In many ways, the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team’s meet against Penn on Saturday was business as usual for the Crimson.
Harvard has become accustomed to beating the Quakers, having only lost to Penn twice since the teams first faced each other, with Penn last recording a victory over the Crimson in 1971. Harvard has also gotten used to winning dual meets. The Crimson entered this weekend’s matchup with an undefeated record for the season, boasting a run of 15 consecutive victories in dual competition.
Saturday’s contest in Providence, R.I., did nothing to snap either of Harvard’s streaks. The Crimson (5-0, 4-0 Ivy) breezed past the Quakers (4-4, 2-4), 181-108, to maintain its perfect mark in dual meets and extend its run of wins against Penn to 47 straight.
“I think the results from today really help to build on the momentum that we've been creating over the entire break,” co-captain Luke Morgan-Scott said. “At this point, we've been successful at finding what it takes to perform and race well even while being broken down. There is definitely still work to do, but today was a positive sign.”
However, there were some unusual elements to the matchup. For one thing, the contest, which was held in Brown’s home pool, typically features both the Quakers and the Bears. Brown was notably absent from this year’s meet, though, after being suspended indefinitely in December over allegations of hazing.
The Bears’ nonattendance did not faze the Crimson, however. Harvard dominated both in the pool and on the boards, picking up 15 first-place results and sweeping the podium in six races. In addition, the Crimson took at least two of the top three spots in 15 of 16 events.
Much of the Crimson’s success could be attributed to some of the team’s less experienced members. Sophomore Daniel Chang continued his breakout season with a particularly strong meet, winning all four of his races. The Johnson City, Tenn., native opened the competition with a victory in the 200-yard medley relay along with fellow sophomore Dean Farris and seniors Steven Tan and Ed Kim, beating out Penn’s second-place lineup by less than half a second. Chang would also collect first-place finishes in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events, before touching the wall first in exhibition in the 200-yard IM.
“I was really happy with my swims today,” Chang said. “We've been able to have some great training the last couple weeks, and it's really starting to show.”
Harvard also benefited from impressive performances from a contingent of its youngest members. Five freshmen picked up podium finishes against the Quakers. First-year Michael Zarian touched the wall second in the 200-yard butterfly, edging out third-place classmate Eric Whisenant by just over a second. Zarian also raced in the Crimson’s B lineup in the 200 medley relay, finishing in third along with junior Sebastian Lutz, senior Koya Osada, and graduated senior Paul O’Hara.
Not to be outdone, freshmen Mahlon Reihman and Levente Bathory collected the second and third-place spots in the 200-yard freestyle, with junior Brennan Novak taking top honors in the event. The pair of rookies also battled for finishes in an exhibition in the 400 freestyle relay. Reihman, along with Tan, Kim, and Farris, recorded the fastest time in the event, while Bathory joined up with Lutz, O’Hara, and sophomore Raphael Marcoux to touch the wall second.
“Our coach made it clear to us to us that we would be training through the meet, meaning that we would be swimming both tired and unrested,” Reihman said. “It’s exciting to see guys get up and continue to race fast at this point in the season while still being physically broken down.”
Finally, freshman Alex DeCaprio impressed on the boards, finishing in second place in the one-meter dive with a score of 285.98. Co-captain Bobby Ross won the event with 313.35 points. Ross would also record the highest score in the three-meter dive in an exhibition, earning 310.28 points, as senior David Pfeifer took second.
The strangest outcome of the day also came in an exhibition event. With the win already secured and Harvard’s points no longer counting, the Crimson nonetheless raced to win in the 200-yard IM. The result was a peculiar tie, with Chang taking first place, and the next two spots split between Harvard and Penn in a pair of exact ties. Both Zarian and Quakers junior Thomas Dillinger touched the wall in second with a time of 1:51.50, and half a second later, Penn junior Mark Andrew secured third place with a time of 1:52.02, as did Osada.
The technical podium sweep marked just one of several events in which the Crimson took all three of the top spots. In the second race of the day, the 1000-yard freestyle, junior Logan Houck touched the wall first, followed by sophomore Zack Snyder and senior Kent Haeffner in second and third, respectively. Houck picked up a second individual victory in the 500 freestyle, with Novak eight seconds back in silver medal position and Snyder rounding out the sweep in third.
Harvard also put in commanding performances in the shorter freestyle races, starting with the 50 free. Marcoux picked up a solo win in the event, edging out second-place Kim and third-best O’Hara. In the 100 free, Farris touched the wall first with a time of 43.87. Marcoux finished in second, while Kim completed the sweep, beating out the top Penn finisher by over a second.
The backstroke events saw much of the same, with Osada topping the 100 back and taking second in the 200-yard iteration. Junior Daniel Tran outpaced Osada by a second-and-a-half in the 200 back but ended up in third place behind Tan in the 100.
Tan would get an individual win of his own in the final non-exhibition race of the meet, the 100-yard butterfly. The senior’s mark of 47.72 seconds saw him finish ahead of Farris, who took second in the event.
With another victory to its name and its perfect mark maintained, the Crimson will turn its attention to the looming championship portion of the season.
“Remaining undefeated following our meet reaffirms our team goals, which are to finish the season without a loss and to claim the Ivy League title,” Reihman said. “Our next big challenge will come in three weeks with the HYP tri-meet. Our win streak certainly gives myself and the team confidence going into the next month, but everyone is aware of the work we still need to do.”
—Staff writer Sam Christenfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.