Winning 42 straight in any sport, against any opponent, is no small feat. The Princeton women's swimming and diving team has seen plenty of challenges during its current surge, but few will match the one facing the Tigers this coming weekend.
The two-time defending Ivy League champion is entering its biggest month with the daunting challenge of a trip north to Harvard's Blodgett Pool to take on both the Crimson and the Yale Bulldogs during the annual H-Y-P meet.
"We know we have our work cut out for us with these next three meets," head coach Susan Teeter said. "Harvard has a talented team that should help them dominate the league, and we know Yale will be a tough competitor. The Bulldogs have some very fast times already. We're so lucky to have great rivals to race as we prepare for Ivy Champs. And with the H-Y-P meet being at Harvard, it's a great opportunity for us to race in the pool where we'll have our championship meet.
"After HYP, we face Columbia, which is having a great season," Teeter added about the Feb. 10 Senior Day meet at DeNunzio Pool. "They have posted some amazing swims so far and I expect that they will be a force to contend with at our dual meet. They took Harvard to the last relay and we expect this to be an exciting meet."
The women's H-Y-P meet will take place over two sessions, beginning Saturday night at 6 p.m., and continuing Super Sunday at noon. A full order of events can be found found here.
The meet will be streamed online, and fans will have several options for subscription purchase. A single session will cost $9.95, while the entire women's (or men's) meet will cost $14.95. Fans who wish to see all four sessions (the men will compete Friday night and Saturday afternoon) can purchase the full weekend package for $24.95.
Live results will be available here.
Princeton came out of its exam break with a hard-fought 175-125 win at Dartmouth last weekend. Sophomore Lisa Boyce had a brilliant meet, winning three individual events and setting a pool record in the 100 fly.
"We were pleased with our competition against Dartmouth," Teeter said. "We needed to race and get some kinks out from exams. Dartmouth has done such a great job with their program and I know they will be great at Ivy Champs. We're very excited to be four weeks out from Ivy Championships. It's nice to know the hard work is almost over. I think these women are ready for some rest."
Of course, the balance of hard work and rest will culminate at the Ivy League Championships, held Feb. 23-25 at Blodgett Pool. While this weekend may serve as an appetizer, Teeter is well aware that the main course will be an exciting one.
"All of these meets promise to add up to a great championship race for the entire league," she said. "In talking with my colleagues, I think we all feel that we'll be chasing Harvard for the victory."
As for this weekend, all three programs bring in elite swimmers among the Ivy League field.
Boyce comes into the weekend with the Ivy League's best time in the 50 free (22.59), and she has the best 100 time among the H-Y-P field (49.59). Yale's Alexandra Forrester remains one of the league's best sprinters (23.13/50.79), while Harvard's Sarah Sumner and Faith Martin will both factor in the mix.
Princeton also has strong sprinters in both Carter Stephens and Laura Slater, while Aislinn Smalling will try to break into Harvard's grip on the mid-distance free events. Martin leads the Ivies with a 1:49.53 in the 200, while Kelsey Hojan Clark and Sumner aren't far behind. Smalling is sixth in the league with a time of 1:50.79.
Hojan Clark has a six-second edge on the rest of the league in the 500 (4:47.04), and the Crimson have four of the top five times in the event. Princeton freshman Reece Iriondo has the fourth-best time (4:54.28), while the likes of Maureen McCotter, Claire Loht and Lauren Shanley could each make a big jump in the event.
While Harvard has the edge in the 500, Princeton has posted the deeper mile times this season. Hojan Clark leads all Ivy swimmers (16:34.54), but McCotter (16:40.91), Shanley (16:52.96) and Iriondo (16:55.95) are each in the top four.
Boyce is the reigning champion in the 100 back, and her time of 53.73 is the best in the Ivy League this season. Harvard's Meghan Leddy (55.16) and Princeton senior co-captain Meredith Monroe (55.36) will be big challengers to Boyce. Leddy is the favorite in the 200 back, which she won at the Ivy Championships last year; her time of 1:54.92 is four seconds faster than Monroe and more than five seconds faster than anybody else in the league.
Princeton will be looking towards senior co-captain Kerry Gruendel to make a move in the breast events. Both she and freshman teammate Emily Yu will rank fourth entering the weekend in the 100 (1:04.35), while Harvard's Stephanie Ferrell leads the way at 1:02.64. Yu has Princeton's top time in the 200 (2:19.58), though Ferrell is tops at 2:15.52.
Yale's Forrester is the clear favorite in the 100 fly (53.05), though both Boyce and Carter Stephens have times below 54.50. Harvard's Danielle Schulkin has top-five times in both the 100 and 200, while the Crimson's Courtney Otto is the only Ivy swimmer with a sub-2:00 performance in the 200 fly this season.
Both IM races will feature a handful of Ivy leaders from both Princeton and Harvard. The Crimson's Martin holds the edge in the 200 IM (2:01.39), though both Gruendel and Slear are right behind. Both Otto and Martin are leaders in the 400 IM, while both Slear and Caitlin Baran will factor for Princeton.
Diving can often be a big momentum creator at H-Y-P, and Princeton will be looking towards senior Christina Kirkwood, who is in the midst of her best season, and 2011 Ivy League Championships Diver of the Meet Rachel Zambrowicz to create an edge for Princeton.