After two resounding victories last weekend to open its 2017-2018 campaign, the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team (2-0, 2-0 Ivy League) will look to continue its early season dominance against an unbeaten Columbia (3-0, 2-0 Ivy) squad on Friday at Uris Pool in New York, N.Y.
“We’re focused on trying to win an Ivy Championship at the end of the season, so we’re going to swim and dive pretty hard right through this meet and try our best under tough training.” Harvard coach Kevin Tyrrell said.
The team will make the 200-mile trek to take on the Lions in its first away meet of the year.
“The night before, you just try to settle in and get that meet ready type of mindset,” co-captain Bobby Ross said, “so what we do after the long bus ride is get together in the hotel and do a quick team stretch for 15 to 20 minutes to set your mindset in the right place before you go to sleep so you can visualize the next day.”
The Crimson is coming off strong performances against two other Ivy League opponents. Racing against Cornell and Dartmouth last week, Harvard bested the Big Red, 202-93, and the beat the Big Green, 216-29.
“I think we just had a good mindset over the offseason,” Ross said. “We were thinking about all the right things. Especially with swimming and diving, if you come back and you’re not in enough good shape as you should be, getting into it can be pretty tough, but our guys are always thinking about the next season and preparing, so early on we attribute it to staying in good shape and keeping a go-get it type of mentality in the offseason.”
Columbia may prove tougher competition, as it has emerged unbeaten through its first three contests. Columbia is coming off a 164-136 victory against Yale last weekend, in which diver Jonathan Suckow broke the program record in three-meter diving, which he set last week, with a score of 425.85. Suckow also won the one-meter event with a score of 380.93; he has swept the diving events in every meet for the Lions this season. On the board, Suckow will also be joined by talented fellow diver Jayden Pantel. In last week’s contest, Pantel finished in second in both three-meter and one-meter diving, with 396.37 points and 374.11 points respectively.
“Columbia is quite deep across the board,” Tyrrell said. “They have outstanding divers. They have outstanding sprint freestylers. They have some very good backstrokers, breaststrokers, so I’m not sure they have a weakness.”
The Lions also beat Army, 168-129, and Penn, 198-102, to bring their record to 3-0 on the season. Columbia has beaten its opponents collectively by 163 points through three meets, while the Crimson has a 296 point differential through two meets.
On Harvard’s side, the team will be fueled by strong relays. Last weekend, the Crimson’s three 200-yard medley relay lineups captured the top three places in the event. The A squad of senior Koya Osada, sophomore Daniel Chang, senior Steven Tan, and sophomore Raphael Marcoux finished in 1:28.92, with the other two relays finishing within a two-second spread.
“I think we’re really good at going into meets pretty fearlessly,” sophomore Raphael Marcoux said. “Given the amount of training we’ve been doing, the amount of volume in the pool, everyone is very exhausted, but we still manage to step-up and compete at a high level. So, that’s both a physical and mental strength, and they both help us to win dual meets throughout the season.
The Crimson also has immense depth in the long distance events, with the cohort of juniors and Logan Houck and Gavin Springer and senior Kent Haeffner securing the top three spots in the 1000-yard freestyle against Cornell and Dartmouth.
The 100-yard backstroke will be another exciting race to watch. Sophomore Dean Farris led the way against the Big Red and Big Green, taking the top place in an event in which he received one of his seven All-Ivy selections last season. Columbia senior Michal Zyla and sophomore Cole Stevens both touched in under 50 seconds against the Bulldogs last weekend in the event and may give Farris a run for his money on Saturday.
The 100-yard freestyle will pit Marcoux and senior Steven Tan against a strong Lions trio in freshman Albert Gwo and sophomores Kevin Dang and Hank Gullick, who all touched the wall in around 46 seconds last week.
The meet will conclude with the 400-yard freestyle, an event which the Crimson dominated in its last contest. In an exhibition event, the three Harvard entries took the top three spots, led by the B lineup of Farris, freshman Mahlon Reihman, senior Paul O’Hara and Marcoux with a blazing time of 3:00.26.
“I think across the board, every athlete in our program has been very focused this season,” Tyrrell said. “They’re determined to try to get better than the previous year, and they have lined up their actions with what their goals have been, so that’s been impressive.
The Crimson hopes to emerge from its important conference meet this season with its undefeated record intact in pursuit of its 25th Ivy League title.
“What’s great about this year, which is different, is that although we’re focused on the Ivy League Championships,” Marcoux said. “We have our sights beyond that and what we can accomplish beyond the Ivy meet at a meet like NCAA. So, that’s probably the biggest change from the previous year, but that’s what’s really bringing us together this year.”