On Oct. 1 the men’s swimming and diving team took its first official plunge into Blodgett Pool. At midnight. With only a month until the squad’s first tri-meet at Dartmouth, senior Blake Lewkowitz and the rest of the squad are getting ready to race. Here The Hebrew Hammer gives a look into the unusual moments of Harvard swimming, from burning pools to locker room shenanigans. And that myth about peeing turning purple in a pool? It’s true. Every week, The Full-Court Press will give you the sort of personal scoop that you’re not likely to hear at a typical press conference.
Name: Blake Lewkowitz
Stats: The senior from Phoenix, Ariz., was one of only three Harvard men’s swimmers to qualify for NCAA nationals last year after placing second in the 1650 free at the Ivy League Championships. Over the summer Lewkowitz placed in the top 10 of the 5k Open Water Championships, two minutes behind the first place time.
1. Typical pre-game meal.
Our meets are usually away. We have two home meets this year and host the Ivy Championships, and that's a lot. So, we usually have our pregame meal on the road. Dunkin' Donuts assorted donuts are a must for our team, and we single-handedly keep the Dunkin' Donuts shops in Cambridge running. While we do get some good meals on the road (as our coach described once, "We had a nice little pitstop at Fuddruckers"), I'd have to say that donuts are a Harvard men's swimming and diving staple.
2. Songs you listen to before races to get pumped up.
We usually aren't allowed to have iPods on deck with us during meets, so the last couple songs I listen to before games would have to be "Harvard on the Warpath" (our team cheer) and the National Anthem. Nothing like a classic to get you going.
3. Favorite team to swim against and why.
My favorite team to swim against, hands down, is Princeton. They are our biggest rivals, and we get two chances to take them down. Our annual meet against Yale and Princeton, known as H-Y-P, is the first meet against them and Ivy Championships is the second. H-Y-P is the best meet of the year. There are some fans in the stands, a lot of alumni support, and tons of really fast swimming. It happens in late January, roughly a month before Ivy Championships, and it provides a final test before the big meet. The atmosphere is electric—every swim comes down to the wire and is extremely exciting. The winner gets a bucket (I couldn't make that up if I tried) that has been passed down since the '60s, so it's a historic meet for everyone involved. It always comes down to us and Princeton, and the battle is intense.
4. Most ridiculous thing that has taken place in your team’s locker room.
The most ridiculous thing that took place in our locker room had to be when one of our teammates was demonstrating his favorite sexual position in detail. It started off as a joke but quickly turned into a huge ordeal with props—you get the picture. Of course, our coach walks in and stared in confusion for a few seconds only to storm off. Our teammate was so embarrassed, but the whole event provided laughs and funny comments from our coach for the rest of the season.
5. Most embarrassing moment you’ve had swimming.
There's a chemical in some pools that warns lifeguards and pool managers when someone is peeing in the pool because the chemical reacts with the pee and turns the water purple. I never knew about this until about the age of 16 when I was in a competition. At certain meets, there is a thing called a ready-room. Athletes in the final session of the race have to report to the ready-room at least 15 minutes in advance to the race. I warmed up, got ready, and went to the room. Once I got there, I realized I really had to pee, but I wasn't allowed to leave the room. Long story short, during the race, I started peeing, only to be informed after the race that I left a nice purple trail up and down the pool.
6. Animal that best represents your style of play and why.
I swim distance freestyle, so the animal that would best represent me would have to be a kangaroo. Fun fact: they can go 100 miles at the same speed. Sounds boring, but I'd have to say that it pretty well describes what I have to do day in and day out.
7. The most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard a fan yell at a meet.
The most ridiculous thing I heard a fan yell at a swim meet was, no joke, "Stop the meet—the pool is on fire!" A propane heater lit on fire and a coach threw it into the pool. Unfortunately, the pool was covered so it burst into flames. I never thought I would hear that at a meet, but it provided some entertainment to the fans in the stand.
8. If you could play for another sports team at Harvard, which would it be and why?
If I could play another sport at Harvard it would definitely be golf. I play a lot of golf when I'm home and wish I could do it full-time. I joke about making a lot of money right out of college and then retiring early to try to qualify for the Champions Tour.
9. Position you’d play in Quidditch.
I would be the seeker. There's not really any glamour in being a distance swimmer. I would be willing to bet that the mile is one of the few events in the Olympics where a commercial break doesn't come close to taking up the entire race. The seeker is the most important position on the team and one who gets the most attention. It would be a nice change.
10. If you could go on a date with any professional athlete, who would it be?
Beatriz and Branca Feres. I doubt anyone has heard of them, but they are identical twins and Brazilian Olympians for synchronized swimming. I don't think you can really beat that. I'd obviously take them to Mather, but if I had to get creative, I'd go Patagonia. They are from South America, so I think they would appreciate it. It's absolutely beautiful and picturesque (like them). Plus, it's freezing there so we'd have to stay very close together to keep warm.