Swimmers are close 3rd at HYP

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In last year’s HYP, the Harvard women’s swim team had a 70-point cushion between itself and Yale. This past weekend, things were a little less comfortable for the Crimson women.

In a meet fought tooth-and-nail for two days this weekend, the Bulldog women (6-4, 3-3 Ivy) barely lost to the Cantabs (7-1, 6-1), coming up short by a mere five points, 162-157. In the other half of the HYP double dual meet, the Elis fell to Princeton (9-1, 6-0) by a score of 208.5-110.5.

“I don’t think it was a disappointment,” Paige Harazin ’04 said. “We had a lot of spirit. [The HYP] was one of the most fun meets I’d ever been to. This one was great, both swimming-wise and spirit-wise.”

The Tigers, perennial Ivy League champions, started the meet strong, taking first and second place in the 200-medley relay. Princeton never looked back, defeating Yale and triumphing over Harvard 214-105. Leading the way for the Tigers were triple winner Stephanie Hsiao, victorious in the 100-yard breaststroke, the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley and double winner Sarah Fraumann, who won the 1000-yard and 500-yard freestyle.

Three Elis notched victories Saturday, all in extremely close races. Harazin won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:49.75, fending off a last minute push by Princeton standout Fraumann, who finished .26 seconds after Harazin. Moira McCloskey ’07 held on to a small lead throughout the 100-yard backstroke to win in 57.03. Melanie Loftus ’05 won the 1-meter diving competition — in which only 10 points separated the top five divers — with a score of 251.95.

While the Tigers jumped out in front early, the Harvard-Yale meet was close throughout. At the end of the first day, the Crimson was leading the Elis by only seven points, 88-81. The Bulldogs were extremely happy with their initial performance, but remained focused on the task at hand.

“We’re swimming really well, diving really well,” Yale head coach Frank Keefe said after Saturday’s competition. “The kids are excited to try to put it together. We’ve just got to win some touch-outs. These are close races; we’ve got to get to the wall before Harvard.”

The Elis did exactly what Keefe said they needed to do. A confident and energized Yale won several important contests early Sunday, all of which were decided at the wall. Harazin came in third in the 200-freestyle, but first among the Harvard and Yale swimmers with a time of 51.71. In the next event, McCloskey captured her second win of the weekend in the 200-yard backstroke in 2:01.40. Although Cristina Hession ’07 was unable to avenge her Saturday loss to Fraumann in the 1000-yard freestyle, the Eli pulled ahead of the pack with only four laps to go in the 500-yard freestyle, earning second place and, more importantly, beating all of the Harvard swimmers. To top off the comeback, Meg Gill ’07 put up a 56.91 in the 100-yard butterfly, beating her personal best by over a second. Although she was only in the third of five heats, her performance was good for the victory.

By the end of the 100-yard butterfly, the Elis had pulled ahead of Harvard. The Bulldogs led by four points — 134-130 — with only three events remaining.

“We were really pumped,” Megan Bailey ’06 said. “We’d gone from getting killed last year to being ahead at that point.”

Entering the 3-meter diving — an event Yale has been strong in this season — the Elis were in position to protect their lead. But unexpectedly, Harvard divers took first, fourth and fifth, led by freshman standout Annika Giesbrecht ’07. Loftus took third, but it was not enough to prevent the four-point lead from becoming a five-point deficit.

“The dives that I have started competing recently have a high degree of difficulty, and over the past few weeks I’ve improved them in competition,” Loftus said. “Nevertheless, when you initially begin competing a harder list, you’re not going to score ’7′s on every dive. There’s a bit of a learning curve to a new dive.”

After Megan Bailey ’06 and Caroline Stephenson ’05 took second and third, respectively, in the 200-yard individual medley, the Elis trailed the Crimson by ten points and needed both the first and second 400-yard freestyle relay squads to beat Harvard’s first. Keefe had been saving several of his top swimmers for the event. The A relay of McCloskey, Gill, Chase Butler ’07 and Harazin did beat the top Crimson team, but the B relay could not catch the Crimson’s best.

When all was said and done, the Elis had fallen short by five points.

Despite the loss, several Bulldogs said that they were proud of how well they performed and that the score matters very little to them in sizing up their own performance.

“You swim just for the sake of swimming and you gain points concurrently,” Ashley Kochanek ’07 said.

Even some Crimson swimmers said that they were surprised and impressed with the strength of this year’s Bulldog squad.

“To be honest, no, [we were not expecting that close competition from Yale],” Harvard swimmer Alli Bates said. “It was our fault for underestimating them. They swam so well; I give them so much credit. They swam phenomenally and stuck together as a team.”

The Elis finish their regular season next weekend, at home against Brown.

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