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The only thing one can honestly say about the competition that the undefeated Harvard women’s swimming team faced on Saturday is that there was none.
The Crimson (7-0, 5-0 Ivy) led the Quakers from start to finish in a meet that saw Harvard take first place in 15 of the 16 events and left Penn (4-2, 3-2) scrambling for respectable finishes down the stretch en route to a 239-60 Crimson win.
But the depth of the Crimson made even that a difficult task for the overmatched Quakers. Not only did Harvard swimmers win first place in 15 events, they also grabbed many second and third place finishes as well, pushing themselves to improve their techniques and stamina while Penn swimmers gave up the fight early.
“This year, our team is really, really strong,” said senior Molly Ward, who won the 50 and 100 free and currently holds the school record for those two events. “Penn knew coming in that they really didn’t have a chance to win. But they didn’t even make a splash. It was a bit discouraging.”
Harvard swimmers had their most impressive showing in their diving events by taking the first four places in both the one-meter and three-meter dives, with freshman Samantha Papadakis finishing first in both events. Every Crimson diver had prepared dives that they were going to do for the first time in competition, and most pulled them off spectacularly. It was during first diving event that Penn really began to fade.
“When we realized that the Penn swimmers weren’t pushing themselves very hard, we had a talk and decided to still push through [to get something productive out of the meet],” Ward said.
From the very beginning, it was evident that the Quakers were no match for the Crimson. Harvard began by winning the 200 medley relay, taking the top three spots. Junior Noelle Bassi, in her first year of competition, easily won the next event—the 1,000 freestyle—with a time of 10:09.03, all the more impressive given the fact that she pushed herself hard when no swimmer was even close to her by the closing of the race.
Bassi has twice broken the school record in the 200 butterfly in her impressive first year with the Crimson, but she did not compete in that event Saturday.
Harvard then proceeded to win the 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke, taking the first four places in the latter two events. The Crimson swimmers never trailed in any of these events, swimming conspicuously and comfortably in front of their opponents.
The 200 butterfly was won by freshman Bridget O’Connor, who said she felt “happy about [her] performance.” But she added, “I know I can do better. We [her teammates] were pretty much racing against each other and had a lot of fun. I know Penn didn’t bring in their best squad, but it didn’t matter. We just concentrated on ourselves and had a good time.”
Junior Kim Ono easily won her second event of the day in the 200 backstroke.
“Kim has been training very hard,” Ward said. “She has great underwater kicks, which make her a great backstroke swimmer. She had one of her best meets today.”
Junior Joanna Lee won the 200 breaststroke before Penn’s Jessica Aiello finally touched the wall first in the 500 freestyle, giving Penn its only first-place finish of the day.
Harvard finished off an already beaten opponent with wins in the 200 IM and 400 freestyle relay.
The Crimson now prepares to face Northeastern on Jan. 8 at Blodgett Pool and looks to remain undefeated for the season and claim the Ivy League title that eluded it last season.
“I think we have a great chance of winning [the Ivy League title],” O’Connor said. “We probably have more confidence this year than ever before.”
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