Harvard looks to repeat as Ivy League Champions as the Crimson visits rival Princeton this week. (Gil Talbot)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's swimming and diving team has set its eyes on defending its Ivy League Championships crown from last season as it visits Princeton for the 2015 Ivy League Men's Swimming and Diving Championships at DeNunzio Pool this week. The Ancient Eight will come together Thursday through Saturday to determine the League's elite.
The Crimson (9-0, 7-0 Ivy), looking to repeat as Ivy League champions for the first time since 2000-01, is tapered and ready to attend the annual three-day event. The festivities get underway Thursday at 11 a.m. with the first prelims of the week, followed by finals at 6 p.m. The cycle repeats through Friday and Saturday as well. All events will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Since 1994, no school other than Harvard and Princeton has laid claim to the Ivy Championships, and one must go back to 1974 before neither the Crimson or Tigers were left off the podium altogether. The Tigers have taken 29 titles to the Crimson's 23 since 1957. Seeing as Harvard and Princeton came down to the wire at last year's Ivy's it looks to be an eventful three days in 2015.
Event-by-Event Harvard Preview
Sprint Freestyle: Senior co-captain Griffin Schumacher, the runner up in the 50 free last year, owns the Ivy League's top time in the shortest sprint (19.64), but sophomore Paul O'Hara is right on his heels with his 19.94 finish in the Texas Invite. Both Max Yakubovich and Steven Tan also have top-10 Ivy times in the 50 free, giving Harvard plenty of depth. In the 100, Schumacher owns an NCAA 'B' cut with a 43.73 – the Ivy League's second-fastest time – and fellow classmate Spenser Goodman is right there as well with the third-quickest pace in the Ancient Eight.
Mid-Distance Freestyle: The Crimson excels at mid-distance races, strutting its depth between the lanes. Goodman (1:36.36) owns Harvard's top time and the second-best time among Ivy peers, leading the charge of a bevy of Crimson. In fact four of the top six times hail from Harvard; sophomore Aly Abdel Khalik, freshman Jack Boyd and Schumacher go in order in the 200, while those four and Sava Turcanu posted top times in the 500 free as well. Harvard should earn a great deal of points in these two events, bolstering its attempt at a title.
Distance Freestyle: Co-captain Mike Gaudiani owns Harvard's best 1000 free finish, a top-15 Ivy time of 9:25.89.Turcanu and freshman Kent Haeffner also posted respectable times in the lengthy race under a mile. Those three, led by Turcanu's time of 15:21.56 (sixth in the Ancient Eight), look to prove their mettle in the 1650 as well, hoping to turn NCAA 'B' times into points for the Crimson.
Backstroke: An Ivy League champion in the 200 back last season, sophomore Jack Manchester returns to defend his title. As one of the League's fastest in the back, Manchester owns second-quickest in the 100 (47.87) and the top time in the 200 by more than two seconds (1:42.29). Harvard's youth shines in these events, as freshmen Koya Osada and Steven Tan also have posted top-6 times. Sophomore Christian Yeager and junior Mitchell Foster are also in the mix, each swimming well in the 200 back – both garnered top-10 League times.
Breaststroke: After a trip to the 2014 NCAA Championships, Eric Ronda looks to be Harvard's premier breaststroker, alongside freshman Shane McNamara. McNamara, who is a member of the USA Swimming National Junior Team, and Ronda have each posted top-3 times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke for Ivy League swimmers this year, both earning NCAA 'B' cut times along the way at the Texas Invite. Ronda has the fastest swim in the 200 this season, toppling the Texas Invite in 1:55.71. Their consistency at the top gives Harvard another boost in the race for the cup.
Butterfly: Harvard boasts more depth in the fly as well. Steven Tan showed his versatility all season and garnered Harvard's and the League's top time in the 100 butterfly (47.44), with Yakubovich just behind (47.75). Junior Jacob Luna has a top-five time among Ivy swimmers in the 100 as well, and holds the second-fastest pace in the 200 fly (1:45.51). The trio, along with juniors Leo Lim and Christian Carbone should give Harvard enough of an edge to take a fight to Princeton in the fly events.
Individual Medley: Harvard's IM'ers have been solid all year long through the dual meet season, led by Luna and Carbone. Luna's time of 1:48.49 at the Texas Invite is fourth among Ancient Eight swimmers, just ahead of Christian Yeager's time of 1:48.51, also set in Austin. Koya Osada has the seventh-fastest times in the 200 and 400 this season, proving he can be a solid point-earner in several events.
Diving: One of the most decorated divers in the Ivy League in recent memory, senior Mike Mosca looks to become the first Ancient Eight diver to ever sweep the 1- and 3-meter boards in three consecutive years. No other diver from an Ivy League institution has accomplished that feat. Mosca leads the way for a talented group of divers including fellow senior George Doran, sophomore Manasseh Oso and a pair of freshman rising the ranks in David Pfeifer and Bobby Ross. The five Crimson look to put Harvard over the edge when it comes to team points in an exciting meet.
Relays: The Harvard relay team is among the best when it comes to the medley event, as O'Hara, Tan, Yakubovich and Schumacher hold the League's top time in the 200 free relay (1:19.21), while Goodman, O'Hara, Tan and Schumacher have the No. 2 time in the 400 free relay (2:56.28). In what could be a deciding event down the stretch, the Harvard quartet of Abdel Khalik, Schumacher, Boyd and Goodman have put together some fast times in the 800 free relay as well. The fastest 400 medley relay unit in the League comes by way of Manchester, Ronda, Tan and Schumacher in speedy 3:12.91, two full seconds ahead of Princeton's top time.