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Even the best of dynasties can have an off year.
The Harvard men’s swimming and diving team made sure that last year’s defeat was just that and reclaimed the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League (EISL) title on Saturday evening with 1,592 points, edging out Princeton and its 1,556 in a competition which might as well have excluded the other eight schools present.
The victory marks the team’s seventh league championship in eight years.
Either the Crimson or the Tigers placed first in all 21 events, with Princeton taking 13 of them.
The Harvard squad emerged victorious as a result of consistent top-eight finishing, the points from which negated and eventually surpassed those the Tigers’ earned with first-place finishes.
Initially, the Crimson appeared poised to cruise to easy victory, splitting Thursday night’s final heats with Princeton but leading by more than 100 points.
On Friday, however, the momentum swung in the Tigers’ favor. Princeton won six of eight events, assuming an 11-point lead.
“We had more swims than [Princeton] on Thursday, so we were up,” senior Mike Gentilucci said. “But we knew that we didn’t really have a lead because they were going to have more swims than us on Friday. But we were pretty down on Friday [after Princeton took the lead].”
The Harvard swimmers rose to answer the challenge placed before them, recapturing the lead in Saturday night’s first event and turning in three individual victories and 17 top-eight performances on the evening to build an advantage they would never surrender.
“You always want to swim your best, so we were shooting to win,” Gentilucci said. “But the main goal was a team goal, and we needed to get all the people we could into the top heat.”
The duo of captain Dan Shevchik and junior John Cole led the way for the Crimson swimmers, as each won what has become their EISL Championship meet standard of three individual events en route to two more Phil Moriarty Awards for leading all scorers.
Shevchik was also the recipient of the Ulen Award, presented to the senior with the most EISL points accumulated over his career.
He began with a strong showing on Friday night, setting the EISL Championship record for the 200-yard individual medley in his first victory of the meet with a time of 1:46.98.
Junior Rassan Grant placed second and Gentilucci placed third.
Shevchik proceeded to touch the wall first in the 400-yard IM and the 200-yard backstroke, threatening both of his own records in the process but falling just short of them.
Cole similarly started his weekend with a record-setting time, pulling away from the competition to win the 500-yard freestyle in 4:20.11—four seconds ahead of the pack.
On Friday, Cole approached his own 1000-yard freestyle meet record—ultimately falling three seconds short of breaking it—while handily defeating his competitors by over five and a half seconds.
However, his most interesting performance came during Saturday’s opening event—the 1650-yard freestyle.
Winning handily, Cole stopped on two separate occasions to tear off his cap and wipe his goggles clean.
Although he touched the wall first, the margin of victory was not as great as Cole usually posts, as he edged out his nearest competitor by only half a second.
The Crimson placed four swimmers in the top eight in both the 1000-yard and 1650-yard freestyle finals.
Seniors Andrew McConnell and Ben Hanley and freshman Billy Gray supplemented Cole’s victories with solid finishes of their own, bolstering the Harvard attack.
On the diving boards, junior Enrique Roy brushed aside the competition, winning both the 1-meter and 3-meter events with 306.60 and 528.60 points respectively.
In the 1-meter event, freshman Danil Rybalko took second with 302.25 points.
“It really came down to just everyone performing and everyone scoring,” Rybalko said. “Going into the last night, Enrique knew that he needed to get at least a top three [finish] to make sure we had the lead at the end of the night. He came through.”
The Crimson victory came without a win in a single relay. Previously, Harvard had lost the H-Y-P and last year’s EISL Championship on relay events.
But on this occasion, individual victories and top-eight finishes simply overwhelmed Princeton by meet’s end, leaving the Crimson victorious.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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