Junior Dan Jones (shown) and his twin brother Bill provided some veteran leadership for a young Harvard men’s swimming team. The twins placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 200 butterfly.
In one of the few meets of the regular season in which the Crimson had the opportunity to measure itself against national competition, the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team made a strong showing with a fourth-place finish in the Georgia Invitational in Athens, Ga. this weekend.
Lacking its divers—who were competing at the Big Al meet at Princeton—the Crimson still managed a total of 674.5 points and finished behind three Top 20 teams: first-place Georgia (970 points), Virginia (776), and Northwestern (730.5).
“We definitely had a strong showing,” senior Pat Quinn said. “We made a national statement by being competitive in just about every event. Doing that well against teams in the top 20 lets everyone know what our team is about. Besides sending a message to across the country, it sends a message to the Ivy League.”
In fact, perhaps Harvard made a stronger statement than its fourth-place finish alone demonstrates.
A close analysis of the scores reveals that without points from their divers, the 17th-ranked Wildcats and perhaps the 14th-ranked Cavaliers may have even finished behind or with the unranked Crimson.
Regardless, Harvard’s balanced attack—a combination of strong senior leadership and exceptional freshmen—certainly served notice that the Crimson is a team to watch.
Several swimmers notched “lifetime bests” in the meet, including co-captain Sam Wollner, who started off the meet with a bang, nailing a personal best time of 4:24.49 to en route to a fourth-place finish in the 500 freestyle, the first individual meet of the event.
Wollner scored a provisional NCAA qualifying time in the race, and went on to notch personal bests in two other races.
The Crimson’s freshman class contributed much-needed depth and impressively solid times across the board.
Blake Lewkowitz had an excellent swim in the 1,650 freestyle, narrowly missing the provisional NCAA mark with a time of 15:34.82.
Derick Chui, another rookie, finished fourth in the 200 backstroke, while Jordan Diekema won the B final.
In another individual race, classmate Justin Davidson finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke.
“One of the biggest differences between this year’s team and last year’s is the strength of the freshmen,” co-captain Geoff Rathgeber said. “They’re extraordinarily talented, and our team succeeds or falls on their performances.”
“What the freshman class really does is fill in the gaps we were missing,” co-captain Sam Wollner added. “The class gives us a lot of depth and wiggle room for the top guns.”
Junior twin brothers Dan and Bill Jones also registered solid veteran finishes, finishing fourth and fifth, respectivly, in the 200 butterfly. Dan touched the wall just 0.24 seconds ahead of his brother.
Rathgeber also contributed several outstanding individual performances, including a NCAA provisional qualifying time in the 200 individual medley.
The senior also won the 400 IM and the 200 breaststroke while contributing to several relay teams.
The relay teams were strong overall, particularly in the final race of the meet, when Rathgeber and Quinn teamed with juniors Bill Jones and David Guernsey to capture second place in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:00.25.
The Crimson will not compete again until travels to Annapolis, Md. to take on league foe Navy on January 5.
Until then, Harvard will focus on training in Cambridge, and travel to Puerto Rico for its annual mid-season training trip during the winter vacation.
“This is the core of our training period,” Quinn said. “It starts this week and goes right through Puerto Rico.”
“We get really broken down, have a very tough period,” he added, “and hope that this will carry through to Easterns and the end of the season.”
—Staff writer Julie R.S. Fogarty can be reached at email@example.com.