W. Swimming Finishes Second at Ivies

Despite the squad’s best showing in five years, the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team could not pry the Ivy Championship away from host and three-time defending champion Princeton, taking second in the eight-team field.

Still, the finish was the Crimson’s highest since 1996, when the team brought home the Ivy title.

Since then, Harvard’s fortunes have taken a downturn, as the Crimson has struggled to break through the glass ceiling constructed above it by the Tigers and Brown, who have combined to win the last six Ivy titles.

The first day of competition appeared to offer more of the same, as Harvard—fielding only twelve swimmers on the day, in contrast to other squads’ fifteen—quickly fell to fourth, far behind Princeton and the Bears but just following Yale.

“I don’t think it shook us very much since historically we’ve been a really strong back half team,” freshman Emily Stapleton said. “We knew that we had more firepower coming later.”

The second day of the meet offered new opportunities and, ultimately, different results.

The Crimson passed both Brown and the Bulldogs as 13 top-eight finishes propelled Harvard to a distant second place, with Princeton firmly in control and the Bears just five and a half points behind.

“Our coach had pointed out to us that we were pretty much matched up with Brown since we each had nine finalists,” Stapleton said. “We had more people in the [consolation finals], but we were basically the aggressors. They were going into finals better off seeding-wise.”

At the end of the meet’s final day, despite the fierce battle for second place, little changed besides the distance between the respective teams. The Tigers’ lead swelled to its final margin—166.5 points—while 10 additional top-eight finishes for Harvard solidified its second-place result.

Senior Anna Fraser led the Harvard scoring push. Fraser accumulated 43 total points, turning in her two best performances in the butterfly events.

In the 200-yard race, Fraser and freshman Jane Evans combined for a one-two finish that gave the Crimson 37 critical points to extend the team’s lead over Brown as the meet entered its final stretch.

Fraser improved upon her preliminary heat time by nearly two seconds, touching the wall in 2:02.37. Evans was right behind at 2:02.59.

In the 100-yard butterfly, Fraser placed third overall in 55.61 seconds and first among three Harvard swimmers finishing in the top eight. Junior Kate Nadeau took fifth in 57.00 seconds, while sophomore Alli Bates rounded out the trio in 57.24 seconds.

The Crimson placed well in the backstroke as well, with training partners freshman Michelle Bright and Stapleton each placing in the top-eight in both the 100- and 200-yard events.

The tandem turned in its best result in the 200-yard contest, in which Bright and Stapleton touched the wall at the same moment, each finishing in 2:00.51, more than two seconds ahead of the third-place finisher.

“To win my first Ivy Championship title was awesome enough,” Bright said. “But to tie with a teammate made it more special. I’m so happy I can’t explain my feelings right now.”

Sophomore Molly Brethauer placed fifth in 2:03.55, adding 14 more points to the Harvard total.

Bright and Stapleton nearly tied for a second time in the 100-yard event, with Bright just edging out her teammate for seventh place by 0.02 seconds.

In addition to her strong showing in the backstroke events, Stapleton supplemented her already-hefty point total with an eighth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley.

After qualifying fifth, Stapleton’s time dropped by just over eight-tenths of a second, relegating her to eighth place.

In the 400-yard IM, Evans complemented her performance in the 200-yard butterfly with another second-place finish, touching the wall in 4:20.46, just 0.26 seconds out of first. Junior Katie Wilbur finished eighth in 4:27.73.

Junior Erica De Benedetto led the Crimson effort in the breaststroke, taking second in the 100-yard race in 1:03.99 behind only the new Ivy Championships record holder. In the 200-yard breaststroke, De Benedetto finished sixth. Right behind her was co-captain Rachael O’Beirne, who captured seventh in both events.

In the diving portion of the competition, Harvard’s divers recovered from early woes on the 1-meter board to dominate the 3-meter.

Junior Renee Paradise eked out the victory, capturing first with 455.70 points and winning by a margin of 4.35. Not far behind, sophomore Anne Osmun took third with 442.40 points.

“All year we’ve had little successes all over the place, and getting second at Ivies was just icing on the cake,” Bright said. “Next year’s our year.”

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at mcginn@fas.harvard.edu.