After a successful season in which Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving went 7-2 overall and 7-1 within the Ivy League, last week’s Ivy League Championship was the perfect proving grounds for a talented Crimson team. Harvard suffered their only conference loss earlier this year against Yale (7-0) in a dual meet and has been hungry to have another shot. This time around, the Crimson secured the win, scoring 1,500 points to beat out second place Yale with 1,390.50.
The Harvard women got their shot this weekend and ran with it. HWSD swam their best in the most important meet of the season, tallying up points and records along the way. Senior tri-captain Valerie Yoshimura commented on the importance of team chemistry and cohesion in a sport many consider to be mainly individual:
“Swimming and Diving are largely considered individual sports. However, the women of HWSD approach challenges collaboratively, hold each other accountable in practice, and support one another outside of the pool," Yoshimura said. "The cohesion and love of this team enables us to overcome obstacles, compete with heart, and rise to incredible heights.’
These strong words embody how the Crimson team has worked throughout the season, capturing the highest prize in the process. The results speak for themselves. Within the incredible team accomplishments were many season bests and school records.
Day one of the Championship saw the team put together some of their most impressive individual efforts of the season. In the very first race of the day, Harvard set the tone be with Junior Mei Lynn Colby, sophomore Ingrid Wall, senior Brittany Usinger, and sophomore Kennidy Quist breaking the previous school record of 1:39.48, set in 2013 with a time of 1:39.34 in the 200 medley relay. This performance was not enough to win the race, but, beating the previous season’s best by three seconds was a good representation of what was to come.
“I am so proud of my team for winning Ivies for the second year in a row. It has been such an honor to be a part of the Ivy team for two years now. The 50 breaststroke is my specialty which is why I am always psyched to swim it on the 200 medley relay. This really was the first event of the meet, so it was awesome to start off on such a high note. I was so happy to contribute to the team and beat a historic school record,” commented sophomore Ingrid Wall on the opportunity to compete in the championship and beat a school record. “The team set our goals high and we performed very well throughout the whole meet.”
Later on in day one, the four-women team of junior Miki Dahlke, freshmen Samantha Shelton and Helena Moreno, and senior Sonia Wang defended their 800 free relay title from last year’s championship with a blistering time of 7:06.98, beating their season’s best by three seconds as well. This performance only trailed one race from last year, coming in second all time for the Crimson. Dahlke herself broke the school record in the first 200 of the relay with a time of 1:44.26, edging out her own previous record of 1:45.00 she set in 2018.
Day two saw more of the same for Harvard. Dahlke continued her dominant showing by winning the 500 freestyle with a pool and school record of 4:40.26. Helena Moreno finished third in the same race posting a quality time. Samantha Shelton turned in a personal best performance in the 200 medley with a time of 1:58.45, ranking third all time in the program and extending the Crimson streak of winning the event for five years in a row. Fellow Harvard swimmer Sonia Wang placed second in the 200 medley, giving Harvard the top two spots in the event. Mei Lynn Colby continued her strong performance by placing second in the 50 yard freestyle, breaking her PR with a time 22.52, and ranking second all time in Crimson history and qualifying for an NCAA B Standard.
Harvard also had three divers finish among the top six on the one meter board, with Senior Mikaela Thompson, Freshman Morgane Herculano, and senior Katie Russ finishing back to back to back in fourth, fifth, and sixth.
By the time the dust had cleared on day two, the Harvard women were in the lead with 526.50 points, 30 points clear of second place Yale who had been the only Ivy League team to defeat the Crimson in the regular season.
The last two days of the championship were the coming out party for the team. Dahlke won another race in the 100 butterfly. Shelton tasted victory again in the 200 freestyle, good for second best all time and proceeded to win again in the 200 backstroke, setting the Harvard and Ivy League Championship record with a time of 1:54.01. Dahlke, Colby, and Quist placed second, third, and fourth in the 100 freestyle with Dahlke breaking the school record.
While first year Marcella Ruppert-Gomez ranked second all time for the Crimson with her effort in the 1,600 freestyle. Harvard ended the night with their first victory in the 400 freestyle relay since 2008 with Colby, Shelton, Quist and Dahlke setting a pool and school record with a time of 3:15.47, just missing the qualifications for the NCAA A-Standard in the event. This final event was a fitting conclusion to the weekend, as the Crimson team, crushed school records on their way to incredible team achievement.
The Women’s Swimming and Diving team captured back to back titles for the first time since 1991-1992 proving the amount of hard work and effort this team put in throughout the year. Yoshimura echoed a strong team sentiment that proves the value of hardwork and team chemistry towards a successful season.
“It has been an incredible season,” said Yoshimura. “[we] have worked tremendously hard this entire year. Each athlete’s consistency and dedication to the sport and to each other enabled us to win the Ivy League Championship. Every single women on this team, whether she competed in the meet or not, played a critical role in our victory.”
To wrap up the individual awards, first-year Samantha Shelton shared the Ivy League High Point Award after winning three events, and senior tri-captain Mikaela Thompson won the Ivy League's Ron Keenhold Career High Point Diver award for her consistent performance over her career at Harvard.
Looking forward, the Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving will be competing again in the NCAA Zone Diving Championships in Annapolis Maryland starting March 10. They will hope to carry the incredible momentum from this record-breaking performance forward throughout the final stretch of their season.