Maura Scalise, Harvard women's swimming coach, called this weekend's triumph at the Easterns in Princeton, N.J. the "sweetest victory" in her seven years at the helm. In the two-day meet, the Crimson defeated not only Princeton, this year's Ivy League champion, but also 25 other teams, including non-Ivy competitors. In doing so, Harvard broke several school records and many swimmers achieved personal best times.
The Crimson finished with 558 points, outswimming Penn State, its closest competitor, by 31, and the Tigers, who captured third place, by 85 points. It was a meet for making up past grievances, and Harvard made up for two by beating both Penn State and Princeton.
Princeton defeated Harvard three weeks ago, crushing the Crimson's hopes for an Ivy-League title. But for Scalise and the Harvard women, it was a strategic defeat. While Princeton rested up and shaved down for the Ivies, Harvard chose to train through the meet, focusing instead on the Easterns.
"We took a gamble and it paid off," senior Co-Captain Jill Hutchinson said.
Veterans on the team recall last year's Easterns, when Harvard fell to Penn State by four points. Like this year, last year's meet came down to the final relay, which Harvard lost. This year, Harvard lost. This year, Harvard was behind by 19 points at the end of the first day of competition, but rallied on the second day to take a 23-point advantage into the final event. This was hardly a comfortable margin, however. The relay members were constantly warned that if they were disqualified by a false start, they would lose the meet. But the women did not jump the gun, winning the race by three-hundredths of a second over Yale.
Both Scalise and Hutchinson emphasized the importance of spirit in the victory.
"In previous years, the team has been divided into cliques, but this year we've been really happy to hang out as more of a team," Hutchinson said. "We really wanted to win for the team, instead of just as individuals."
Though team spirit is what guided the team to the top of the conference, individual performances paved the way. Junior Stephanie Wriede qualified for Nationals with her time of 2:16.02 in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Wriede also participated in the 200-meter individual medley, in which she helped to break both a Harvard record and a pool record.
Stacie Duncan set a Harvard record in the 1650-meter freestyle, placing third in the event, as well as breaking a personal best in the 500-meter free style and again finishing third.
Hutchinson "went out the way a senior should," according to Scalise, "smashing" the existing Harvard record by one and a half seconds in the 200-meter freestyle, placing second with a time of 1:49.73. She also tied the Harvard record in the 100-meter freestyle race, again coming in a close second with a time of 51:16.