2011 was a big year in Harvard athletics. Women’s soccer captured its third Ivy League championship in four years. The men’s basketball team took home a share of the Ancient Eight title and entered the nation’s Top 25, both firsts in program history. Football set a modern-era program record for points in a season, scoring 374 points en route to a 9-1 finish and a league crown. Four other teams—men’s fencing, men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, and softball—also finished 2011 on top of the Ivy League standings.
There were a number of standout individual performances as well. Women’s fencer Alexandra Kiefer captured the NCAA Foil Individual title. Men’s basketball forward Keith Wright became just the second player in Harvard history to take home Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Women’s soccer and lacrosse captain Melanie Baskind was named to the First Team All-Ivy in two different sports and was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer.
We at The Back Page have taken on the tall task of determining the best Harvard athlete of 2011. Here’s how it will go down: we’ve selected 16 standout Harvard athletes—eight male and eight female—and set up two single elimination brackets. Each round, Harvard’s finest will square off in head-to-head matchups. And based on their performances in 2011, we will determine who advances and who is eliminated until just one male and one female remain. Then, the two champs will square off to determine the top Harvard athlete of 2011.
After revealing the winners of the semifinal matchups, we now turn our attention to the finals, where football's Josue Ortiz and crew's Andrew Campbell square off.
Check back soon to find out the winners on the women's side of the bracket.
Josue Ortiz v. Andrew Campbell
Both Josue Ortiz and Andrew Campbell were one-man wrecking machines in the latter portion of 2011, often leaving their victims in intense amounts of physical pain. Campbell's opponents brought it upon themselves. At the US U23 World Championships Trials, Elite Nationals, US World Championship Trials, and USRowing East Coast Fall Speed Order, the best lightweight scullers in the nation were unable to match Harvard's 19-year-old sensation.
The suffering of Ortiz's victims was much less voluntary. The Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year finished with 38 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks—good for tops in the league. For his exploits, he was named MVP of Harvard's 2011 squad that won the Ivy League title. Ortiz was also a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, a third-team All American, and the winner of the New England Football Writers Association’s Harry Agganis Award, given to the best senior football player in New England.
What ultimately separated Campbell from Ortiz was not execution but the level of competition. Neither athlete was entirely perfect. Ortiz registered only two tackles in the Crimson's season-opening loss to Holy Cross, a defeat that kept Harvard out of the highest echelon of modern-era Crimson football teams. Campbell's defeats, meanwhile, came at the U23 and senior World Rowing Championships, where he took third and fourth, respectively. These finishes could hardly be considered disappointments, as they marked the highest US finish in the lightweight single ever at the U23 World Championships and the highest finish since 2002 at senior worlds.
Both Ortiz and Campbell had outstanding years in which they mastered nearly every challenge thrown their way. But Campbell did it against the best in the world, whereas Ortiz only competed against Ivy League foes. And therein lies the difference.
Winner: Andrew Campbell