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The Lord Protector Proves Crimson Success at H-Y-P Tri-Meet

Athlete of the Week: David Cromwell ’06

By Timothy J. Mcginn, Crimson Staff Writer

In the past, the Harvard men’s swimming team has looked for consistent multi-win performances from a small handful of individuals to propel itself to the winner’s podium. With the graduation of Dan Shevchik ’03 and the departure of John Cole to prepare for Olympic trials, the list of Ol’ Reliables grew short.

Enter David Cromwell.

The sophomore backstroke specialist hasn’t merely been unfailing in turning in solid swims week after week.

He’s been unstoppable.

With his pair of individual victories and two team wins in the individual medley at last weekend’s H-Y-P tri-meet, Cromwell extended an 11-race unbeaten streak in the backstroke begun with a first-place finish in the 100-yard event at Columbia in the first dual meet of the season. During that period, Cromwell has defeated challengers from such highly-touted opponents as Notre Dame and North Carolina.

“We can go into a meet against Princeton and know Dave Cromwell’s going to win the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard backstroke,” co-captain Kevin Budris said.

Four events into the meet, Cromwell scored his first victory with a commanding performance in the 100-yard backstroke. As he would in every race, Cromwell blazed to an early lead, completing the first half of the race 1.15 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor, allowing him to coast to an easy victory.

As the Tigers pulled ahead by more than 20 points following event nine, Cromwell turned in two consecutive dominant performances on the first leg of the 200 and 400-yard medley relays. On each occasion, he burst ahead of the pack early and then stretched his lead to at least 0.99 seconds before touching the pad.

The added firepower helped Harvard to accomplish something it failed to in eight attempts last year—knock off a Princeton relay squad for a first-place finish.

But the points garnered by the strong team wins were quickly minimized by a swift Tiger push in the opposite direction. By the time Cromwell returned to the waters for the final time in the 200-yard backstroke, the Crimson was desperate for a victory.

Not surprisingly, Cromwell delivered.

Sprinting out to a 1.18-second lead over the first quarter of the race, he immediately removed any doubt that he would emerge victorious, a mindset that he hammered home over the final 150 yards. Finishing each of the next two legs with split times at least 0.42 seconds faster than the next fastest swimmer, Cromwell left the field in his wake before coasting through the last 50 yards to victory.

“He’s been one of our stellar performers all throughout this year and we were all quite impressed by his performance this weekend,” co-captain Kemi George said. “He really did a good job of picking up the momentum by winning some key races and swinging things in our favor.”

The overpowering performance could not have come at a better time or against a more fitting opponent. In addition to Princeton’s overall strength, Cromwell last lost an event at the EISL Championship, at which he placed third in both individual events and second with his teams in the medley relays. On all four occasions he finished behind a Tiger swimmer, with the only Harvard victory in any of the four events coming courtesy of Shevchik in the 200.

But much has changed in 10 months that have since passed. Fully acclimated to the collegiate swimming scene, Cromwell has blossomed into a top weapon for the Crimson thanks in large part to his additional maturity and unceasing work ethic.

“He is an unbelievably talented swimmer and by the same respect an unbelievably hard worker,” Budris said. “Every time he gets in the pool this year it’s a reflection of that. He’s been steadfast for us this year.”

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Men's Swimming