Despite having to deal with the academic stress and worries typical of reading period, the Harvard women’s swimming and diving team continued its streak of domination this past Friday, nabbing victories against Ivy League rivals Columbia and Penn.
The Crimson (4-0) defeated the Quakers (1-3), 249-49, and the Lions (2-1), 157-143, at the double-dual tri-meet at New York City’s Uris Pool. Though in past years Columbia has not been one of Harvard’s more competitive rivals, the Lions surprised the Crimson this weekend, swimming faster than ever before. The team set five Uris Pool records, and the final score, 157-143, marks the closest match between the two schools in history.
“It’s a really stressful time of the year, with finals and papers due this week, and so we didn’t have our whole team—we ended up bringing just a few girls,” sophomore Jenna Gregoire said. “We put together the best lineup that we could, and, ultimately, it ended up being really close with Columbia. They gave us a run for our money, which was interesting because Columbia typically isn’t really a big competitor for us. So it was really exciting to go up there and put up some pretty fast times considering where we are in the season and the school year, with finals and everything.”
Although Columbia took an early lead, earning victories in the first two events of the day, Harvard made a strong comeback in the meet’s third event, sweeping the 1000-yard freestyle. Freshmen Courtney Otto (10:04:96) and Kelsey Hojan-Clark (10:09:22) took first and second, respectively, and senior Catherine Zagroba posted a time of 10:11:52 to earn third.
Otto would go on to win two more events that day, including the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard butterfly, the latter of which the Crimson also swept. Otto led the 1-2-3 finish with a time of 2:00.32, followed by sophomore Danielle Schulkin (2:02.80) and senior Hilary Roberts (2:03.04).
“Courtney was fantastic,” Gregiore said. “Those three events were really an incredible combination to start with, some of the hardest events on the list, and she swam all three of them exceptionally well. ... The freshmen in general bring so much energy to the team. They’re a great group of girls, and we’re so lucky to have them.”
One-two-three finishes seemed to be a theme of the meet, with the Harvard diving team earning a sweep of its own in the one-meter dive. Sophomore Alex Stanton scored 259.15 to grab the top spot, while senior Leslie Rea (257.95) and sophomore Schuyler Moore (254.20) took second and third, respectively. Moore and Rea also placed in the top three in the three-meter dive competition.
“It was really incredible because we had just had the threemeter event, and though we dove well, we knew we could do better,” Stanton said. “Then, at the break right after that, the score was announced, and we were down against Columbia by a point, so we knew we had to do our part and sweep the event. Winning for me was incredible, but the 1-2-3 finish was even better, we were all so excited about that.”
Aside from Otto’s three victories and Stanton’s win, the Crimson also had first-place finishes in the 50-yard freestyle, with Gregoire’s performance of 23.95, and in the 200-yard backstroke, with senior Meghan Leddy’s time of 2:00.30.
Though the host Lions won 10 of the meet’s 16 events, Harvard still managed to pull out a win, extending its undefeated streak in the Ivy League to four games. This is the eighth consecutive season that the team has opened with at least four successive victories, and the two wins at Friday’s tri-meet have provided the squad with a much-needed push in momentum as it heads towards February’s Ivy League Championships. The Crimson took second in last year’s Ivies and have been working for first place ever since.
“The two wins let us know that we have to keep working hard during break because we really do have a chance at winning Ivies,” Stanton said. “The meet was closer than we wanted it to be, but that hasn’t brought us down—it’s just given everyone the extra motivation that we need to become a better, faster team.”
—Staff writer Marlee Melendy be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.