,” Chang said. “We weren’t so worried.”
The Harvard women’s swimming and diving team returns to the waters on Dec. 6, when the squad travels to New York for a tri-meet against Columbia and Penn.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.