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The Harvard men’s swimming and diving squad entered Saturday’s meet against Cornell and Dartmouth with history on its side. The Crimson has only lost to the Big Red twice in its history, and the last time the Big Green topped Harvard was in 1972.
The fact that the matchup was the Crimson’s season-opener, and home-opener at that, added to the team’s motivation for coming out strong. Harvard has not dropped a dual meet at Blodgett Pool since 2012, and has not started a campaign with a defeat in eight years.
Sometimes, that kind of historical background is the set-up for a shock upset. Saturday, however, was not one of those times.
Racing in front of a boisterous home crowd, the Crimson (2-0, 2-0 Ivy League) dropped Cornell (1-2, 1-1 Ivy League) and Dartmouth (1-2, 0-2 Ivy), 202-93 and 216-79, respectively, to keep all of its streaks intact. The victories extend Harvard’s string of successes in Ivy League dual meets to 37 consecutive wins.
“This meet set a high bar for us for the rest of the season,” senior Kent Haeffner said. “We want to build off of this victory and perform even better in the meets that lie ahead.”
Harvard’s wins were powered by the usual suspects. The Crimson was dominant in relay events last season, finishing the campaign undefeated in team races and taking top marks in every relay event at the 2017 Ivy League Championships. With the majority of Harvard’s relay lineups returning this year, the same supremacy was on full display on Saturday.
The Crimson took all three of the top spots in both relay events, opening the meet with a decisive win in the 200-yard medley relay. The Harvard A lineup of seniors Koya Osada and Steven Tan and sophomores Daniel Chang and Raphael Marcoux cruised to a victory in 1:28.92. The Crimson’s B and C groups were close behind in the silver and bronze positions, respectively.
Harvard also closed out the contest with a podium sweep in the 400-yard freestyle relay, albeit in an exhibition. In the meet’s final event, the Crimson B lineup of Marcoux, sophomore dean Farris, fifth-year senior Paul O’Hara, and freshman Mahlon Reihman posted the top time, two seconds ahead of the A squad and seven seconds in front of the C lineup. Cornell’s top entry had the next-fastest time, nine seconds behind Harvard’s winning squad.
The Crimson victory also came on the back of a number of typically strong individual performances from the team’s veteran swimmers. Harvard returned eight All-Ivy athletes from last year’s conference championship-winning team, and their experience helped the Crimson to win all but one event on Saturday.
In the second race of the day, junior Logan Houck, who finished third in the event at last year’s Ancient Eight Championship meet, breezed to a win in the 1000-yard freestyle, clocking in at 9:05.77. The Las Vegas, Nev. native touched the wall nearly 24 seconds ahead of junior Gavin Springer in second and a full 30 seconds before third-place Haeffner.
Not to be outdone, junior Brennan Novak picked up a pair of first-place finishes in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events, with Houck close behind in second in the latter race. Novak was a member of last year’s Ivy League champion 800-yard freestyle relay team and took second at the 2017 Ancient Eight Championships in the 1000 and 1650 freestyle events.
Senior Ed Kim, a 2016-17 All-Ivy swimmer for the Crimson, matched Novak’s feat, securing two individual wins for himself. The Sammamish, Wash. native beat out second-place Marcoux and third-place junior Sebastian Lutz for top marks in the 50-yard freestyle before taking first in the 100-yard butterfly. Senior Koya Osada ended up less than a second behind in silver medal position in the 100 fly.
Elsewhere, Farris, last year’s Ivy League Championship high-point swimmer, won the 100-yard backstroke, and junior Daniel Tran took the top spot in the 200-yard backstroke. Tran finished third in the same event at last year’s conference championships.
Harvard showed the benefits of its experience on the boards, as well. At the Ancient Eight Championship meet last year, the Crimson took three of the top four positions on the individual high-point chart for diving. All three of those athletes, senior David Pfeifer, co-captain Bobby Ross, and sophomore Austin Fields, returned this year, and they combined with freshman Alec DeCaprio to sweep the first four spots in both the one-meter and three-meter events.
Pfeifer’s 354.5 points put him atop the standings for the three-meter dive, with Ross in second, Fields in third, and DeCaprio rounding out the top four. In the second event, it was Ross who took top marks, followed by Pfeifer, DeCaprio, and Fields.
However, despite the considerable role played by Harvard’s veterans, the meet was not without contributions from some new faces. The Crimson’s freshman class had a strong debut meet, while several sophomores showed their improvement from last season with convincing performances.
Rookie Michael Zarian particularly impressed, picking up a pair of wins in the 200 butterfly and the 200 individual medley exhibition. Classmate Eric Whisenant also collected a podium finish, touching the wall second behind Tran in the 200 backstroke, while first-years Levente Bathory and Reihman ended up second and third, respectively, in the 200 freestyle.
The team’s first-years also played a significant part in Harvard’s relay success, with Zarian, Reihman, Bathory, and fellow freshman Corban Rawls all swimming to podium finishes as part of Crimson relay lineups.
“The freshmen swam incredibly well,” Haeffner said. “They've been bringing outstanding energy in practice. It's exciting to see that pay off in competition and we're looking forward to what they can accomplish over the rest of the season.”
Harvard also looked to some of its returners to make an increased impact in Saturday’s meet.
Sophomores Marcoux and Daniel Chang both had strong freshman campaigns, but the pair cemented their place as contributors with this weekend’s contest. Each swimmer won an individual event and took second in another on Saturday.
Marcoux added to his runner-up finish in the 50 freestyle with a narrow victory over second-place Tan in the 100-yard freestyle. Chang traded places with Zarian in the 200-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley, winning the first event with Zarian in fourth place, before taking second behind the rookie in the 200 IM exhibition.
With its veterans performing well and a strong debut meet under its rookies’ belts, the Crimson may hope that history will repeat itself once again. Harvard has finished each of the last three seasons with an undefeated dual meet record, and the team will be aiming to keep that trend going. For now, though, the Crimson is just focused on its next meet.
“[This weekend’s result] gives us great confidence in our performance and our training for the rest of the season,” Ross said. “We had great energy, and we’re all looking forward to [the team’s next meet against] Columbia now.”
—Staff writer Sam Christenfeld can be reached at email@example.com.
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