Women's Swimming Overcomes 'Shaky' Start, Takes Second
After starting Sunday down by 34 points to rival Princeton, the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team could not complete the comeback at the Ivy Championship meet, finishing second in the Ancient Eight. Harvard finished nearly 200 points ahead of the third-place finisher, Columbia, despite taking home only one win on Sunday when freshman Kendall Crawford won the 200-yard backstroke. The win was one of two Crawford wins on the weekend, and it came with fellow swimmers freshman Danielle Lee placing fourth and senior Caroline Weaver finishing eighth.
Coach Stephanie Wriede Morowski said that the team, which set program records in the 1,650 freestyle and the 100 freestyle, had started poorly on the first day of the competition but had done better than Princeton over the weekend.
“I thought that the team did great,” Morowski said. “We didn’t get the win, but you can’t define a season by one championship meet. It was a very good team effort in losing to the champions. While Princeton was a better team, I think we outswam them the second two days after a shaky start. However, that’s sports, and we did a really good job overall.”
Morowski said that what separated this Harvard team from past squads she had coached was the chemistry in the locker room. Although all the women on the team are very different, Morowski said that the myriad personalities meshed well together.
“I think this team really believed in not only themselves but also in each other,” Morowski said. “You have 20 different personalities, and they found a way to come together. The way this team is, they are going to be great on any different day. It is stuff like a swimmer going to a diver and telling them that I believe in you. We have always had that on teams, but this team took it to a new level, and probably they think they are so different in terms of their personalities that they knew what they needed to do as a team.”
This was the 11th straight meet that the Crimson finished second to the Tigers. Harvard, which is ranked 22nd in the nation, came into the meet 7-0 against fellow Ivy League foes in dual meets but struggled out of the gate.
The team won only one race on Thursday, with senior diver Brittany Powell taking home the top spot in the one-meter diving event, but bounced back Friday with nine top-five finishes, highlighted by a 200 medley relay win over Columbia. Junior Sara Li was a consistent force for the Crimson over the weekend, earning a new program record in the 50m freestyle with her 22.46 finish and winning the 200m freestyle the following day.
“It was an awesome weekend on all fronts,” Li said. “The Ivy Championships are really cool, and we went in hoping to win it and although that didn’t happen, we stayed together and we showed incredible heart. I think this made us realize why we are proud to be a part of this team and to be part of Harvard. It was also very motivating for next year for a very young team. We are proud of how everybody supported each other this weekend.”
Morowski said that the team got away from what had made it successful during the season on the first day of the meet but by the end of the meet was able to show the technical improvements they had made during the year.
“I think that we have very good chemistry, and because [of that], they are able to relax and have fun out there,” Morowski said. “That was something that they forgot on the first day and then got back to again. Technically, I think they have gotten cleaner as the season went on, and every race they have been fixing technical little things that plagued them earlier in the season.”
Li said that the team, which she described as very competitive and close, had an intense level of focus all season that led to most of its success.
“This team is really special for sure,” Li said. “The strength of this team is really that we have strong fire in our heart. We had an unbelievable year; we have just rolled into every meet really strong, and basically at every meet we have swam well and it’s been awesome to have those successes and those championships.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonDPFreed.