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Harvard Continues To Increase Recruiting Power in the Pool

Traditionally, a few select colleges have largely dominated the recruiting scene of men’s college swimming. These are large, often public schools: think powerhouses like Cal, Florida, USC, and Texas.

But it might be time to add Harvard to that list.

Slowly but surely, Harvard has become an annual recruiting powerhouse in men’s swimming, often attracting athletes away from its well-established counterparts on the West Coast. After becoming stronger year by year, Harvard recruited the 12th best recruiting class in the nation in 2014 and the seventh-best this past year, according to SwimSwam Magazine. Princeton is the only other school among the Ancient Eight which has had similar recruiting success, having landed the sixth-best recruiting class in 2014.

This marks a sharp transition for a program that traditionally used to lag behind the typical recruiting heavyweights but has now emerged as a real competitor on the recruiting front.

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Last year, Harvard landed one of its biggest commits in recent memory in now-sophomore Ed Kim, a sprinter out of Washington who at one point was the top-ranked recruit in the nation. This year, Harvard once again landed an impressively deep recruiting class, headlined by sprinter Sebastian Lutz, backstroker Daniel Tran, and distance swimmer Logan Houck.

So what makes Harvard so appealing to these top-flight swimmers? Harvard’s athletic appeal might not rest just in its athletics program but in its academic prestige.

“A huge factor for me in my choice was my life after swimming,” Kim said. “I looked at which school would be the best for me in that aspect, and Harvard was at the top of the list—since, obviously, it’s Harvard. Academics was a really big factor in my decision.”

Because the Ivy League does not award athletic scholarships, an athlete’s academic record also plays a large role in the school’s decision to recruit an athlete—meaning all Crimson swimmers must also adhere to Harvard’s high athletic standards.

“Part of the reason [for my commit] was the balance that Harvard had between academics and athletics,” said Tran, who was named a National Merit Finalist and Presidential Scholar candidate in high school. “I found it to be the best balance, where you could focus on both things at once.”

For these student-athletes, the recruiting process often starts at the end of sophomore year in high school, when swimmers first introduce themselves to schools. On July 1 of the summer after a swimmer’s junior year, college coaches are free to start actively recruiting rising high school seniors.

During the summer, Harvard coaches attend the biggest meets of the year—such as nationals and junior nationals—to watch potential recruits swim. If interested, coaches will pay the swimmers house visits and invite them to formal recruiting trips on campus at the beginning of their senior year.

“The recruiting trips are a huge part of the recruiting process,” Tran said. “It’s on those trips when you get a closer look at the team, at the coaches, at how the training program is.”

It’s also on those trips that many of the swimmers decide on Harvard.

“For me, the moment I knew I wanted to come here was when I walked onto the campus and met everyone for the first time,” Kim said. “I got to know the guys really well; they were really nice to me, and I felt really welcome around here.”

Tran echoed the sentiment.

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