In a contest that proved as close as the rankings of both Rutgers and the Harvard swim and dive team, junior Noelle Bassi won three individual events. Junior Jackie Pangilnan also won multiple events to spark the Crimson, winning the 100-yard and 200-yard
Even a one-spot disadvantage in the rankings can intimidate an opponent. But for the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team, not even that could stop it.
The No. 25 Crimson (8-0, 5-0 Ivy) had only just returned from an intensive week-long training trip in Aruba and Hawaii but was ready to battle it out with No. 24 Rutgers (3-1, 2-0 Big East), defeating the Scarlet Knights on Friday by a score of 150-149.
“We knew that they were going to give us a lot of competition,” junior co-captain Jessica Davidson said. “We were hoping it would be a close meet. It couldn’t have had a better outcome than winning by one point.”
For most of the meet, it was unclear who was going to pull through victorious, since both teams claimed the lead multiple times as they battled it out.
The Crimson started the meet with a bold statement, however, as it edged out Rutgers in the first event, the 200-yard medley relay, by .02 seconds with a team of sophomore Jackie Pangilinan and sophomores Lindsay Hart, Bridget O’Connor, and Amanda Slaight.
“After we won the first relay that was a really big confidence booster,” Pangilnan said. “Being able to beat them [in] the first race, that gave us the motivation to think we can do this.”
Harvard soon lost the lead by dropping the next three events. The Crimson took the second through fifth spots in the 1000 yard freestyle with juniors Stacey Blondin, Kelly Blondin, freshman Emily Jellie, and junior Rachel Walker finishing two through five respectively. But it couldn’t claim the top spot.
“It was nice because for the first time we were not in the lead,” Pangilinan said. “It really forced our team to be perfect and everyone had to really work for every point and it really showed how valuable each person on our team really is.”
In the next two events, the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke, the highest place that Harvard finished was third, with senior Erin Mulkey’s performance in the freestyle and Hart’s in the backstroke.
But the Crimson was then able to pick up some more first-place points, as Pangilinan and junior Noelle Bassi each registered the first of their multiple individual wins.
Pangilinan led a one-two finish in the 100 yard breaststroke with junior LeAnn Chang, and Bassi took first in the 200 yard butterfly.
Pangilinan’s second individual win came later in the 200-yard breaststroke as she led a one-two-three finish with a time of 2:17.61, which was good enough for an NCAA “B” cut. Second and third were nabbed by Chang and senior Jane Evans respectively.
“Certainly in the 200 breaststroke, watching people win and beat records really boosts your confidence,” Pangilinan said. “Touching the wall in the 200, I felt great. And to come in and see my other teammates come in and go one-two-three it gave my teammates a lot of confidence. The team really used that to keep fighting.”
Bassi registered another two individual wins. Her first win came later in the meet in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:53.67, which qualified her for a NCAA “B” cut. Her second win came in the second-to-last event of the meet and gave Harvard a much needed boost in points. She won the 400-yard Individual Medley with a time of 4:24.63.
The lead was then once again taken over by the Scarlet Knights as they took the top four spots in the 50-yard freestyle.
“In a meet like this every single person’s contribution matters,” Davidson said. “Even someone getting fifth place and scoring one point matters.”
Sophomore Samantha Papadakis, who is also a Crimson editor, gave the Crimson a boost by winning both diving events. Her first event was the three-meter dive, which she won with a score of 281.48. She then claimed the one-meter dive later in the meet with a score of 260.41.
The end of the meet was a true battle. Harvard was only able to finish second in the 100 yard butterfly, with O’Connor taking the spot. Papadakis and Bassi then delivered two much-needed individual wins and brought the score to 146-136 before the final event.
The ten-point lead was just enough, as it allowed the Crimson to finish second in the final event, the 400-yard individual medley, with a team of Mulkey, Pangilinan, Slaight, and junior and Emily Wilson, and still win the meet by one point.
“This whole season we haven’t had a meet that close at all,” Davidson said. “So to have a meet like this, that’s the excitement in the sport.”
With the win Harvard remained undefeated for the season, entering a month-long break before it returns for its biggest dual meet of the year against Princeton and Yale.
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at email@example.com.