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After starting out the season undefeated in the Ivies with a 4-0 record, the Harvard men’s swimming team finished fourth in a three-day invitational meet held this past weekend in Atlanta.
And even though it wasn’t the Crimson’s usual first-place finish, the competition was much fiercer with a number of nationally ranked teams. Harvard held its own, finishing atop the unranked teams with a score of 492 points for a respectable end to the meet.
“[We were] pretty excited because it was a chance to race really good teams that are better than the competition we have in the Ivy League,” junior John Hastrup said. “To know that [competitors] Minnesota and Florida State were completely rested and shaved for this meet, we knew they were going to be tough competition.”
The Crimson finished behind the No. 7 Gophers, a team which earned 1215.5 points to take home first place. The No. 24 Seminoles earned 860.5 points and finished second, while No. 16 Georgia earned 673 points and clinched the third-place spot. Also competing were Michigan State, which earned 275 points, and Emory, which ended with 267 points. California and Virginia Tech only brought divers and finished with 60 and 29 points, respectively.
“We didn’t quite do as well as we liked,” junior David Cromwell said. “But for a mid-season meet, this bodes well for the rest of the season.”
The meet was split into three days of competition, with Harvard claiming the fourth-place position after each day.
The Crimson started out the meet strong with two second-place finishes on the first day of competition. In the 500-yard freestyle, senior John Cole took home second place after finishing first in the preliminaries and qualifying himself for the NCAA B-cut. Freshman Sam Wollner finished 11th overall.
Freshman Geoff Rathgeber also had a big day when he grabbed second-place points in the 200-yard IM. Sophomore Jon Loch and senior Cameron Moccari both swam in the B-final, finishing 13th and 15th overall.
“[Rathgeber] is easily becoming one of the big stars on our team,” Hastrup said. “And he is just now doing the training he needs to do to be competitive in Division I.”
The Crimson had a good day in terms of diving, finishing high in the one-meter diving competition when junior Danil Rybalko took third. He was followed by freshman Lucas Sanders, who placed fifth.
Harvard’s performance faltered in the relay events. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, the Crimson ‘A’ team finished eighth, just ahead of the ‘B’ team, which came in 11th. In the 400-yard medley relay Harvard fared a little better as the ‘A’ team claimed sixth place.
The Crimson entered the second day in a comfortable fourth place, but remained in that position for the duration of the competition.
Harvard’s highest finish on Saturday was a second-place time by Cromwell in the 100-yard backstroke. Rathgeber finished five places back in seventh. But Rathgeber went on to bring home more points for the Crimson, as he finished fifth in the 400-yard IM, followed by Wollner who took eighth.
“Wollner is also very impressive,” Hastrup said. “He’s not big but he has a lot of heart and fights it out.”
Cromwell also went on to grab more points in the 200-yard freestyle, and he then finished seventh in the 100-yard butterfly. Sophomore Joc Christian also helped his team by placing eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Sanders and Rybalko continued to put up solid diving scores, taking seventh and 11th, respectively, in the three-meter diving event on Saturday.
The Harvard relays only continued to improve on the second day of competition with a fourth-place finish in the in the 800-yard free relay by the Crimson ‘A’ team. That squad also took home a ninth-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay.
Even though the Crimson was still not able to advance on the last day of competition, it had a big first-place finish from Cole in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Wollner went on to place ninth in the event as well.
“We had a bunch of really stand out performances,” Hastrup said. “The best performance by far, though, was John Cole and his 1,650.”
Cromwell was able to bring out another huge finish by taking the third spot in the 200-yard backstroke. But after that, the team slipped and placed much lower in the rankings in all other events, with Moccari managing to place seventh in the 200-yard butterfly and bringing in some more points for Harvard.
The Crimson only managed to provide C-Final competitors for the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard breaststroke. The only other big finish of the night was in the 400-yard freestyle relay, when the Harvard ‘A’ squad claimed a seventh-place finish.
Overall the Crimson swam well in a meet that contained so many nationally ranked teams and competitors, but Harvard hopes to improve its times and step up their its level of competition for future meets.
“Being satisfied at this point in the season is kind of a dangerous thing,” Cromwell said. “We are excited for the rest of the season and to get back on top of the Ivies and back in the national spotlight.”
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