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 crowning the champion of the women’s bracket yesterday, it’s the moment we've all been waiting for: Andrew Campbell of the rowing team and Mel Baskind of the lacrosse and soccer teams meet in the overall final to determine The Back Page Athlete of 2011.
The final matchup between Andrew Campbell and Melanie Baskind raises an interesting question. What is more impressive: the elite race results Campbell has achieved on the water or the outstanding performances Baskind from Baskind on both the soccer and lacrosse fields?
Given that he competed in the lightweight single, Campbell's accomplishments are best expressed by the actual results he has achieved. His wins at the US U23 World Championships Trials (by a margin of over 30 seconds), Elite Nationals, US World Championship Trials, and USRowing East Coast Fall Speed Orders speak for themselves. So do his bronze medal at the U23 World Rowing Championships and his fourth-place finish at the senior World Rowing Championships.
As a member of teams, Baskind's accomplishments are naturally less quantifiable than Campbell's. As a midfielder in both soccer and lacrosse, her contributions to the team go beyond her stat line. Though with 34 points in lacrosse and 24 points and three game-winning goals in soccer, her numbers are impressive. As a co-captain of both the soccer and lacrosse teams, she was a driving force behind the two teams' successes: an Ivy title in soccer and a trip to the Ivy League championship game in lacrosse.
The honors poured in for both sports. Baskind was a first-team All Ivy selection in both soccer and lacrosse, and was unanimously voted Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer. She also received several academic honors and was named a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
So when one combines her accomplishments in both soccer and lacrosse, where does Baskind land? As one of the most impressive athletes in the country? Potentially. As the one of the best in the world? No.
As his race results indicate, Campbell was the top U.S. lightweight sculler this year and one of the top scullers in the world. His bronze medal at U23 worlds marked the highest finish the U.S. has ever seen in that event. And the U.S. hadn't placed so highly in the lightweight single at senior worlds since 2002.
His groundbreaking finishes at two world championships and undefeated record in national single competitions earned him the USRowing Man of the Year Award. As impressive as Harvard's athletes have been this year, none can match the performance of Andrew Campbell. And for that, he is the Back Page's Athlete of 2011.