Objectively, the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team had a fantastic season.
Finishing with an 8-1 (6-1 Ivy League) record, the Crimson only dropped one contest—to its archrival Princeton—over the entire campaign. In addition, Harvard claimed a second-place finish at both the ECAC and Ivy League Championships, while sending two swimmers and one diver to their respective NCAA tournaments in late March.
The Crimson was close to perfection in its performance in the pool this season. But following the team’s flawless 2007-08 showing, close was not good enough.
“As a team, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve,” co-captain David Guernsey said. “We set some goals to go out and win Ivies, but we didn’t, so I think we were disappointed in that sense.”
Harvard began the season a little shakier than last year, squeaking by Cornell, 158-142. But the men picked up the pace after the reality check, speeding by Dartmouth and Columbia, 253-47 and 200-100, respectively.
This three-win streak was followed by three non-conference contests. The Crimson placed second in the Georgia Invitational and eighth in the Big Al Invitational, before pulling out a dual-meet victory over Arizona State.
With the start of the second semester, Harvard returned to its home pool and began the sprint to the Ivy League and ECAC finish line. After trouncing Navy, 188-112, the Crimson breezed past Penn and Brown, 213-85 and 169-119, respectively.
But Harvard was still less than pleased with its performances in the pool.
“Starting in the beginning of the season, it took us a while to come together as a team—like to get our [stuff] together, basically,” said distance standout and incoming captain Alex Meyer. “A lot of things were not going as smoothly as they should have been.”
The Crimson’s real test to prove themselves as a team came during the HYP meet, which pitted the swimmers and divers against their main competition, the Tigers.
In contrast to the previous season, this year’s Harvard squad entered the matchup as the underdog instead of the team to beat. But after the first day of competition, the Crimson found itself three points ahead of Princeton.
“That moment for everyone pretty much solidified the fact that we [needed] to get moving because we could beat Princeton,” Meyer said. “There was a major mental shift at that moment.”
Harvard defeated Yale, 251-102, but wasn’t able to pull out the win over Princeton, which passed the Crimson, 193-160.
This defeat was followed by two more, with Harvard placing second at both the ECAC and Ivy League Championships. Navy got the best of the Crimson, 703.5-512.5, in a rematch at ECACs, while the Tigers outswam Harvard once again at Ivies, 1663.5-1311.5.
Even with these losses, the Crimson had finally begun to swim to its full potential, and act as a single unit.
“Our main improvement was coming together,” Guernsey said.
“Definitely by the end of the season, we were one team with one goal. I think that’s a huge accomplishment, having 40 guys come together and really strive for excellence.”
Harvard also was able to send three of its athletes to their respective NCAA swimming and diving tournaments. Sophomore standout Zac Ranta finished 11th in the three-meter dive with 596.5 points at NCAA Zone A’s, while also competing in the preliminaries of the one-meter event.
Senior Bill Jones and Meyer also donned their crimson and white on the national scene, representing their school at NCAAs at Texas A&M. Jones placed 28th in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 47.11, while Meyer finished 25th in the 1650-yard freestyle and 44th in the 500-yard freestyle, with times of 15:06.58 and 4:24.38, respectively.
With these individual performances and team improvements in mind, the Crimson will look to make another run at Princeton in the coming season.
—Staff writer Alexandra J. Mihalek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.