Freshman Chuck Katis, shown here in earlier action, helped the Crimson men’s swimming team to a 13th-place finish in the 800 free relay—Harvard’s best finish at the NCAA Championships this weekend—as well a 16th-place finish in the 400 free relay. Katis also placed 25th in the 200 breast.
A youthful Harvard men’s swimming team wrapped up a strong weekend at the NCAA Championships in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, finishing the meet with a total of eight All-American honors between the swimming and diving teams.
“We came into the season and wanted to do something special,” freshman Zach Walters said.
The Crimson’s relay teams gave Harvard its best finishes of the meet. The team of freshmen Griffin Schumacher and Chuck Katis and sophomores Oliver Lee and Chris Satterthwaite placed 16th in the 400-yard free relay with a time of 2:55.18; Schumacher, Katis, Satterthwaite, and Walters placed 13th in the 800 free as well, clocking in at 6:27.94.
“It’s the first time we’ve taken a relay to the NCAAs in a number of years, so it’s pretty exciting,” Walters said. “And going into the season, we weren’t expected to do nearly that well in either of them, so we are very happy with the outcome of the season.”
All five Crimson representatives at the meet were either freshmen or sophomores.
“We’re excited to take our competition to a national level,” Schumacher said. “We’re making huge gains and hopefully all this young talent we have will grow in the next few years. We can do huge things.”
With back-to-back talented recruiting classes, the Crimson began taking steps towards attaining that sought-after national success with a challenging 2011-12 schedule. This season, Harvard broke away from its Ancient Eight competitors to face off in a head-to-head meet against national power Ohio State in January and travel down to the North Carolina Invitational in November, where it finished fifth.
The current crop of Crimson swimmers believes that the program’s ascension will only continue in the future.
“This is a stepping stone for years to come,” Schumacher said. “In a few years, we can be a top-15 team.”
The relay teams qualified for the NCAAs at the Ivy League Championships, hosted by Princeton on March 1, where they placed second after the host Tigers.
Satterthwaite shined at the event. He won the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter freestyle races to earn the Swimmer of the Meet accolade.
The pair of Harvard relay teams continued their success in national, where they were part of seven top-25 finishes for the Crimson. Satterthwaite finished 22nd in the 100 free and Katis came in 25th in the 200 breast.
Harvard’s 200 free team of Lee, Satterthwaite, Schumacher, and Walters—which finished second at the Ivies to Princeton despite posting a school record time of 1:19.17—hit the wall at 1:20.27 at NCAAs. This time, the squad placed two spots above the Tigers.
“I think we all saw [this success] coming early on,” Walters said. “I don’t think we expected to do this well, though. It’s always a goal of ours to get some individuals to NCAAs, and once we got to the end of the season and built confidence, we knew we had a shot at bringing a relay.”
The five Harvard swimmers competing at the NCAAs were the Crimson’s first since All-American and 2012 United States Olympian Alex Meyer ’10 represented Harvard two years ago.
“I don’t think anyone else in the nation was expecting us to bring five people, but we knew we had a shot, and we worked towards it,” Walters said.
Harvard, coached by longtime coach Tim Murphy, has had a total of 152 All-Americans in program history, 36 under Murphy. The team has had at least one in 12 of Murphy’s 14 seasons.
Three Crimson All-American divers who competed at the NCAA Diving Championships in early March round out the eight All-Americans on Harvard’s swimming and diving team.