Crimson Stays Undefeated With Non-League Wins

Harvard tops No. 24 Kansas as it looks for a national ranking of its own

Mariah S. Evarts

Sophomore Meaghan Colling won two events, including the 200-yard breaststroke, as the Crimson topped No. 24 Kansas and Northeastern at Blodgett Pool on Saturday to stay undefeated on the season.

The Harvard women’s swimming and diving team defeated No. 24 Kansas 198-121 over the weekend at Blodgett Pool. It was the second straight year the Crimson (6-0, 4-0 Ivy) have beaten a nationally ranked Jayhawks team (4-2, 1-0 Big 12).

Harvard also competed against Northeastern, defeating the Huskies (4-3, 1-2 CAA) 244-74, but the highlight was beating Kansas, a tough scholarship program.

“We feel really good,” said senior co-captain Joanna Lee. “For us to beat them, for us to beat a scholarship school, that is really huge for us.”

The Crimson was led by junior Noelle Bassi, last year’s national champion in the 200-yard butterfly. Bassi won three events, including the 200-yard butterfly, in which she bested the Jayhawks’ Big 12 swimmer of the month, Ashley Ledigh, setting a new school record in the process. She also won the 400-yard individual medley and the 500-yard freestyle.

“Noelle is an extremely hard worker,” said junior co-captain Jessica Davidson. “She is very dedicated to swimming.”

Harvard also received incredible performances from sophomores Lindsay Hart, and Samantha Papadakis, and senior Erin Mulkey.

Hart captured the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley.

Papadakis won both diving events, the one meter and three meter. In the three meter, she was neck and neck with a Kansas diver through the first four rounds, but pulled away during the final two.

“[Papadakis] is extremely talented,” Davidson said. “She really stepped up and did a great job.”

Mulkey captured the 100-yard freestyle and anchored the winning 400-yard freestyle relay team in dramatic fashion along with sophomores Amanda Slaight and Meaghan Colling and junior Emily Wilson. When Mulkey started her leg, she trailed the Jayhawks’ anchor by a second, but was able to pass her on the home stretch to give the Crimson the win.

“Erin really pulled through in her leg of the relay,” Davidson said.

The relay marked the end of two very successful days of racing for Harvard.

“Everyone really just stepped up,” Lee said. “No matter how fast they are, or where they are on the team, everyone stepped up.”

It didn’t always look like the Crimson would be victorious over Kansas. After the first five events, the Jayhawks held a 51-42 lead. But that would be Kansas’ high water mark.

Following the Jayhawks’ win on Friday in the fifth event, the 100-yard breaststroke, Harvard went on a tear. Bassi won the 200 fly, starting a streak of eight straight wins that would continue into Saturday. Slaight followed Bassi with a win in the 50-yard freestyle, Papadakis won the one-meter dive, and Bassi finished off Friday by leading the Crimson to a four person sweep in the 400-yard individual medley with senior Jane Evans, freshman Linnea Sundberg, and junior Stacey Blondin finishing in second, third, and fourth respectively.

Harvard ended Friday with 99-70 lead over Kansas and a resounding 128-40 lead over Northeastern, which would only win one event against the Crimson for the meet.

The team came into Saturday determined to keep up the momentum it had created the night before and did just that, winning the first four events that day to build a commanding lead over the Jayhawks.

Mulkey started the day with a victory in the 100-yard freestyle, and was followed by Hart, who captured the 200-yard backstroke. Colling then won the 200-yard backstroke and Bassi would close the incredible run with a win in the 500-yard freestyle.

Ledigh broke the streak with a victory in the 100-yard butterfly, the event for which she holds the fastest time in the nation this year, but by then, the damage was done.

“We were expecting everyone to go really fast,” Lee said. “We were expecting everyone to swim fast and step up, and we did. We did really well.”

Freshman Emily Jellie got Harvard’s first win of the meet in the 1650-yard freestyle, qualifying for NCAA B in the process.

“Emily made it under the B cut by five seconds, which is really great,” Davidson said.

The Crimson hopes to ride these triumphs into future successes, including, hopefully, a national ranking.

“This run out of the Ivy League is great for us,” Davidson said. “We want to constantly try new stuff. Hopefully, we can establish ourselves as a top-25 team.”