M. Swimming, Red-Hot Cole Take EISL Title

Paul M. Soper

There’s nothing like a little home-pool advantage in the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming League Championships. And there’s nothing like sweeping the relays, having Harvard co-captain John Cole named the meet’s outstanding swimmer, or finishing off the team’s first undefeated campaign since 1998-99.

Most importantly, however, there’s nothing like returning the EISL title to Blodgett Pool, the very place in which the Harvard men’s swimming team won it on Saturday night.

“Last time Easterns were here [in 2002], we lost,” Cole said. “Last time HYP was in our pool [in 2003], we lost. That left a bitter taste in our mouths.”

After surrendering the EISL crown to perennial rival Princeton in 2004, the Crimson showed the capacity crowd just why it had buried the Tigers and all other Ivy League competition all year long.

“Our goal from the beginning was to have this perfect season,” co-captain Andy Krna said. “It’s something that none of the seniors have had. We’ve either won HYP and lost Easterns or the other way around. Last year we lost in both, and we made it a team goal this year to come in and win every meet.”

A stellar all-around performance in sprint and distance relays, as well as individual events, gave Harvard its eighth EISL crown in a decade, a solid 1460.0-1363.5 victory over second-place Princeton. Columbia rounded out the top three with 1,040.5 points, but the weekend belonged to the longstanding and fierce Crimson-Tigers rivalry.

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“We came into this meet wanting to beat Princeton again in our home pool,” Cole said.

At the end of Thursday’s competition, the Crimson trailed the defending champion Tigers 444-415 despite winning four of the day’s six events.

“We knew it would be a lot closer than H-Y-P,” Krna said. “We never let it get to us that it was going to be an easy meet.”

But the Crimson used a perfect 5-of-5 mark in relays to steal the lead from Princeton for good on Friday. All weekend long, the Tigers found themselves in a frustrating race for second or third place.

The Crimson’s 200-yard freestyle relay—composed of Krna, freshman Pat Quinn, senior James Lawler, and freshman Geoff Rathgeber—never trailed in an impressive victory over the second-place Tigers. Krna and Lawler, joined by sophomore Joc Christiana and junior David Cromwell, would trounce Princeton again in the 400-yard medley relay.

But in Saturday night’s 400-freestyle relay—the meet’s final event—Harvard gave the visitors further evidence of its dominance. Having already secured the championship after the evening’s earlier competition, the Crimson saw no reason to let up in one of the sport’s most exciting events.

Cromwell, the first to hit the water, put Harvard in third place behind Navy and Brown and just ahead of Columbia, the four teams separated by just 0.13 seconds. It was Quinn’s second leg, however, that propelled the Crimson relay to its convincing victory. Quinn torched the field with a 44.43 split in the race’s second 100 meters. The closest second-leg swimmer clocked in almost a second behind Quinn’s split time.

“I knew we wanted to win. I knew we were going to win,” Quinn said. “Our whole season, [Harvard coach Tim Murphy] has been saying that our goal this season was to send a message. That’s all I was thinking about. I just wanted to send a message to Princeton and let them know that we’re the best team out there.”

The relay highlighted Harvard’s fantastic Saturday, a day that the Crimson began with just a 39-point lead over Princeton and ended with nearly a 100-point victory over the Tigers.

Strong individual performances earlier on Saturday evening gave Harvard a comfortable cushion going into the meet’s final event. Cromwell ended an outstanding weekend with a first-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke, and Rathgeber followed in third.

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