Last year, Harvard women’s swimming and diving proved it was the league’s best, as it emerged victorious against all of its Ivy competitors to take home the championship.
This weekend in Ithaca, N.Y., the Crimson (2-0, 2-0 Ivy) kicked off its season as though it had never left the pool. Harvard picked up its ninth-straight league victory with a decisive win over Cornell (0-2, 0-2) and Dartmouth (1-1, 1-1), marking the seventh consecutive year that Harvard has begun its competitive season with victories from the two teams.
“It’s a really fun meet to start off the year because it’s a tri-meet, and it’s exciting to see the competition battling with two teams at the same time,” junior co-captain Sara Li said. “It’s a really great meet for us to come in… and just practice our racing strategies and racing techniques because we’ve been working on them so hard day in and day out.”
In the Big Red’s home pool, the Crimson took home 11 of the 16 events, besting Cornell, 186-109, and the Big Green, 196-99, in the tri-meet, shattering eight of the Teagle Hall Pool records and breaking one of its own school records.
“I actually walked into the pool at Cornell and I noticed that we only had one Harvard name on the board from the last time we swam there,” co-captain Brittany Powell said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way that that board isn’t going to change this weekend,’ so [our swimmers] definitely proved it.”
The newest members of swimming and diving had an impressive showing in their first collegiate meet breaking pool marks in three events and contributing to a team record.
“The freshmen have been a really strong presence on our team from the beginning of the year,” Li said. “They’re not afraid to step up and have some fast swimming. Our team is meshing together really well already, so it’s exciting to see how far we can go together.”
Freshman Kendall Crawford showed off her talent as she broke both the Harvard and pool record in the 100-yard backstroke in 55.04. Crawford finished more than two seconds ahead of any other competitor.
“Our own records, especially, are very coveted,” Powell said. “One of the seniors that graduated last year, Megan Leddy, held the record before Kendall broke it yesterday, and that was shocking for me, at least. To see her go that fast at the beginning of the season was really exciting for what’s to come for her in terms of championships and possibly NCAAs.”
Another newcomer, Danielle Lee, swam the 200-yard backstroke in a record-breaking time of 1:58.61, while freshman Sherry Liu bested her classmate Marlee Ehrlich by nine seconds in the 1000-yard freestyle to take the pool record in 10:09.40.
Sophomores also dominated breaking another three records by out-touching their freshman teammates in each race.
Ana Anaya won the 200-yard butterfly in 2:01.97, while Kelsey Hojan-Clark paced the 500-yard freestyle in 4:58.54. Courtney Otto took home the victory in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:51.70.
Otto, along with Li, freshman Connie Hsu, and junior Deirdre Clute, also surpassed a team mark in the 400-yard freestyle relay, tying with Dartmouth in a dramatic finish, as Li set a 100-meter record for the pool in her first leg.
“We were behind in the last 100, and Courtney Otto caught up to the girl from Dartmouth and they tied exactly,” Powell said. “That was really exciting.”
Sophomore Stephanie Ferrell and senior Mackenzie Luick also won their events in the 200-yard breaststroke and 100-yard breastroke, respectively, while the team of Crawford, Luick, Anaya, and Lee edged a fellow Crimson team to win the 200-yard medley relay.
The divers also had a successful day despite a changed format, as Powell and sophomore Amanda Largent went one-two in the one-meter diving contest after senior Teagan Lehrmann and Powell took second and fourth in 3-meter diving.
“The diving was all first instead of being in the middle of the meet, which is the usual format, so the diving started at 9 a.m. but we still did well,” Powell said. “The first event was a slow start, but in the second event, we pretty much dominated, so we were already out to a lead after diving.”
But even with the early success and the championship last year, Li says that this year’s team can’t rest on its laurels.
“We’re really looking at this season as a blank slate,” Li said. “We have this new motto that is ‘building a bridge’—taking all of the good things from last year and discarding the bad things and using that as momentum to fuel us forward but not to try to repeat what we did last year.”