At the outset of the 2009-10 season, expectations were high for Harvard women’s swimming and diving. The defending Ivy League champions had their eyes on a repeat performance.
Though the team may have fallen shy of that goal, the Crimson still managed to rise to the occasion this winter.
From start to finish, Harvard delivered solid performances that allowed the team to consistently keep pace with its competitors. When the season drew to a close, the Crimson had posted a 6-1 Ivy dual meet record and produced eight All-Ivy swimmers and one All-American—co-captain Alexandra Clarke. Losses to Princeton at HYPs and the Ivy League championships left the sole blemishes on Harvard’s otherwise spotless Ivy record.
The Crimson set the bar high early in its November debut against Dartmouth and Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. Freshman diver Brittany Powell led the way with titles in the one- and three-meter events. Junior Christine Kaufmann touched the wall first in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races as well. Harvard ousted the Big Red, 166-129, and the Big Green, 203-82.
The following weekend, the Crimson once again asserted its dominance, defeating Columbia, 182-107, at the Harvard Invitational. Clarke came out on top in both the 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle. Juniors Katherine Pickard, Katy Hinkle, and Kate Mills and freshman Mackenzie Luick all posted multiple first-place finishes, leading the Crimson to victory in 17 out of 20 events.
Harvard welcomed the new year with a pair of wins over Penn and Brown in January. The Crimson not only defeated the Quakers in every event, but also broke three pool records in the process. Harvard then captured all 13 events against the Bears two weeks later, defeating Brown, 177-66.
“A lot of great things came out of this season,” said Crimson coach Stephanie Morawski ’92. “Following a year when we had 12 or 13 school records broken with [the advent of new body] suits, we ended up breaking four records this year without them.”
With Harvard’s momentum and morale riding high, the stage was set for the team next’s challenge—HYPs. While the Crimson was able to clinch a 180-120 win against Yale at DeNunzio Pool in Princeton, N.J., it faltered, 190-102, against the Tigers, a team that would push Harvard to its limits for the remainder of the season.
But the quartet of freshmen Kelly Robinson and Ellie Johnson and juniors Ali Slack and Hinkle gave the team reason to celebrate with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Junior Jenny Reese also drew victories in both diving events to maintain a close race with Princeton.
After a month-long hiatus from competition, the Crimson was ready to redeem its earlier loss to the Tigers, as Harvard hosted the Ivy League Championships at Blodgett Pool.
Following three days of racing, the Crimson found itself a close second behind Princeton in the points standings. On the second day of competition, Clarke and Kaufmann went one-two in the 1,000-yard freestyle, landing Harvard its first event title of the meet.
But the overall title would literally boil down to the final few races. In the end, the Tigers emerged victorious by a narrow margin of 27 points above Harvard’s 1,438. That same weekend, the Crimson suffered another close loss at the ECAC Championships in Pittsburgh, Pa., to first-place Marist.
But the two second-place finishes were not without their highlights, as both Clarke and Mills qualified for the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minn.
At NCAAs, Mills took 27th place in the 200-yard butterfly and 64th in the 200-yard freestyle. Clarke locked in a 16th-place finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle to attain All-American status—the first female Harvard swimmer to accomplish the feat since 2007.
“I was really happy with the end of the season and getting top-16,” Clarke said. “Coming off a championship last year, [this year’s results] weren’t exactly what we wanted, but we set a great foundation. It was one of the more memorable seasons for me because our team was so close.”
—Staff writer Aparajita Tripathi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.