A dramatic victory for Harrison Wagner in the 50 free and a number of stellar performances in both the preliminaries and finals has kept the Princeton men's swimming and diving team in position to make a run at Harvard after the first day of the 2013 Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships.
Harvard, which went undefeated during the dual meet season, leads the field with 467 points, while Princeton is second with 423 points. In terms of the championship chase, those two programs have already separated themselves from the rest of the field. Columbia is third with 301 points, only six points ahead of Yale.
For the sake of comparison, Princeton also trailed Harvard after the first day of the 2011 championships. That deficit was 27 points, and Princeton ended the second day leading the field by more than 100 points. So big swings are possible, though that championship weekend was held inside Princeton's own DeNunzio Pool. This weekend is in the new Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center at Brown.
Easily the highlight of the day came from Wagner, who defeated a trio of Crimson swimmers in a thrilling 50 free final to win his first individual Ivy League title in 19.61. That time currently stands 18th in the nation and should punch Wagner's ticket to the NCAA Championships.
While Harvard went 2-3-4 in the event, Princeton did get an 'A' final performance from Connor Maher, who finished in 20.36. Freshman Jeremy Wong won the bonus final in 20.39 to score a few extra team points in a meet that could come down to the final relay.
The 500 free looked like a potential swing event for the Crimson, though Princeton placed one in the 'A' final and got some help from the rest of the league. Yale led the way with three finalists, including eventual winner Rob Harder (4:19.20). The Crimson did end up with three in the Top 11, but Princeton junior Paul Nolle reached the 'A' final and took eighth in 4:32.05, while freshman Zach Ridout added a 12th-place finish in 4:28.42.
Princeton made its first big move of the meet in the 200 IM, where it placed five swimmers in the Top 10. Amazingly, all five were freshman, including Teo D'Alessandro, who broke a Princeton record and took second overall in 1:45.47. Classmate Byron Sanborn finished fourth in 1:46.93, while Marco Bove finished seventh in 1:48.12.
Princeton also did some scoring in the 'B' final, as Sandy Bole (1:47.42) and En-Wei Hu-Van Wright (1:48.15) went 1-2 in the event to pick up additional points. A sixth freshman, breaststroke specialist Jack Pohlmann, added points in the bonus final.
The 50 free was next, and then all eyes turned to the 1-meter diving competition. Both Harvard and Princeton combined to provide more than half of the field in the 'A' final, though two familiar names rose to the top. Harvard's Michael Mosca and Princeton's Stevie Vines split both championship events last year, with each earning a victory and a runner-up performance. Those two finished 1-2 again, with Mosca winning the event with 387.05 points. Vines took second with 348.30, while junior Mark O'Connell added a seventh-place finish with 314.75 points.
The night ended with the 400 medley relay, which turned into a thrilling three-team showdown in the final 25-yard sprint. Strand got Princeton out to a good start with a 48.20 split in the back, and D'Alessandro did everything he could in the breast split (53.74) to stay with All-America candidates Chuck Katis (Harvard) and Nejc Zupan (Dartmouth).
Senior Kaspar Raigla, who will make his individual debut Friday, went 47.80 in the fly and gave Wagner a chance to make up the ground in the final 100. The sophomore nearly pulled off a magical finish. His split of 42.74 was the fastest in the pool, but it fell just short. Harvard took first in 3:12.18, while Dartmouth placed second in 3:12.32. Princeton placed third in 3:12.48, more than 2.5 seconds faster than the rest of the field.
Friday's preliminary session will begin at 11 am, with finals scheduled to start at 6 pm. Events will include the 400 IM, the 100 fly, the 200 free, the 100 breast, and the 100 back, as well as the 200 medley relay and the 800 free relay. The preliminary and consolation rounds of the 3-meter diving competition will also be held.