In academics and athletics, Harvard has always been a leader. So why should it be any different with women's swimming and diving? From its inception, the team did not take long to rise to prominence. It has continued to perform at a high level, all the way to a 10-0 season and its eighth Ivy League championship in 2004-05, followed by another 10-0 mark and the league's dual meet title in 2005-06. In its history, Harvard boasts 12 individual All-America performances and five All-America relay teams.
Although Harvard did not formally introduce its program until 1973, swimming at Radcliffe dates to 1923, when the school hosted Sargent College in the country's first women's intercollegiate swim meet.
Harvard's first formal teams were coached by Alice McCabe, who took charge of women's swimming in 1961 and remained in that position for 14 seasons. McCabe was followed by Stephanie Walsh (1975-80) and then Vicki Hays (1980-81).
Swimmers RoAnn Costin '74, Connie Cervilla '74, Jean Drew '74 and Jean Guyton '75 helped give the team much of its early recognition. Radcliffe traveled to Arizona in 1971 for the second women's national championships ever held and finished 11th overall, helped by Costin's fourth-place effort in the 200 freestyle. Soon after, diver Nancy Sato '75 emerged as the best in New England and was 16th nationally as a senior when she received the first Radcliffe College Alumnae Association Award as the best female athlete at Harvard.
The sport developed quickly, both at Harvard and abroad. In 1977, the Ivy League crowned its first champion; and in 1978, the Crimson moved into beautiful Blodgett Pool. It was in 1978 that the team placed fourth in the small college nationals. A year later, diver Pam Stone '82 won the AIAW national small college championship. Laurie Downey '79, Jane Fayer '80, Liz Kelly '81 and eventual head coach Maura Costin '80 were Harvard's top swimmers during this era.
Adele Joel '82, Debbi Zimic '84 and Jeanne Downs '84 were record-breakers in swimming events, while Jennifer Goldberg '85 and Shannon Byrd '86 continued the team's dominance in diving.
Maura Costin Scalise took over as coach in 1984. In her tenure, Harvard won seven Ivy titles, enjoyed a 36-meet league winning streak, captured four Eastern championships and had 10 All-America selections.
Mia Costello '90 was Costin Scalise's first individual All-American in the 200 breastroke in 1987. The Crimson also sent a relay team of Sheila Findley '90, Costello, Mary Quinn '90 and Linda Suhs '89 to the NCAA Championships that year, and the group received All-America honors in both the 200 and 400 medley relays.
The 1987-88 season featured the team's strongest national performance. Harvard finished as the Eastern and Ivy League champion, sent eight swimmers to the NCAA Championships and placed 17th at the national meet. Costello again led the way, taking All-America honors in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. She was joined by teammates Findley, Nina Anderson '90, and Suhs on the All-America 400 medley relay.
Ann Hardy '91, Jill Hutchinson '91, Quinn, Suhs, and Janice Sweetser '89 earned All-America accolades in the 400 freestyle relay. The Crimson also fielded a 200 medley relay team - Costello, Findley, Suhs, and Quinn - that earned a third relay All-America title.
The Crimson won Eastern titles in 1989 and 1991 and then took both the Eastern and Ivy titles in 1992. The top individual performances were turned in by current head coach Stephanie Wriede '92, a three-time NCAA qualifier in the 200 breaststroke and two-time All-American, and Stacie Duncan '92, who garnered All-America honors in the 400 individual medley and 1,650 freestyle.
Joining the group of all-time greats is Deborah Kory '95, a two-time NCAA qualifier. Kory was honored as the co-recipient of the HRFWA Prize as the outstanding scholar-athlete in the senior class and also as co-recipient of the Mary G. Paget Prize for outstanding contributions to women's athletics.
In 1995, the Crimson regained the Ivy championship. Diver Lara Jacobson '98 placed 12th on the platform at the NCAA championships to earn All-America status. The 1996 squad repeated as Ivy League champion.
Stephanie Wriede Morawski, a protegé of Costin Scalise's, took over the helm of the women's program in 1997. Her squads have continued the tradition of excellence, starting with third-place finishes at the Ivy League Championships from 1998 to 2000.
The 2002-03 team's second-place finish at the Ivy Championships was the Crimson's best since 1995, and Harvard placed second at Ivies again in 2004. Princeton edged the Crimson by 16.5 points in that meet, but Harvard would get over the hump in a major way the following season.
The Crimson had one of its most successful seasons yet in 2004-05, winning by a 226-point margin its first team title at the Ivy League Championships since Morawski's senior year of 1992. Crimson athletes won eight individual league titles and Noelle Bassi '07 (200 butterfly) and Jaclyn Pangilinan '08 (200 breaststroke) earned All-America honors.
Bassi and Pangilinan combined to set five school records in 2004-05, Bassi in the 500 free, 200 fly and 400 IM and Pangilinan in both breaststrokes. Bassi would improve on her 200 fly mark a year later, on the way to her second straight All-America performance. Pangilinan topped her own 100 breast record, while Lindsay Hart '08 rewrote the Harvard backstroke record book.
The 2005-06 campaign was also successful for the Crimson team, which finished the season ranked 21st in the nation by the College Swim Coaches Association of America and first among "mid-major" teams by CollegeSwimming.com. Harvard's 10 wins extended its winning streak to 20 dual meets, and the Crimson took second at the Ivy League Championships. Harvard took five individual titles at Ivies, where Pangilinan swept the breaststrokes and Bassi earning Swimmer of the Meet honors. Alison Pipitone '08 won the three-meter diving and was co-Diver of the Meet. Samantha Papadakis '08 won the NCAA Zone A one-meter title and joined Bassi at the NCAA Championships.