Daniel J. Shevchik '03

Swimming & Diving | Class of 2018

 


Harvard Athletic Achievements

4-time All-America honoree in the 200 backstroke (2000, 2002) and 400 IM (2001, 2002) … 4-time All-America honorable mention in the 400 IM (2000, 2003), 200 free relay (2000), and 800 free relay (2000) … 12-time Ivy League Champion in the 200 backstroke (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003), 200 IM (2001, 2002, 2003), 400 IM (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003), and 800 free relay (2000) … 14-time All-Ivy League honoree … At the time of his graduation, held Ivy League Championships meet records in the 200 backstroke, 200 IM, and 400 IM ... 4-time recipient of the Phil Moriarty Award as the Ivy League Championships Swimmer of the Meet ... Recipient of the Harold Ulen Award as the Ivy League's Career High Point Swimmer ... 3-time recipient of Harvard's Eugene B. Wyman Trophy as the team member who scores the most points in dual meets, and the William J. Brooks Trophy as the swimmer and/or diver who contributes the most to the success of the team ... Honored with Harvard's Stowell Trophy as the senior who, through perseverance, diligence, and untiring self-sacrifice, has most improved during his collegiate career ... Led Harvard to 3 Ivy League championships (2000, 2001, 2003) ... Harvard record holder in the 400 IM (3:46.17), ranks 6th in the 200 IM (1:46.98) … 4-year letterwinner … Captained 2003 Harvard men’s swimming and diving team ... Won a bronze medal for Team USA at the 1999 Pan American Games in the 200 meter backstroke.


Remembering Harvard Athletics

Thank you to the Harvard Varsity Club for the honor of induction and for the opportunity to share these thoughts.

As I reflect back on my Harvard swimming days, different types of memories come to mind that all feel as if they could have happened yesterday: (i) the sights, sounds, and smells of my life as a swimmer, (ii) the fun we had outside of the pool, (iii) the grueling training, (iv) the end of season meets with extraordinary highs and lows, and (v) the people I experienced it all with, who became lifelong friends.

A collection of swimming related sensory experiences has been ingrained deeply in my brain: the sound of my CD alarm clock whirring to life to play Days of the New at 5:35am every morning; the frigid wind on my face and hands as I biked across the Charles River for 6am practice through Cambridge’s unforgiving winter mornings; the scent of warm, chlorinated air hitting my nostrils as I walked onto the deck of Blodgett Pool, a smell that was inescapable on my skin until my swimming career concluded; the din of lights coming on mixed with half awake groans and mutterings, as we stretched before practice and exchanged barbs, stories, and jokes; the sight of the solitary black line on the bottom of the pool that tracked the miles we swam; the popping of sound every time my ears broke the surface, often punctuated by the booming voice of head coach Tim Murphy imploring us onward; the agony of my muscles as I endeavored to push past my limits and sought to keep pace with teammates deep into practice; a constant sense of sleep fighting to overtake my eyes no matter what I was doing, but especially during 10am lectures; the embrace of my brothers as we locked arms and shoulders and chanted “Harvard on the War Path” to get ourselves pumped up for meets; the soundtrack to The Rock blaring in my headphones as I got loose behind the blocks; the unique sense of exhausted exhilaration following the completion of a great race. Quite a few of them were at least moderately unpleasant at the time, but they all bring a smile to my face now.

Many of my fondest memories took place outside of the pool. Being part of the “parka mafia” meant having 30+ brothers you could count on to help get through the demands of life as a student-athlete. It all began with my recruiting trip in October 1998. Ironically, given Harvard’s reputation, it was the only school I visited where everyone on the team seemed down to earth. I knew it was the place for me when we spent a large portion of a Friday afternoon playing kickball. By the time pre-frosh weekend rolled around, and I stayed with sophomores Jamey Waters and Adam Shaw, I already felt like part of the team. Each year got started in fun fashion with preseason gatherings where the team got together away from campus to unofficially begin training and let loose, trying not to destroy the homes of our generous team parents or get into too much trouble before classes started. Freshman year initiation was innocent enough, characterized as “a challenge not a mandate,” and allowed us to quickly bond as a class and team, including getting the phone numbers of what seemed like nearly the entire freshman class of girls signed on the white T-shirts we had to wear all of freshman week. Blocking and rooming with my teammates and best friends was a given. One of the most memorable things, among all the ridiculousness of living together in college, was deciding with John Persinger and Andrew McConnell that three beds in one 8’x10’ dorm room and three desks in another, was the optimal set-up in Claverly 02 for academic success and peak athletic performance sophomore year. Team meals every morning and evening after practice were highlights, when we’d normally overtake Elliot House consuming ungodly amounts of hard boiled eggs and some incredibly odd combinations of food in an effort to ingest as many calories as possible. Team traditions big and small such as “Hey Loddy” limericks between sets, Hipsa chants post meet, rounds of team golf, epic ultimate frisbee games, and monthly comedic iron man rankings (with Mike Gentilucci always in the lead) kept us sane amidst heavy training. Hearing the senior speeches at the team banquet brought each year to a poignant conclusion with heartfelt perspectives on the ups and downs of swimming careers and the meaning of the experience. 

