Blodgett Pool has been friendly to the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team so far this season, as the squad went undefeated against its first three opponents in Cornell, Dartmouth, and Columbia. But this weekend, the Crimson ventured away from its home pool for the first time of the season as the swimmers and divers parted ways to compete in the Texas Invitational and UGA Invitational respectively.
The meets gave Harvard a chance to test its skills against national opponents, and it certainly proved to be a worthy competitor.
The Crimson faced off against some of the toughest competition it will see all season, battling some of the top nationally ranked teams in the University of Texas, Arizona, and University of Southern California.
“I thought we held our own against them,” co-captain Mike Gaudiani said. “We had some phenomenally fast swims, which goes to show that we stood up and faced the competition.”
The three-day meet style also most closely resembles the format of the Ivy Championship meet at the end of the season, giving the younger members of the team a chance to gain experience in the longer meets.
“We actually prepare for about one or two weeks and kind of rest for a bit, so we are more mentally prepared for this meet and more rested” sophomore Eric Ronda said. “It’s really crucial to warm down and warm up as well as what you do in between sessions and during the nights because you are swimming so many runs on so many different days.”
Ronda continued his first rate performances in the 200-yard breaststroke, as he finished in fourth with a time of 1:55.71. Ronda is undefeated this season in the 200 breast in dual meets.
All weekend the Harvard swimmers showed off their depth as the team earned multiple NCAA B cut times on each of the three days of competition. The freshmen on the team played a big role in contributing to the squad’s depth and making an immediate impact in their first season with the Crimson.
Freshman Shane McNamara led the pack for the rookies, taking 15th place in the 100 breaststroke on the second day of competition and a seventh place finish in the 200 breast on day three. Ronda beat out McNamara by just under a second to finish with a time of 54.74 in the 100 breaststroke.
Fellow freshman Steven Tan also had a strong weekend, notching fifth place in the 400-medley relay and finishing just short of a B cut time in the 50-yard freestyle. Tan also claimed 11th in the 100-yard butterfly to add to his weekend totals.
Harvard’s depth continued to shine through in the relay events. The team of sophomore Jack Manchester, Ronda, Tan, and co-captain Griffin Schumacher took fifth in the 400-yard medley relay. A second quartet of sophomore Aly Abdel Khalik, Schumacher, freshman Jack Boyd, and senior Spenser Goodman placed fifth overall in the 800-yard freestyle relay with a time of 6:32.39.
Overall, Crimson racers were pleased with the outcome of the event and gained confidence going forward as the team continues to face tough opponents.
“For the rest of the season, it gives us a benchmark,” Gaudiani said. “A lot of the guys at that meet are going to be top finalists at NCAAs, so it gives us some exposure to some extraordinarily fast national competition, which I think sets the bar high and gives us something to train for.”
On the boards, freshman David Pfeifer added to the rookie success by topping all Crimson divers with a 10th place finish in the one-meter contest. Senior George Doran and sophomore Manasseh Oso also had strong dives, both ranking in the top 16 of the one-meter competition.
Harvard has more than a month off before heading south to compete against Duke and South Carolina on Jan. 10.
“These next weeks are really crucial, “ Ronda said. “We are putting in hard work for the last big push before our tapers at Ivy Championships and HYP.”
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at email@example.com.
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