Despite falling short of reclaiming the Ivy League Championship title from Ancient Eight rival Princeton, the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team still finished the winter with a successful season.
The Crimson earned second place at both the ECAC and Ivy League Championships for the second straight year and amassed a 6-1 Ivy record. Its sole flaw to an otherwise perfect record was two losses to the Tigers, once during the regular season and twice during postseason play.
Harvard set the bar high at the start of the season, opening Ivy League competition with a strong showing against Dartmouth and Cornell in Hanover. Freshman Paige Newell had a solid Ivy debut, taking first in the 500-yard and 1000-yard freestyle races. Junior Meghan Leddy touched the wall first in the 200-yard IM and backstroke, as well. The Crimson defeated the Big Green, 184.5-115.5, and the Big Red, 186-114.
The following weekend, Harvard continued its Ivy dominance, defeating Columbia, 189-111. The Crimson took first in 10 of the 16 events, with four freshmen topping all of their competitors. Freshman Sara Li placed first in the 200-yard freestyle, rookie Danielle Schulkin won the 200-yard butterfly, and classmate Schuyler Moore earned first place in the one-meter diving event.
Freshmen Jenna Gregoire combined with junior Monica Burgos and seniors Ali Slack and Katy Hinkle to capture the 200-yard freestyle relay title in a facility-best time of 1:35.57.
“The freshmen have been great,” Leddy said. “They’ve really lightened and cheered up the mood and are just a breath of fresh air on the team. They’ve been swimming so fast and have handled themselves very well this year. They’ve really impressed a lot of us.”
Harvard brought in the first month of 2011 with victories against Brown and Penn. The Crimson took down the Bears, 198-97, earning first place in 13 of 16 events. Senior Kate Mills led the team with wins in the 100-yard butterfly and 400-yard IM. Sophomore Laura Evans also dominated, topping her competitors in the 100-yard backstroke and 400-yard IM.
Harvard gained wins in 13 events against the Quakers, including a diving sweep with Moore’s one-meter diving victory and senior Jenny Reese’s first-place finish in the three-meter dive.
After five straight victories, the Crimson entered the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet in New Haven determined to uphold its perfect record. But Harvard split the meet, experiencing its first and only loss of the regular season as it beat the Bulldogs, 217-83, and fell to the Tigers, 207-93. Princeton grabbed victories in every event but two, but Li took first in the 200-yard IM, and Hinkle, Slack, Gregoire and Mills combined to win the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Following a four-week break from Ivy competition, the Crimson had a shot at retribution after its previous loss against the Tigers when it traveled to Princeton for the Ivy championship.
Though Harvard ultimately finished second with 1,436 points to Princeton’s 1,562, the team still garnered 10 All-Ivy nods—including five first-team honorees—for its performances at the meet. Mills was also recognized as the career-high point swimmer, compiling a total of 330 points in four years of competition at the league championship meet.
“I think we swam our hearts out, and every single person contributed to the team,” Mills said. “For me, the highlight was the 400-yard freestyle relay. We actually lost, but everyone was cheering on the side like we’d broken a world record because they were so excited about how hard we’d competed, regardless of the whether we’d won or lost. ”
In the same weekend, the Crimson also finished in second place at the ECAC Championships, this time losing by a heartbreakingly close margin of 1.5 points to New Hampshire. Sophomore Courtland Kelly was awarded the Diver of the Meet award after capturing the top spot in the three-meter event and third in the one-meter dive.
The team will graduate nine seniors this year, including Mills, who leaves Harvard holding school records in two relays and three individual events.
“This season has been incredible, and so much of that is because of the senior leadership on the team,” Gregoire said. “The captains did an amazing job, and all of the seniors made me and the other freshmen feel like a part of the swimming family with no hesitation. I’m very fortunate to have such good role models and upperclassmen to look up to. They’ll be missed a lot.”
—Staff writer Marlee Melendy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.