Harvard is always the thorn in the side of the men's swim team. No matter how much Princeton strategizes and takes full advantage of the weak spots in the Crimson lineup, Harvard's talented swimmers just seem to be able to exploit their advantages more so than the Tigers.
This was especially the case this past weekend at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet in Cambridge, Mass., where, despite strong early efforts by the Tiger squad, Harvard was able to rally and defeat Princeton by the score of 192.5 to 160.5, thereby clinching the Ivy League title. The only consolation was a dual meet victory over previously undefeated Yale by the score of 209.5 to 143.5, thus solidifying a respectful but ultimately disappointing second-place finish in Ivy League competition.
"They just came out on top in too many scenarios in the end," head coach Rob Orr said. "We swam well. They swam better."
The Tigers were undone primarily by the strength and depth of the Crimson freestylers, especially in the 100, 500 and 1650 yard freestyle, where Princeton knew that Harvard held a substantial advantage. The Tigers were ambushed first by the sweep of Harvard's stellar distance swimmers in the 1650 free, led by distance star Tim Martin with a time of 15 minutes, 14.37 seconds.
Princeton was able to rebound, though, by making the most of its advantages, namely in the breast stroke and the individual medley. The first day of competition saw a strong victory by senior Dan Russell in the 100 breast with a time of 57.03, buoyed further by the second place finish of freshman Garth Fealey. Later that day, another one-two punch was delivered in the 200 individual medley with the gutsy swims of sophomore Matt Keay and junior Matt Harrigan. Rounded out by the impressive victory of freshman phenom Jesse Gage in the 50 free with a time of 20.48, the Tigers had a surprising lead of 101.5 to 84.5 after the first day of competition.
But the second day saw more of the same freestyle domination by the Crimson squad that eventually put the final nail in Princeton's coffin. The results of the 100 freestyle saw the top five finishes going to Harvard swimmers, even though only three swimmers per team can be scored for each event. The 500 free was more of the same, as the Tigers were relegated to only a third-place finish.
The Tigers tried to combat these huge deficits by making the most of their strengths. Gage built upon his 50 free swim with a victory in the 100 fly with a time of 48.84, touching out his next opponent by only one one-hundredth of a second. Harrigan and Feeley also added to their productive weekends by providing a crucial one-two punch in the 200 breast.
But, in the end, Harvard was just too much.
"On the whole, people were happy with how we swam but we know that we have room for improvements," Russell said.
After senior day this coming weekend against Army and Navy, the Tigers must focus their efforts towards the Ivy Championships March 2-3. There, Princeton will have home-pool advantage for the first time in three years, which was the last time the Tigers defeated their archrival Harvard for the Ivy championship title.