Smoke on the Water

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Swimmers, divers, and champions.

 

Scrolling through the Men’s Varsity Swim and Dive team’s results this season provides variety in many ways, from meets held all over the country – from Salt Lake City, Utah to Austin Texas – to tight scores and dominant blowouts. The common thread, however, is constant W. The Crimson entered this weekend undefeated thus far, with huge, consecutive victories over Penn (206-88) and Brown (226-74) in the same weekend; their closest match was a 59-point victory over Utah, outside of the Ivy League Conference. Thus, expectations were optimistic and high for the Ivy League Championships coming up this past weekend, especially with the finals returning to Blodgett, here in Cambridge.

From 1956-1970, the first 15 years that statistics were recorded for Ivy League swimming championships, the sport was dominated by Yale – the Bulldogs took every victory but 1. Harvard’s turn came in the 90’s, with 6 consecutive victories over the years 1995-2001.  Since then, however, Harvard has been locked in a difficult back and forth with Princeton. Since 1993, the Ivy League Champion has been either Harvard or Princeton exclusively – and in the past 15 years, Princeton has had the advantage 11-4. The finish this season would be no different; the one difference, however, lay in the fact that the two teams would define and pave very different paths this season and year- a suspension marred Princeton’s season near the end of the 2016 year, while Harvard continued on their path to an undefeated championship season.

Individual expectations, however, were also significantly positive; most specifically, Swimming World Magazine published an article detailing 5 swimmers that they expected to make a huge splash. They were especially optimistic about Harvard freshman, Dean Farris. Entering the championship with 5 top 3 seedings (3 top seed), he was predicted to excel over the course of the championship weekend. His performance was nothing less than stellar, with a 2nd place finish in the 50 yard freestyle, an overall victory in the 200 yard freestyle, another overall win in the 100 yard backstroke, a third place finish in the 200 yard backstroke, and capped it off with a victory in the 100 yard freestyle.

Such individual performances drove Harvard to its victory this 2017 year, and included several record setting performances. Farris more than validated the predictions from the magazine, with a record time in the 800 freestyle relay (with teammates Brennan Novak ‘19, Aly Abdel Khalik ’17, and Zach Snyder ’20), as well as records set in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

Earlier, the Women’s Varsity Swimming and Diving team also met with success in the Ivy League Championships held at Brown University. The team took a second place finishes, after a closely contested battle with Yale throughout the four day competition. Similarly to the men’s team prior history, Harvard and Princeton had combined to dominate very nearly the past two decades of women’s swimming and diving (victories in 17 out of the 20 years).

This year, Yale bucked the trend, with their first victory since 1997. Harvard and Yale continuously battled through the weekend. For example, in the one meter diving final event, Harvard and Yale took all eight spots. In fact, after the first seven events, which represents one third of the overall competition, Harvard had a marginal lead over Yale and a commanding lead over the rest of the pool. Although Yale pushed ahead in the final slate of events, the fierce competition led to several exceptional performances. Sonia Wang ’19, a sophomore at Harvard, returned from a year-long injury absence to win the 400 yard medley in record time. Across the board, both the men’s and women’s teams provided an incredible series of finishes for the Crimson.

Tushar Dwivedi ([email protected]) commends the swimmers and divers for their water-borne triumph!