As the Harvard men's swimming team wrapped up the regular season with a 166-69 win over Ivy rival Penn, the stage has been set for the big event-the Eastern Championships.
Going into Saturday's meet, the Crimson (9-2 overall, 8-1, EISL) was not concerned about winning or losing. The swimmers knew that the primary competition would come from their fellow teammates.
After all, besides a loss to Eastern-leader Princeton, the Crimson has virtually dominated its Ivy League competition.
"The meet was not much of a challenge," senior Dave Heilman said. "Our goal was not to win, but to go into each race with a plan based on what we want to do at Easterns."
The Crimson's performance in Philadelphia was not expected to produce best times or spectacular results. After tapering-gradually minimizing practice intensity-and shaving for its February 4 meet against Yale and Princeton, the Crimson has continued to rest as it prepares for Easterns.
"Our final preparations for Easterns isn't a time in our taper when we swim our fatest," sophomore Karl Sheer said.
The Crimson, although not at its peak, won by a comfortable margin against the Quakers, taking first place in 11 of 13 events.
Junior Brian Livingston showed his talents, taking the title in the 200 freestyle after rallying from behind in the last 25 meters against one of Penn's toughest competitors.
Another impressive performance came in the 50 freestyle, as freshman Matt Cornue, Heilman and co-captain Tim Carver raced past the field in the final 12.5 meters and came home with the top-three slots, respectively.
Senior diver Rich Beukema had another exceptional performance, taking both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving titles. Beukema's season has consisted of eight victories in the 3-meter and six wins in the 1-meter.
Although victories over the Quakers, the Crimson is not ready to celebrate.
After losing to Princeton in the H-Y-P meet earlier in the season, the Crimson is ready for both revenge over the Tigers and an overall victory in the Eastern Championships, which take place March 2-4 in Princeton.
"We are really excited about Easterns," Scheer said. "We didn't swim our best meet against Yale and Princeton, and we are excited to have another chance against Princeton. We feel we are a much better team.
"The loss to Princeton was a little bit of an awakening for us. We went in there thinking that we weren't going to lose," he said.
With the memory of the Princeton defeat still in the back of the Crimson's mind, the swimmers are wary of predicting a victory.
"We have a much different attitude this year," Heilman said. "Usually we go in expecting and knowing that we are going to win. This year, we will be facing a little more adversity."
The format of the Eastern Championships should work to Harvard's advantage. The three day event will have a total of six sessions.
"We are psyched to get to a meet that is a little more our style," Scheer said. "We tend to do well in a meet where there is more competition and more people."
If anything, the loss to Princeton will give the Crimson a reason to take advantage of its depth and talent at the Eastern Championships.
"In past years, people have taken an Eastern win and fast swimming for granted," Heilman said. "Hopefully, the loss to Princeton will inspire people to swim faster."