At Harvard, Sundays are not the most fun day of the week. It’s a day to catch up on sleep, but more importantly to catch up on work. Honestly, Sundays are boring.  But as I sit here at my desk, looking at all the work I have to do today, I am still smiling on the inside. While I write this blog post, I cannot get out of my mind how fired up I still am about what HWSD has accomplished this past weekend. I’m Sara Li, one of the captains and a junior sprinter on HWSD, and I am constantly in awe at the amazing ability of each of my teammates, and how we all come together to form the power of this team.

This Saturday was our season-opener against Cornell and Dartmouth. Our first meet of the season, everyone was pumped to finally get out and compete, with the freshmen especially ready to experience what being a part of HWSD actually means. Everyone’s high spirits were evident as we boarded the bus to prepare for our 8 hour bus ride to upstate New York. As each of us opened our SP (secret psych) gifts we felt their support and thoughtfulness, even though our SPs remain anonymous throughout the year. Unfortunately, the divers had left separately and we were not able to travel there together, but swimmers and divers alike knew that this meet would set the tone for this season. We were excited to show the rest of the Ivy League how hard we have been working every day at practice. As Margaret Ramsey, one of our freshmen, said in our team meeting, “I’m excited to finally race. I’m excited to swim for HWSD. I’m excited to actually see our team’s traditions in reality…. I’m just really excited!!!!” Gotta love that freshman enthusiasm.

After a restful night’s sleep and a fun dynamic warm up in the hotel pool in the morning, we finally arrived at Cornell’s pool, where we got to watch our divers compete on the 1 meter boards and see Brittany Powell and Amanda Largent finish 1-2! After cheering on our divers (D-I-V-E-R-S Harvard divers are the best!) it was the swimmers turn to race our hearts out. All in all, we won 12 out of 14 swimming events and crushed 8 of their pool records. We even broke one of our own records, with freshman Kendall Crawford going 55.04 in her 100 backstroke! Needless to say, there was some fast swimming happening. But aside from our record-breaking performances, however, people on our team were stepping up across the board. There were lifetime bests, in-season bests, good turns, good finishes, and beautiful underwaters. Even though the freshmen were probably nervous for their first collegiate meet, freshmen Sherry Liu and Marlee Erlich conquered the 1000 free and got the momentum going, and the whole team fed off each other and kept up the energy up until the very last event.

Throughout the meet, everyone learned from each other as we each gave it our all in the pool. Kyle Cutter, our assistant volunteer coach, sent out an inspiring email to the team before we left. In the email, she explained how we should be “building a bridge” this season, taking the good and leaving the bad from last year. I think that this HWSD has taken those words to heart- this meet definitely showed that the team we have this year is amazing, even though in a completely different way from last year. We are all so excited to finally be underway with our racing season and I expect many more memorable races and dives to come. Our first meet was nerve-wracking, inspiring, and exhilarating all at once. Judging from this first meet, quite frankly I would be scared if I was another team in the Ivy League.  HWSD has definitely shown that it is ready to go.

"H-A-R-V-A-R-D!" The team gathers for a cheer to kick off the swimming portion of the meet at Cornell.

Team Building

Hello HWSD fans it’s sophomore Courtney Otto!! October has dawned the official start of our season, and coaches Steph and Chris have wasted no time whipping us into tip-top-ivy-champion form.  Yoga with Arturo, the new and improved zoo, and finally the distribution of separate groups means that the new season is fully underway! However, with all of these new changes, one thing has stayed the same – Saturday morning team sets.

In my personal opinion team sets are one of the essential building blocks of HWSD. The beginning of the season is extremely important as the entire dynamic of the team is different year to year. Sets like this give us the opportunity to integrate the freshman and instill in them the values that we all hold dear. They usually take about half an hour, and the entire set is centered around the idea of giving your all for the team. This past Saturday we did a 150 point set. Essentially, everyone would do a 100 free all out, and for every second under 1:00, we would get one point.  The beginning started out with the banging of kickboards and echos of “ go Harvard!” as the heats began. Exceptional swims were swum, especially Sara Li pushing a 53 from a push! Round two followed the same pattern, and by the end of the heats we were only about 20 points away from 150.  Like true teammates, those who felt like they had a little extra to give stepped up to finish off the points. It was pretty remarkable to see the team come together to finish of the 150 points, and there were some crazy times swum. Ana Anaya blew everyone away as she came off the third turn sprinting fly.  It’s swims like this that inspire us as a team.

