Male Athlete of the Year: Todd Harrity
Before the season, Princeton junior Todd Harrity thought he knew the answer to that question. But he was wrong.
“At the beginning of the season, I did not expect to win. I definitely didn’t,” he said. “I thought we were more like [No.] 3 or 4.”
Come February, though, Harrity and the men’s squash team answered the question on the courts of Jadwin Gymnasium. Staring down a 4-2 deficit in the national championship contest against Trinity, Princeton launched a comeback for the ages, winning the last three matches and ending Trinity’s 13-year reign.
Chief among that third-shift sweep was Harrity, who took down Trinity’s best player, Vikram Malhotra. The win avenged an earlier loss to Malhotra in Trinity’s 7-2 regular season victory over the Tigers. Harrity — the 2011 individual national champion — flipped the script on the Bantams, leading Princeton to a team national championship, one he could share with all of the Orange and Black.
“After we won, everyone was going wild, and the whole crowd was there, and it was such a great moment,” Harrity said. “This is the thing you see in movies.”
Being the best is not a new concept for Harrity, who was one of the most highly recruited players in high school and made the finals of the squash individual championship his freshman year. Last year, he stormed through the tournament and was named the best collegiate player in the country. Still, Harrity said that beating Malhotra and Trinity this past February was the biggest victory of his career and the “highlight of my life.”
“It just means so much more when you’re doing it as a group,” Harrity said. “There’s that saying that ‘Joy shared is twice as good, and grief shared is half as bad.’ Winning the team nationals just meant so much to us.”
Before the third shift — comprised of Harrity, senior Kelly Shannon and sophomore Dylan Ward — took to the court, they sat in the locker room together, trying to shelter themselves from the outside factors. Though they were down 4-2 and knew the consequences of a loss, Harrity said each player felt confident in his abilities.
“The second I went out on the court, I really felt like it was my day,” Harrity said. “I had sat down and closed my eyes and imagined that moment so many times that I felt like I had already been there.”
“Knowing that we have him third shift is a big confidence booster for us,” freshman Tyler Osborne said. “Against most schools, it’s a guaranteed win at that No. 1 position.”
Indeed, Harrity mowed down Malhotra in the revenge match at the No. 1 spot, using his array of strokes to win the first two games 11-6 and 11-8 and put the team in position for the championship. But it wasn’t until midway through the third that Harrity really grasped the immensity of the match. Malhotra had bounced a shot off the back wall and stayed at the back of the court, watching for Harrity’s move at the front-left hand corner. Harrity eyed the ball as it hit the front wall and quickly snapped a drop shot. Malhotra was not even close.
“I could tell that he was tired,” Harrity said. “I don’t think he thought he could fight back from being down two-love and now down in the third. I felt that I really had the edge after that.”
This time, Harrity was correct. He took the final game with an 11-6 score to tie the overall matchup at 4-4. On a nearby court, Shannon’s drop shot against Trinity’s Reinhold Hergeth finished off the Bantams, as the team and fans stormed the court to celebrate the overthrow of the Trinity dynasty.
While his on-field success is clear to the eye, it is his tireless work ethic and even-keeled demeanor that his teammates appreciate the most. Even after winning the individual national championship, Harrity continued to come to practice early, working with teammates and providing pointers and constructive criticism.
Harrity’s personal success lies in his variety of consistent strokes and his efficient movement, both of which he gained through extensive practice. He deftly controls his racket with the swift, deliberate force of a Harry Potter-esque swish and flick, all the while hardly breaking a sweat.
“It looks almost easy when he’s playing you. He just never seems tired, never looks like he’s under any other pressure,” Osborne said.
His diversity of styles coincides with a long list of career accomplishments. Harrity can even cross being a team captain off of his collegiate bucket list, as he will take the honor next year. Along with holding an individual and team national title, what’s left for him to conquer?
“I still have a lot of things to work on,” Harrity said. “There’s more battles to be won.”
For his on-court skill at the No. 1 position, for his cool demeanor and for his team-first attitude, Todd Harrity is The Daily Princetonian’s Male Athlete of the Year.