It does not take many guesses to figure out what the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team resolved to accomplish in the new year: capturing an Ivy League title that remained elusive last season.
The Crimson surged toward that goal with its first victory of 2011, decisively topping rival Brown, 198-97, last Friday in Seekonk, Mass. This victory marked the fourth consecutive win for Harvard against an Ivy League opponent this season.
“[J-term] is our biggest opportunity to have no stress from schoolwork and to completely focus on training,” freshman Jenna Gregoire said. “We came back early and put in a lot of work. Now we’re ready to be back in racing mode.”
J-term’s combination of work and play—the Crimson packed its bags for sunny St. Croix earlier this month—seemed to resonate with the team. Senior Kate Mills led the way at the year’s first meet, posting top finishes in both the 400 individual medley at 4:20.96 and the 100 fly at 56.13 seconds. Sophomore Laura Evans followed suit with two event wins of her own, dominating the 100 breaststroke and 100 freestyle with times of 1:07.04 and 52.43, respectively. The quartet of juniors Meghan Leddy and Alicia Lightbourne, sophomore Kelly Robinson, and Gregoire contributed to Harvard’s point total, recording a first place time of 3:55.32 in the 400-yard medley relay.
The Crimson’s freshmen swimmers witnessed further success: Sara Li won the 200 freestyle in 1:52.39, Danielle Schulkin registered the best time in the 200 butterfly in 2:02.21, and Paige Newell responded with a victory in the 200 backstroke, touching in at 2:03.91.
“We had some very strong performances from our freshmen, and it’s always exciting to see the underclassmen step up in that way,” co-captain Christine Kaufmann said.
But the Bears didn’t surrender the meet without a fight. Brown freshman Briana Borgolini claimed victory in the 200-yard breaststroke at 2:22.25 as part of the Bear trio—including fellow freshman Ellen Downing and senior Sage Erskine—that finished one-two-three in that event. Brown’s 200-free relay team of sophomore Kristin Jackson and freshmen Megan Nolet, Emma Lamothe, and Ellen Sellinger also managed to keep Harvard at bay, coming in first at the 1:38.07 mark.
In the end, the Crimson’s lead proved too substantial to overcome for Brown. Harvard’s diving squad cemented the overall team effort, with freshman Schuyler Moore clinching the one-meter event and junior Leslie Rea earning the win in the three-meter dive.
“A lot of us were tired because we were just coming off the peak [of training], but the [Brown meet] was our chance to do all the small things right, work on our strategy, and get ready for the bigger meets,” Gregoire said.
This coming weekend, the Crimson faces competition first at the World College Conference Carnival this Friday and then against Penn on Sunday.
“I think any time we have an opportunity to race in the league, we get to discover new strategies and new ways to fine tune our skills,” Kaufmann said.
But Harvard ultimately has its gaze fixed on the culminating meets of the season.
“[In February] half of our team goes to Ivies, and the other half goes to ECACs,” Gregoire said. “Our goal is to win both of those championships. We’ve been saying that since August.”
—Staff writer Aparajita Tripathi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.