As we grow as a team throughout the rest of the year, I’m so excited to see how truly unstoppable we become. The focus, and goals of this team are extraordinary, and there is no doubt in my mind that we will become a force and be ready to defend our Ivy League title.

HWSD after winning 2012 Ivies

HWSD Love <3 (Sara Li ’14)

Hi all!

          Sara Li here writing the post for this week! I’m a sophomore from a little town named Longmeadow, right outside of Springfield, Massachusetts. Growing up an hour and a half from Harvard, I would always have my championship meets at Blodgett and Harvard seemed like a far-off, magical place. Well, I’m here now, in my sophomore year (!), and I must say that it is truly an amazing place to be. And quite honestly, being on HWSD has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me and has made my Harvard experience infinitely better.
          So I guess the theme of this post will be to try and convey how extraordinary our team is. I realize it’s a difficult task, but you all know how special it is to be a part of something as great as HWSD. Anyway, I had a bumpy beginning this year, and this experience in particular made me realize how lucky I am :)  I injured my hip flexor/psoas two weeks into the year, during captains practices. I was so excited to be back at school, for the new (super fast) freshmen, for being an Olympic Trials year… I just did a little bit too much, too quickly and strained an old injury. Things got worse and worse, and I ended up being out of the water for around a month. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot in the long run, it felt like forever. And during this time I was DEVASTATED. The hip flexor is a weird part of your body, so it affected everything- walking, standing, even sitting (swimming was not a possibility). I was in constant discomfort and things weren’t looking too bright. Every time I moved I felt like it was getting worse, and of course I still had to constantly be walking around (being the only means of transportation). Whenever I could, I would just sit on the couch and try to move as little as possible (which also was extremely uncomfortable).
          During this whole time, I would try to stay as involved with the team as I could, but it was hard to commute to the pool for practice every day! Often, Matt would be nice enough to drive me over to the pool so I could see the trainer. I felt quite useless during this period. I found that I had a lot more free time without morning practices, and the afternoons felt endlessly open and free without practice to break it up in between. I had SO MUCH TIME I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was unreal to experience being a “normal” Harvard student without the crazy training schedule of a varsity athlete. Even with all this free time, I was still barely getting by on finishing all my work and other obligations of life in general. How in the world did I manage to do all this plus swimming before? However, after a while, I started getting used to it and just accepting it. Days kind of blurred by. I thought a lot about swimming, my priorities, about being a varsity athlete at a place like Harvard, about life in general (woah). And I realized something: I hated not being a swimmer.
          Yes, there are so many other great things to be involved in here. I understand people who cannot continue to swim during their time here- If your heart isn’t in it, it’s almost impossible to have the kind of dedication this team demands day in and day out. Harvard is an extremely stressful place to begin with, and it can be pretty overwhelming at times. It’s especially demanding because we have so much to deal with, and not only do we spend a lot of time practicing, but we are physically exhausted for the rest of the day. We don’t have scholarships to keep up or anything that binds us to the swim team… But that in itself brings something special to the team. We bond through our shared struggles, and the fact is everyone who is on the team is there because they love it. Being on HWSD isn’t just being on a swim team, it’s being part of a family. It’s being part of a tradition of strong, beautiful women who are totally diverse in background and personality, but similar in their goals and in their spirit. It’s amazing what we accomplish day in and day out, and to be surrounded by these people every day. I missed having this team in my life and I missed being part of something much greater than myself.  (Also, now that I’m swimming again, even food tastes so much better (awwww yeah metabolism), and sleep is so cherished and infinitely more satisfying.)
          If you couldn’t tell, I love Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving. Obviously, if you know me it’s so typical that I just wrote a post describing how how much I love this team… I’m a big proponent of hwsd love (shoutout to Dream Team Fourteen) and I hope I reminded all you alums of your love for HWSD as well. I could actually go on and on but this post is a bit long I’m afraid. I’m looking forward to the next two and a half years with these lovely ladies and I’ll cherish the memories when I graduate. And of course, I’m so excited to see what we can accomplish together this year! GO crimson!
HWSD love :)
Harvard-Yale Weekend

Sophomores and Freshmen at the Big Game