SEASON RECAP: Harvard Relies on Young Talent, Wins Two Titles

The Harvard women’s swimming and diving team had a year of record-shattering success, the culmination of which was winning, for the first time ever, both the Ivy League and ECAC conference championships in a single season.

“It’s a pretty amazing feat,” Crimson coach Stephanie Morawski said. “It’s hard enough to win one.”

The Crimson last won the Ivy Championship in 2005, and took home the ECAC crown in 2007, so to win them both together required contributions from every member of the team. The Ivy championship limits the squad to 18 swimmers and three divers, so Harvard was forced to split up its 26 swimmers and six divers.

“They were competing against full squads of 18 and they won,” Morawski said. “So to split the team and to have both halves of the team win their respective [championship] meets is pretty amazing. That was definitely a highlight for everyone.”

Harvard had four individual Ivy champions—sophomore Kate Mills in the 200-yard freestyle, junior co-captain Alexandra Clarke in the 1000-yard freestyle, sophomore Katy Hinkle in the 100-yard backstroke, and freshman Meghan Leddy in the 200-yard backstroke—with all of those victories coming in school-record time.

The Crimson also won the 200-yard and 800-yard freestyle relays, setting a new school benchmark in the latter.

“[The 800-yard relay] was a really great performance,” Clarke said. “I think that was the first time [we’ve] ever won that race. It’s definitely the first time that we’ve beat Princeton since I’ve been here. They have a really impressive group of 200 freestylers, so beating them was a pretty big accomplishment.”

Those records represent just a fraction of Harvard’s impressive season. All told, 12 new standards were set by Crimson swimmers this season.

Clarke reset her own records in the 500-yard and 1650-yard freestyle at Ivies, and junior Sophie Morgan set a record of her own in her runner-up finish in the 100-yard butterfly, tying the benchmark set by Mills earlier in the year. Mills reset the 200-yard butterfly record, and the 400-yard freestyle relay team added its names to the record board as well.

But that record-breaking trend started way back in December, when Harvard set nine school marks at the Georgia Invitational—unprecedented for such an early-season meet. The Crimson finished third in a field that included national powerhouses Georgia and California.

Harvard was no less dominant against Ancient Eight competition. The team won its first five league meets by an average of 93 points before running into its first major competition in the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton tri-meet.

The Crimson fell to Princeton, 170.5-148.5, in head-to-head competition. The sheer number of wins generated by the Tigers’ superstars made a dual meet victory difficult for Harvard to attain, but the Crimson was able to get even at the championship meet, where the scoring format tends to favor depth.

At Ivies, Harvard beat runner-up Princeton—which had held the title for the last three years—by a final score of 1583.5-1334.

Mills and Clarke, who together had a hand in setting eight school records, represented the Crimson at NCAAs, with Mills recording Harvard’s top finish by placing 23rd in the nation in the 200-yard butterfly.

The Crimson graduates just two seniors this year, and with the addition of a strong recruiting class, Harvard has built the foundation to be an Ivy powerhouse for the forseeable future.

“I always say that of course I want to win, but its much more powerful when [the swimmers] truly not only want it but when they do everything that it takes to make it happen, and I saw that on a daily basis this year,” Morawski said.

—Staff writer Alexandra E. Zimbler can be reached at azimbler@fas.harvard.edu.

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