Some say that the only way to get better in sports is to take on the best. On Saturday, the athletes of Penn men’s swimming got exactly that chance.
Despite strong individual efforts from several athletes, Penn fell to Ivy League-leading Harvard 182.5-115.5 in the last competition at Sheerr Pool of the season.
With the nationally ranked No. 23 Crimson (8-2, 7-0 Ivy) visiting, the Quakers (6-4, 4-3) had plenty of reason to bring their A-game. In the beginning of the meet, though, it certainly did not show.
The powerhouse Crimson took it to the Red and Blue from the get-go, dominating Penn in early events li ke the 1000-yard free, the 200 fly and the three-meter dive. It didn’t take long for Harvard to take a commanding lead over the Quakers.
Halfway through the 16-event meet, a Crimson victory was all but inevitable.
Penn’s coaches and players gave a variety of reasons for the team’s inexplicably slow start to the meet.
“We were a little sluggish,” senior captain Rhoads Worster said.
“Some of the guys didn’t believe we were going to be in the races,” coach Mike Schnur added.
Ultimately, though, Schnur readily admitted that, regardless of how they start, his athletes are not a threat to the Crimson yet.
“Harvard is a better team than we are,” he said. “We did our best, but we have a little ways to go to catch up to them.”
Penn showed off its young talent later in the meet, picking up victories from freshman Jack Stein in the one-meter dive and sophomore Brendan Crystal in the 400-yard individual medley.
The standout swimmer of the meet, though, was Rhoads Worster.
“Obviously it’s pretty exciting,” Worster said of the meet. “The crowd gets into it and your adrenaline flows that much more. It was my last swim. All those factors add into it.”
In his last competitive swim at Sheerr Pool, Worster put on an absolute show. Early in the meet, he was part of Penn’s 200 medley pool record performance and placed first in the men’s 100 backstroke.
But he wasn’t finished.
Worster looked like a man possessed, overtaking Harvard’s Jack Pretto for first place in the 100 backstroke, posting his second pool record of the day in the process.
When the 400 free relay rolled around, the crowd could hardly contain themselves. Harvard maintained a slight lead when Worster, the anchor leg, dove into the pool.
“I’ve been in that situation before, where it comes down to the last relay,” Worster said.
“I knew the kid I was racing against … I was pretty sure at the 50 I was behind by a little bit, but I knew I was going to be able to get him on the second 50.”
With the crowd excited, Worster overtook Harvard’s Danny Crigler to win the relay and clinch an undefeated season for Penn’s 400 free relay A-team. And his performance gave him his third pool record of the day.
“He expects to win every race … and that’s the right attitude,” Schnur said.
While Penn’s top senior went out in style, the team has plenty to work on in preparation for the Ivy championships in a few weeks. Schnur maintains that the next logical step is simple: “rest.”
The team will return to action in the Cavalier Invitational next week before completing their season at the Ivy Championships at the end of the month.