The Crimson (8-1) reigned as masters of the Eastern waters throughout the past decade, capturing six consecutive titles and nine of the previous 10 prior to last year’s defeat.
Last year’s title meet marked a shift in the balance of power in the EISL when Harvard was dethroned by No. 23 Princeton (9-0). The Tigers continued to dwell at the top of the league this season, just barely edging out the Crimson by five points decided in the final event at this season’s H-Y-P tri-meet.
Heated competition between the lanes for these two squads is nothing new.
Since 1973, the two squads have combined to win 30 consecutive league titles. Harvard holds a slight advantage with 17 of the championships.
Victories have come in bunches for each school, with four different streaks of five consecutive league titles or more.
In 1995, following three Crimson victories, the Tigers emerged at the top of the heap. But Harvard began its late 1990s dynasty of six consecutive championships the next season.
In order for the Crimson squad to reclaim the title, the swimmers will need to be consistent across the board, but co-captain Dan Shevchik and junior John Cole must dominate their events—as they have historically—or else Harvard will likely not unseat Princeton as champions.
Shevchik, who has always performed very well at the EISL Championships, is a double threat in the water, leading the Crimson individual medley and backstroke swimmers. He is a three-time Phil Moriarty award winner as the top-scorer in the championship meet. To score as highly as he has, Shevchik has won three individual events each time he has competed, setting meet records in the 200-yard backstroke and 400-yard individual medley.
“The focus of my season is more NCAAs than this meet,” Shevchik said. “But I’m going to be ready to swim my fastest.”
Throughout this season, Shevchik has been as good as always, placing sixth in December’s Texas Invitational against elite national competition in the 200-yard backstroke.
Cole is the top Harvard longer-distance freestyle swimmer and has also risen to the challenge of the Easterns both times he has competed. As a result he has been co-recipient of the Phil Moriarty award on two occasions.
Cole won three individual events last year as well, capturing the 500-, 1000- and 1650-yard freestyle events. He owns the meet records in all three and is an All-American in both the 500- and 1650-yard categories.
In addition to the three events he dominated last year, Cole holds the fastest time in the 200-yard freestyle event in the EISL this year and took second in the 1650- freestyle at the Texas Invitational.
Even if its superstar duo lives up to its billing, Harvard will still need additional victories to win its tenth title in 12 years.
The Crimson’s overriding concern must be to win the relay events, as those are worth the most points. The meet’s final outcome can swing in the direction of a team that is able to win the majority of them.
“We’re not planning anything specific [to improve],” Shevchik said. “Everybody in the relays is going to have to swim their fastest.”
At last year’s EISL Championship, the Tigers won four out of five relays, with Harvard placing second each time. Additionally, this year’s H-Y-P was decided on a relay, the final event of the meet.
If the Crimson allow the meet to hang in the balance until the final event again, though, the EISL title likely won’t return to Cambridge.
“We’re just going to have to be tougher than Princeton,” senior Mike Gentilucci said earlier this season. “The meet will be won in the morning.”
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.
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