Snatching a school record away from a fellow Harvard athlete is a tough task.
But when the record is already yours, it makes the job a little bit easier.
That was the situation facing swimming sensation Noelle Bassi on Friday evening in the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team’s 198-121 win over No. 24 Kansas.
The junior transfer from Franklin Lakes, N.J. left Tennessee to come to Harvard last year and has since flourished in the Crimson garb.
Bassi’s bread and butter is the 200-yard butterfly, and her previous best in the event was 1:59.29, a mark set at the 2005 NCAA Championships. She was last year’s national champion in that race, so the fans in Cambridge had never seen Bassi turn in her fastest time.
That is, until Friday, when she decided to break out her best for the home crowd.
In addition to her record-setting Harvard time of 1:59.01 in the 200-yard butterfly, Bassi also set two NCAA ‘B’ qualifying times against the Jayhawks at Blodgett Pool—in the aforementioned event and with a 4:23.24 first-place finish in the 400-yard individual medley.
This year is the second straight in which the Crimson has beaten a ranked opponent, and in the process, Bassi also took out Ashley Leidigh, the Big 12 swimmer of the month.
“We knew that Kansas would be tough, and we definitely were not giving up,” Bassi said. “But going a season-best time and breaking my own record was definitely a good way to break Kansas.”
Bassi’s performance against one of the top swimmers in one of the better conferences in the sport should earn her more of the national recognition her teammates feel she deserves.
“Noelle is an extremely hard worker,” said junior co-captain Jessica Davidson. “She is very dedicated to swimming.”
Coupled with the Kansas victory was a 233-85 win over Northeastern, which improved the Crimson to 6-0 on the year. Bassi made it 3-for-3 in terms of wins and NCAA ‘B’ qualifying times over the weekend, competing in just a single individual event on Saturday against the Huskies. The 500-yard freestyle result was a victory in a time of 4:53.14.
“Breaking the record was thrilling, even though it was my own record, just because it was a turning point for the team,” Bassi said. “It gave people faith that they could do amazing things as well. To break my record this early in the season just emphasizes the hard work that we had already done.”
The work for Bassi, however, wasn’t finished just because she had earned herself three individual honors. She anchored Harvard’s A relay team in the final event against both schools, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Although Harvard finished only second against Northeastern and third against Kansas, her willingness to take on that important team role proves that individual accolades are not the only thing on her mind.
“She is a very strong swimmer, obviously,” said co-captain Joanna Lee. “She is very dedicated, [and] she is a leader on the team.”
Leading by example is nothing new for Bassi. She was an NCAA qualifier for the Lady Volunteers in 2003, the same year she came away with a silver medal at the 2003 Pan American Games. Last year, she was a finalist at the Olympic trials. But while it would be great to make it far on a national stage, Bassi’s focus right now is solely on the Crimson.
“Our team was ready to swim fast, and I’m glad that we were able to turn things around,” she said. “It bodes well for the remainder of the season.”