It Doesn't Get Any Sweetser

Swimming's Janice Sweetser

Take tall, female Southerner with lot of energy. Mix with talent, team spirit and strong desire to win. Throw into swimming pool and stand back. The result: junior Janice Sweetser.

Sweetser, who began swimming at the age of eight, has been a major factor in the Harvard women's swimming team's rise from joke of the Ivy League to powerhouse of the Eastern seaboard.

In her first two years in Cambridge, the Virginia Beach, Va. native has helped lead the Crimson to consecutive Ivy League championships--the squad's first ever titles.

Sweetser also played volleyball and basketball for four years in high school, but once she arrived at Harvard she decided to concentrate on swimming.

"I loved to swim, and I felt I had the most potential in the sport," she said. "I wanted to do something athletic because it helps you to focus on academics even more, and you can escape every day from academic pressures."

According to Crimson Coach Maura Costin Scalise, Sweetser's "potential" has become a reality. "We got more than we asked for," the fourth-year Crimson coach said. "She has won a lot of meets for us, and she is one of our most valuable swimmers in terms of getting points in a meet."

Sweetser is the kind of athlete a coach likes most. She is both a winner and a leader.

"Janice is strong in her mind, and she has never lost a race mentally," Scalise said. "I can always ask her to talk to underclassmen because she knows what it takes to be a winner.

"She is a great motivator for other swimmers," Scalise continued, "and if I could have 10 of her it would be great. She has both the swimming and the mental capacity to be a true champion."

Sweetser has had numerous outstanding performances in her two years at Harvard. But her coach, friends and teammates all remember the meet at Yale, her freshman year, when nothing was going right for the Crimson.

"It was a Tuesday night, and we weren't even concentrating on the meet," Scalise said. "We were looking past it to a meet at Princeton on Saturday. [Yale] had peaked for us, and we weren't prepared, and some of our swimmers were sick."

The meet came down to the last relay, with Sweetser as the anchor swimmer. Despite diving in nearly a full body length behind the other swimmer, she still won.

"All during the meet she had been saying `I don't care what it takes, I want to win,'" Scalise recalled. "And she did."

The meet was a turning point for the team, which went on to win its first-ever league crown that year. But according to Juliet Thompson, Sweetser's roommate, Sweetser has always been modest about her talent.

"Janice came back after the [Yale] meet and we asked her how it went, and she said `fine,'" Thompson mused. "It wasn't until we read the Crimson article the next day that we knew how amazing she was."