The five-time defending champion Princeton men’s swimming and diving team will try to set the all-time record this weekend for consecutive Ivy League Championships in Cambridge, Mass. The toughest competition will come from Harvard, who has finished runner-up each year of the Princeton’s streak thus far and is the only squad other than the Tigers (6-2 overall, 6-1 Ivy League) to win the meet since 1994. The Crimson (8-2, 7-0) defeated Princeton at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet earlier this winter, although the dual meet setting is a far cry from that of the championship meet, where depth, and not top talent, reigns supreme. Last year the Tigers suffered a 200-153 loss to Harvard at DeNunzio Pool in the same H-Y-P meet but vanquished the Crimson by a 70-point margin at the league championships.
“It’s tough [to win the meet], but I think we’re in a good position,” said senior tri-captain Daniel Hasler. “Dual meets and invitationals can distract you, but the coaches keep us focused on the Ivy League meet.”
Last year’s win was largely made possible by one of the most impressive freshman classes the Ivy League has ever seen. No fewer than eight Princeton freshmen placed in the top eight of their own individual events, including a stunning, come-from-behind victory by sophomore Teo D’Alessandro in the 200 individual medley. The team will again not only rely on this same group but also on the leadership of its three senior captains, Hasler, Adam Lebovitz, and Mark O’Connell. Hasler has twice finished third in the 400 IM and has also twice been in the A final of both breaststroke events. O’Connell leads the divers with two top-seven finishes in both the one- and three-meter events over the last couple years.
Day one of the meet is already in the books, and it was a rough one for the Tigers. Harvard picked up wins in the 200 free relay, 400 medley relay and one meter diving competition. Princeton responded with a sweep of the top three in the 200 IM, with D’Alessandro swimming a pool record 1:45.45, but still trail the Crimson 505-400.
Saturday is the busiest day of finals, with eight on the schedule. The 400 IM looks to be an important event, with D’Alessandro, Hasler and two Harvard swimmers occupying top-five positions on the season’s performance list. Other events are more polarized Princeton has three of the league’s top four in the 100 backstroke this season, while Harvard’s top four 1000 yard freestylers rank above Princeton’s first. The Tigers and Crimson sit one-two in the 200m medley relay and 800m freestyle relay.
Six sessions make for a long meet, where every little detail matters, according to Hasler.
“You’ve got to take care of the little things and control the variables. Warming down and getting massages to flush out the muscles are essential. It’s a war of attrition.”
The final day will see seven event finals. Sophomore school record holder En-Wei Hu-Van Wright will be joined by juniors Connor Maher and Michael Strand in the 200m backstroke and all will be doubling back from the 100m. However, it is Harvard’s Jack Manchester who leads the league with his 200 backstroke time of 1:43.43 from the H-Y-P meet. The 200m butterfly features the league’s only NCAA A-cut mark, a 1:42.94 from Glenn Thomas of Brown who leads the league by over two seconds. Harvard and Princeton feature prevalently in each event, with neither team showing a distinct advantage in either event.
The lists, times and accomplishments give some sense of who the top teams are, but ultimately the Ivy League Championships are unpredictable. When a team’s year of training comes down to one meet, it is all about who has ice water in his veins and the guts to lay it all on the line. The last time this meet was held at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool three years ago, the Crimson was poised to knock the Tigers from their perch atop the league. But a few ballsy performances saw Princeton bring home the Bob Kiputh trophy by 5.5 points. This year appears to be as close as ever and Hasler spoke to the importance of having friendly faces in the crowd.
“The eyes of the Princeton nation around the country will be watching. We should have a large presence there to try and take away home advantage for Harvard.”
The entire event can be viewed live on the Ivy League digital network. Preliminary swims start at 11 a.m. and finals are at 6 p.m.