After three decisive victories over Ivy League foes to start off the season, the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team headed south for its first real test in Georgia.
The squad split up for the weekend, with half going to Athens for the UGA Fall Invite and the others traveling just 70 miles away to Atlanta for the Georgia Tech Invitational. Despite snapping its undefeated record with losses at both meets, the Crimson held its own against some of the fastest in the nation.
The Crimson posted sixth-place showings at both meets, racking up 265 points at the UGA Fall Invite and 418 points at Georgia Tech, while winners Georgia and Florida State tallied 991 and 2056 points, respectively.
“We knew going into the [UGA] meet that we were going to be underdogs, but we just wanted to make our presence known, and I think we definitely did that,” freshman Kendall Crawford said. “Another coach actually told our coach, ‘Wow, y’all are swimming a lot faster than last year.’”
At the UGA Fall Invite, Harvard faced off against UC Berkeley, the 2012 NCAA champion, Penn State, SEC opponents UGA and Auburn, and ACC teams Virginia and Virginia Tech.
“The teams we went against were in the SEC and the Big Ten, all these really big conferences that we usually don’t get to compete against,” co-captain Brittany Powell said. “It was exciting to get to see swimmers and divers from outside of the Ivy League, and they tend to be a bit more competitive than us.”
Continuing its streak of breaking records, Harvard returned from Georgia with seven new school records, with marks being broken multiple times over the weekend by Crimson teammates.
Harvard’s freshman speed was exemplified when Danielle Lee broke Crawford’s record of 54.99 in the 100-yard backstroke preliminary race by posting a time of 54.93. Crawford then snatched back her title in her own prelim race by pacing the race in 54.59 before breaking it again in the final race, where she made the ‘B’ cut with a time of 54.00.
“Our incoming freshmen are actually incredible,” Powell said. “They’re such an amazing recruiting class, so it’s just a really exciting time for Harvard swimming because we’re gaining a lot of attention from the top recruits. I know Kendall was competitive, choosing between Stanford and Harvard, [so] we’re so lucky to have her.”
Crawford was also a part of three other new records in addition to her retained 100-yard backstroke record: the 50-yard backstroke split, and the 200-yard and 400-yard medley relays.
“It’s been surreal,” Crawford said. “As a team, we broke so many records, we were counting them in the car on the way to the airport. It’s been so much fun. It’s great to have a goal to have going into the relay—it’s like ‘Alright, let’s break the team record, we can do it.’ To make your mark at Harvard is really cool.”
Sophomore Ana Anaya joined in on the record breaking, taking an individual record in the 100-yard fly with a time of 53.98. Anaya made the ‘A’ cut, and joined in the medley relay records as well, swimming the butterfly leg of the race. Also a part of the medley records were senior Mackenzie Luick, swimming the breaststroke leg, and junior co-captain Sara Li, who took the freestyle portion of the race. Li crushed a four-year-old Harvard record in the 100-free with a blistering time of 49.77.
“It’s not normal,” Li said. “We calculated it, and we broke 17 records this weekend, which is kind of ridiculous. We’re not even at the end of our season, so it’s exciting to see the potential that we have coming up and to have confidence that we’re going really fast. It’s a great feeling to know that the team that we have is the fastest team that we’ve had at the history of Harvard, and we’re ready to see what we can do.”
On the diving side, junior Alex Stanton and Powell made the 1-meter diving finals on the second day of competition, with Stanton taking 13th and Powell coming in at 16th. Three Crimson divers made the 3-meter diving finals, where Stanton was the top Crimson diver, placing 10th.
Though the elite competition ultimately proved too tall for a Harvard team that put together a record-breaking weekend, Li acknowledges the value of the experience.
“This is literally the fastest meet in the country, so we were up against national champions,” Li said. “There were several Olympians on pool deck…so it was awesome that we made a statement. It’s pretty cool and inspiring to watch these girls swim and know that we can hold our own against them and we take that confidence back to the Ivy League, where we’re ready to dominate.”
At the Georgia Tech meet, junior Deidre Clute placed fourth in the ‘A’ final of the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:02.22, while senior Ellie Johnson topped the ‘B’ final in the 50-yard freestyle.