The Crimson swam on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in hopes of winning its second Ivy Title in a row but ended up finishing second with 1445 points to the Tigers’ 1580 points.
“[Princeton] had some fantastic swims,” sophomore Lindsay Hart said. “We were just a little bit off and we don’t really know why. We had some illnesses and injuries going into it too, so that was hard.”
Each morning the team competed in the preliminary heats to decide who would be swimming in the final that same night.
The last day of competition was certainly intense, because Harvard trailed in the points. The Crimson started out strong with second- and fifth-place finishes from juniors Stacy and Kelly Blondin in the first event, the 1650-yard freestyle.
The second event, the 200-yard backstroke, was an extremely close race. Hart led for most of the race until around the 150-yard mark. Yale junior Moira McClosky came back and was able to sneak by Hart for the win, with Hart finishing second.
The last event of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, was close as well. Harvard trailed for most of the race with junior Emily Wilson, sophomore Meaghan Colling, and junior Noelle Bassi swimming the first three legs. Senior Erin Mulkey swam the last leg and she was able to close the gap a significant amount, but not enough as Columbia edged out the Crimson for the win.
Harvard did win three other events during the day. In the 200-yard breaststroke, sophomore Jackie Pangilian won the event with an NCAA B cut time. She was followed by junior LeeAnn Chang, who took third with another NCAA B cut time. Colling finished fifth.
Sophomore Alison Pipitone came through in the three-meter dive event as well, as she grabbed the lead after her third dive and was able to hold it to the end. Sophomore Samantha Papadakis came back from a seventh-place position after dive three to finish second overall.
The most exciting win of the night was Bassi’s. She dominated the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:58.81, over five seconds faster than the second-place finisher. Her time was good for a meet record and the Ivy League record. It was the 12th fastest time in the event in the country.
“I think she was definitely ready to bust out,” Hart said. “We were just so happy for her. She has been 1:59 for some time. So, she was really ready for it.”
Harvard had a tough first day of competition as it was unable to take the top spot in any event. The closest it came was a second-place finish.
Bassi had the highest individual finish of the night with her second-place NCAA B cut time in the 500-yard freestyle.
“We have been looking at some of the results [for the cuts] and we will submit our times,” Hart said. “Noelle will definitely go, and Jackie and I will definitely try to get there.”
Harvard grabbed second in the 400-yard Medley Relay, only .20 seconds behind Princeton’s winning squad.
In the opening relay of the meet, the Crimson finished third behind both Brown and Princeton with a team of Bassi, Pangilinan, Mulkey, and sophomore Amanda Slaight, despite having the fastest preliminary time by two seconds. Hart was able to grab a third-place individual finish in the 200-yard individual medley and a USA National time.
Mulkey was the top Harvard finisher in the 50-yard freestyle with a fifth-place finish in the event.
Harvard did not gain any points on day two of competition. The team finished second to Princeton in both relay events. A team of Hart, Pangilinan, Slaight, and O’Connor took second in the 200-yard medley relay and a team of Mulkey, Wilson, Hart, and Bassi took second in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
“I’m really proud of us for fighting,” Hart said. “It was incredibly difficult to be down and to come back and swim again. I’m so proud of our team for staying strong.”
Stacy Blondin took an individual second-place finish in the 1000-yard freestyle event.
But Bassi brought a win back to the Crimson as she finished first in the 400-yard individual medley, with Stacy Blondin finishing behind her in fourth, both with NCAA B cut times.
Pangilian racked up another win for Harvard when she placed first in the 100-yard breaststroke with another NCAA B cut time.
The loss was Harvard’s first since the 2003-04 season. Thus, the Crimson ended its solid season on a disappointing note.
“We were definitely disappointed with the outcome, but we had a great year,” O’Connor said. “It’s one weekend out of an entire year. We weren’t on this weekend but it was a successful year in general.”
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.