Season Recap: Women's Swimming and Diving Continues to Raise the Bar

Season Recap: Women's Swimming and Diving Continues to Raise the Bar

Pictured: Harvard captured second at the ECAC and Ivy League Championships in 2009-10.
Photo Courtesy: Gil Talbot

The Harvard women’s swimming and diving team turned in a memorable season in 2009-10, beginning with a string of meet wins and ending with All-America accolades. Despite finishing second in a closely contested Ivy League Championships meet, the Crimson was buoyed throughout the season by a number of strong performances by many different team members.  Eight Crimson swimmers earned All-Ivy League status and the team compiled a 6-1 dual meet record.

Harvard started off the season with a bang, taking down Cornell, 166-129, and Dartmouth, 203-82, Nov. 14 in Ithaca, N.Y. The Crimson captured 11 of 14 events in the meet, highlighted by freshman diver Brittany Powell, as she began her collegiate career by capturing the one and three-meter titles at the season-opening meet. Junior Christine Kaufmann was the other multiple-event winner for Harvard, taking home victories in the 200 and 500 freestyle races. Freshmen Mackenzie Luick (100 breaststroke), Ellie Johnson (50 free), Clare Foster (200 breast) and Camille Hendrix (100 free) all collected wins in their collegiate debut while sophomores Catherine Zagroba (1,000 free), Hilary Roberts (200 butterfly) and Meghan Leddy (200 backstroke) joined Kaufmann as veteran winners at the meet.

Harvard continued the momentum through the next weekend as it hosted, and won, the Harvard Invitational, which included a dual meet victory over Columbia. The Crimson captured an impressive 17 of 20 events at the meet and scored a 182-107 win over the Lions in the process. Alexandra Clarke took home wins in the 500 and 1,650 freestyles and Katherine Pickard won the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Other multiple event winners included Katy Hinkle (50 free, 100 free), Kate Mills (200 free, 200 fly) and Luick (100 breast, 200 breast) while Harvard captured all five relays that were contested over the weekend.

The Crimson picked up where it left off in the New Year, eclipsing the 200-point plateau for the second time in a 218-95 win over Penn Jan. 9, and taking down Brown, 177-66, two weeks later. Against the Quakers, Harvard touched the wall first in every event and set three pool records in the process. Hendrix, Hinkle, Ali Slack and Kelly Robinson combined for the Sheerr Pool record in the 400 free relay, and Mills set new pool marks in the 200 fly and 500 free. Harvard swept all 13 events against the Bears to maintain its perfect conference record heading into the HYP meet.

At DeNunzio Pool, The Crimson recorded a 180-120 victory over Yale but suffered its first defeat at the hands of Princeton, 190-102, to wrap up its Ivy dual season with a 6-1 record, good for second place in the conference. Jenny Reese led the Crimson effort at the HYP meet, capturing both diving competitions. Johnson, Robinson, Slack and Hinkle combined for a win in the 400 free relay while Mills was second in the 200 free and 200 IM and Robinson was second in the 50 free and 100 fly. Leddy took second in the 200 back and Kaufmann rounded out the Crimson’s top performances with a second-place showing in the 500 free.

After nearly a month-long break from competition, the Crimson hosted the 2010 Ivy Championships at Blodgett Pool, looking to defend its league title. Day one of competition saw the Crimson take second in three events to stay within striking distance of front-running Princeton.  Harvard started the meet with a runner-up finish in the 200 free relay, swimming an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 1:32.73, and Clarke took second in the 500 free with a provisional qualifying mark of 4:45.24. Mills capped day one with an NCAA ‘B’ cut in a runner-up finish in the 200 IM, breaking her own school record with a time of 2:00.68.

Day two began with another school record as the 200 medley relay team posted a time of 1:42.88 to help the Crimson move into second place overall. Clarke picked up Harvard’s first event win of the championship as she took the 1,000 free title and was followed immediately by Kaufmann for a one-two finish. Pickard followed with a second-place finish in the 400 IM and Robinson posted a new school mark in the 100 fly with a time of 54.50. Mills took second in the 200 free and the 800 free relay team hit an NCAA provisional mark of 7:17.25 to wrap up day two of competition.

Harvard had a solid final day of competition, but was unable to catch Princeton and finished second in the meet. Mills led a pack of three Crimson swimmers in the 200 fly with a runner-up finish in the event and Reese took third in the three meter diving competition, one of three Harvard divers to qualify for the finals. Harvard finished the meet with 1,438 points, second only to Princeton’s winning total of 1,465.

The Crimson also captured second place at the ECAC Championships, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh at Trees Pool over the same weekend as the Ivy Championships.  The 200 free relay team kicked off the event with a meet record time of 1:35.04 and finished two-three-four-five in the 200 IM. The Crimson totaled 492 points for the meet, edged slightly by champion Marist with a final score of 503.5.

Both Mills and Clarke qualified for the NCAA Championships, and a trio of divers competed in the NCAA Zone A diving competition as well. Reese and Rea both qualified for the one-meter finals at the diving competition and finished 11th and 16th, respectively, in the event.

At the NCAA Championships, Clarke and Mills were looking to become the first women’s swimming All-American since Noelle Bassi ’07 earned the honor in the 200 fly in 2005 and 2006. In her final event of the meet, Clarke eclipsed her own school mark in the 1,650-yard freestyle event, attaining All-America status with a 16th-place finish. Clarke bested her old school mark of 16:10.92 by notching a top-16 time of 16:10.25. Clarke also placed 44th in the 200 free with a time of 1:48.03 and 48th in the 500 free with a mark of 4:47.87 at the 2010 Championships.

Mills also represented the Crimson at the 2010 NCAA meet. The junior swam two races at the event, taking 64th in the 200 free with a time of 1:50.94 and an impressive 27th in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:57.91.

After the completion of the 2009-10 season, the team held its annual awards banquet to recognize the team’s success and honor its seniors. Freshman Courtland Kelly received the Alice McCabe Award to begin the festivities and Jenny Reese received the John Walker Award, presented to the team’s outstanding diver. The Spirit Award was presented to sophomore Monica Burgos and Alexandra Clarke picked up the Nancy Soto Award. The Dr. Mary Ellen Mangano Award, presented to the “unsung hero,” went to Katherine Pickard and the Coaches Award was received by Kay Foley. Kelly Robinson received the Outstanding Freshman Award and Clarke and Kate Mills both received the Sharon Beckman Award, the final accolade of the evening.

With a number of strong team performances to start the season and a handful of stellar individual showings down the stretch, the Crimson put together another great season in 2009-10 and one that it can build on in 2010-11 as it looks to reclaim the Ivy League title and continue its presence at the NCAA Championships.