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If you've never been to a swimming meet before, then today's match-up between Harvard and Princeton is a must-see. Both the men's and women's seasons are on the line in "The Blodgett Pool Duel."
The 17th-ranked Harvard women (8-1 overall, 4-0 Ivy) battle for sole possession of first place in the Ivy League today against the Tigers (4-2, 4-0). The outcome of today's meet at noon should ultimately decide the Ivy champion, since both teams are heavy favorites in their final competitions.
The Princeton men (6-0, 5-0) also share the Ivy lead, but with Columbia, not Harvard. The Crimson (3-2, 3-2) are back in the pack and tied for fourth with Dartmouth. Harvard must win the 3:30 p.m. meet to remain an outside contender for the title.
Having won 36 consecutive Ivy League meets, the Harvard women are looking for number 37. But Coach Maura Costin-Scalise's squad aren't expecting a cake-walk over the Tigers.
"This is Princeton's best team in the last five years, and the match could get close down the stretch," Costin-Scalise said. "They have a good core of young swimmers who can challenge us in every event."
"Close" could also apply to the Crimson's other Ivy meets this year--as in close to annihilation. Harvard has beaten league opponents by a whopping average margin of 46 points--blowouts by swimming standards. The Tigers have managed a respectable 21-point margin of victory, but they can't match the Crimson's routine rout.
"The key to this meet will be a good start," Harvard freestyler Stacie Duncan said. "The first two relays, especially the 200-yard medley, will set the tone for the rest of the day. If we can get on a roll, the rest should fall into place."
Other races to watch in the women's competition are the 50- and 100-yard sprints, and the breastroke.
"Princeton's strength is the sprint," Co-Captain Jill Hutchinson said. "We have been swimming less yardage in practice, though, and this break will make us more competitive in the shorter distances."
The Harvard men enter the pool tomorrow as decided underdogs, but they are equally confident that they can come away with a win. The 200- and 1000-yard freestyle events as well as the opening medley should be the critical races.
"The Princeton rivalry has sparked this team," Co-Captain Ken Johnson said. "The alumni and the entire swimming community at Harvard is hungry for a win."
Princeton may be in for a surprise--Harvard men's swimming team has shaved and tapered for the first time all season, and should be in top form.
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