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The Harvard men’s swimming team opened its season with a convincing win over Columbia in New York, capturing 12 of 16 events despite the absence of several swimmers who helped propel the squad to last year’s Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League (EISL) title.
Gone are former captain Dan Shevchik ’03 and senior John Cole, who formed the backbone of last year’s squad through their dominance in the individual medley and long-distance freestyle events, respectively.
“[Cole] has elected to take the year off to train for the U.S. Olympic trials, which are next July, because he has a very strong chance at the mile event,” co-captain Kemi George said. “He can devote a lot more time and energy to swimming in terms of recovering between practices. The absence of school and school work makes that easier.”
The duo’s presence was sorely missed in their prime events, as the Lions won both the 400-yard individual medley and 1000-yard freestyle.
But the Crimson more than compensated as senior Rassan Grant and sophomores Mark Knepley and David Cromwell turned in multi-victory performances to lead Harvard.
Grant placed first in both breaststroke events, leading a one-through-three finish in the 100 and solidly defeating Columbia’s John McGrath in the 200.
In the shorter event, Grant, senior Jonathan Lin and freshman Joe Christiana converged on the wall within 1.33 seconds of one another—Grant touched in 57.52, Lin in 58.30 and Christiana in 58.85.
Grant extended his margin of victory in the 200, defeating McGrath by 3.04 seconds.
Cromwell slid nicely into Shevchik’s other niche, the backstroke events, with first-place finishes in both the 100 and 200 events.
In the 100, Cromwell turned in a time of 50.50, good enough for a 1.28 second win. With more than twice the pool to work with, he more than doubled his margin of victory, besting Columbia’s Luke Fitzpatrick by 2.85 seconds.
Cromwell teamed with Knepley, junior Andrew Krna and freshman John Voith to capture the 200-freestyle relay. The foursome eked out a two-hundredths-of-a-second victory in the closest race of the day.
“David Cromwell and Mark Knepley both had exceptional freshman campaigns for the team and they haven’t missed a step,” George said. “They’ve come back their sophomore years with continued resolve to keep on building on what they had last year. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone.”
Knepley was successful throughout the freestyle events, winning both the 100 by 1.45 seconds and the 200 over Krna by just 0.78 seconds.
The Crimson next travels to the Notre Dame Invitational, held Dec. 4 in South Bend.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.
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