Heading into this weekend, the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team (9-0, 7-0 Ivy) already had a hallmark season. The team capped an undefeated dual-meet season with a runner-up finish at the Ivy League Championships. But there was one meet left on tap, as the Crimson hoped to make a splash on the national stage at the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship.
But Harvard’s performance at the season-ending meet did not quite live up to its regular-season promise. The Crimson turned in eight top-30 performances but failed to reach the finals in any event.
“We had some pretty good swims, all things considered,” sophomore Chuck Katis said. “But I think overall we left wanting a little bit more out of the meet. We have some things to work on. Part of that is having the emotional roller coaster, coming from Ivy’s and HYP the week before. Sometimes it is a little tough to do three meets in a row.”
Katis entered the meet coming off a record-breaking regular season. The sophomore recorded NCAA ‘A’ cuts as early as November, set school records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, and took home his first individual Ivy League Championship in the 100-meter event two weeks ago.
The sophomore entered the national championships hoping to improve on last year’s success, where he finished just outside the finals in his two individual events but took home a pair of All-American honors as a part of the 400 and 800 free relay teams.
“Each year we come back, we want to get a little more out of the meet,” Katis said. “Last year, it was like icing on the cake just to make the meet and be able to compete there. This year, we wanted more.”
Katis was slated to compete in both the 100 and 200 breast events while also competing on three relay teams. But the sophomore came down with Scarlet Fever the week of the event and was forced to withdraw from all but one event. His lone swim was the 100 breast, in which he mustered a 24th place finish with a time of 53.82, less than half a second away from making the ‘B’ final and bringing home All-American honors.
Juniors Oliver Lee and Chris Satterthwaite both came close to reaching the finals in the 50 free. Lee placed 19th with a time of 19.98, while his classmate finished right behind him in 20th with a time of 20.08.
Michael Mosca, the first Harvard diver since 1994 to compete at the national championships, put up a 32nd place finish on the one-meter board. He followed it up with a 28th place showing on the three-meter.
Harvard turned in top-25 finishes in all three of its relay events. Lee, Satterthwaite, sophomore Griffin Schumacher, and junior Danny Crigler teamed for a time of 1:18.82 to finish in 19th in the 200 free relay, just barely missing out on the finals.
Satterthwaite, Schumacher, and Crigler were joined by sophomore Zach Walters in the 800 free relay and posted a time of 6:28.35, good for a 22nd-place showing. The Crimson had an identical finish in the 400 free relay, where Satterthwaite, Lee, Schumacher, and Walters combined for a time of 2:55.04.
“I don’t think this weekend reflected the amount of progress we made and the amount of work we put in,” Katis said. “Just based on time, we could’ve placed higher, could’ve been top-20, but that’s still on our goal list right now. I don’t think [NCAA’s] really displayed how good our team is. That just gives us motivation going forward. Rather than just making the meet, we want to be back in finals racing at night with all the top teams again.”
Five of the swimmers saw action in last year’s NCAA championships, with Crigler the lone Crimson swimmer making his national championship debut. Though the team failed to swim in the finals, the group used the opportunity to get a glimpse at the nation’s top swimming programs.
“[On Saturday night], we watched three guys break three different NCAA records,” Crigler said. “It was the fastest meet I’ve ever been to. To be a part of it with five other Harvard teammates was really special.”
Though Harvard’s performance left something to be desired, the team’s performance will no doubt serve as motivation by the time next season rolls around.
“I think we need to take the work we did this year and, moving forward into next year, get a couple of guys on board and bring a group of maybe ten or twelve guys to NCAA’s instead of just six,” Crigler said. “We have the chance to do that.”
—Staff writer Brenna R. Nelsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @CrimsonBRN.