It’s hard to capture the training experience. It was mentally and physically grueling, but it instilled great confidence at the end of the season and created a very tight bond with those who went through it with you. It could be extremely monotonous with all that swimming back and forth, but the opportunity to continually measure progress on the pace clock and against your peers in the next lane over was very rewarding as well. Each season officially kicked off with the midnight practice on the first date the Ivy League technically allowed the team to practice. Tim always had something up his sleeve, like practicing without goggles in the MAC to awaken the spirits of teams’ past one year. Once we got into the rhythm of daily (double) practices it was a love-hate relationship with the grind and intensity of every day training among such a driven group. Our class had a particular over-competitive streak, and I fondly recall Tim taking the rest of the team to task for letting the freshmen set the tone in practice early in my first season.  I loved racing and competing as much as anyone I knew, but it was exhausting doing it for hours on end multiple times per day. The love-hate relationship was particularly true for the mental and physical challenge of training for the 400 IM, which required stamina, toughness, and technical proficiency in all four strokes (although I never quite figured out breaststroke). Thanks to Will Oren, Rick Dewey, John Persinger, Mike Groves, and Alex Siroky, among others, for pushing through it with me. I did not like training backstroke even though it was my best stroke, but great mentors (thanks Mike Im) and mentees (Dave Cromwell seemed to turn out ok) kept me motivated and focused. Annual training trips over winter break allowed us to amp up the yardage, train outside, and enjoy time together away from campus. Sophomore year training trip in Sarasota was particularly memorable. The air temperature struggled to stay above 32 degrees and the only way to stay warm was to keep swimming. Somehow we seemed to fit 30+ guys in the hot tub after practice each day. The best part of the training season was the end-of-season taper when practices eased up to give us the energy to swim our best in the championship meets. It was the only time of year I felt like a normal human being. 

The end of season meets themselves were when all the hard work paid-off (or sometimes didn’t). These meets consisted of the HYP (Harvard-Yale-Princeton) meet that capped the dual meet season, the EISL Championship meet (Ivy League plus Army and Navy) that awarded the conference title, and the NCAA Championships. HYP and EISLs were the focus from a team perspective. The NCAA Championships each year were more of an individual endeavor, but I took great pride in representing Harvard on the national stage all four years, especially when John Cole and I got 17th place as a team with just the two of us qualifying to compete in the meet my junior year.  

Freshman and sophomore years seemed like effortless sweeps through the Ivy League season with almost everything going right. Freshman year at HYP we were down significantly to Princeton after the first day despite being in our home pool. I remember senior Marek Biegluk giving an impassioned speech imploring us to dig deeper at the team dinner, which we did, and ultimately pulled out the victory. The EISL Championship that year felt more like a coronation as we breezed to victory at Princeton. The highlight for me was combining with classmate Cory Walker and seniors Ben Rosen and Jan Sibbersen to win the 800 free relay to cap the next to last night of the meet. The meet was effectively won at that point and seeing the pride and joy on Ben and Jan’s faces as they capped off their careers really stuck with me. Sophomore year was probably my personal peak in terms of conference championship performance. I don’t remember my times, but I do remember being uncomfortably behind halfway through both the 200 IM and 200 backstroke, and pulling out victories heavily motivated by not wanting to let my teammates down. Junior year EISLs was a low point as we lost in our home pool to Princeton despite being heavily favored. Because there is such a strong bond with the alumni (many of whom we had swum with and were in attendance), and we had won six years in a row, we felt like we had let everyone down. As bad of a taste as junior year left, the ending to senior year couldn’t have been scripted in a more storybook way. First we faced more disappointment, losing the HYP meet at home to Princeton. I’m still annoyed I was touched out in the 200 backstroke (an event I won at the conference meet all four years), and that point differential was the difference in the meet. Heading into EISLs we had redemption on our minds for the year prior and for HYP, but Princeton outswam us through the first two days. When we lost the same 800 free relay on the next to last night of the meet that we had won my freshman year, a championship felt like it was probably out of reach. A fortuitous episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos cheered us up over the team dinner and motivational words from an array of coaches and swimmers over the next twenty four hours (James Lawler’s Easter themed words being the most memorable) coaxed out the best single day performance we had during my four years on the team. We got the Hollywood ending, passing Princeton on the scoreboard in the next to last event. I can still clearly recall almost all of our individual swims that evening and the moment standing next to Andrew McConnell, his face painted like Braveheart, while watching diving, when we knew we were going to win. 

What brings the biggest smile to my face is just thinking about the people I experienced it all with. Swimming is a completely individual sport much of the time, but being part of Harvard men’s swimming and diving never made it feel that way. We had a special environment, supporting one another’s pursuits of individual, and often directly competitive, goals, while remaining unified and dedicated to our common cause. Thanks to Tim, assistant coach Sean Schimmel, and all the volunteer assistants (including current head coach Kevin Tyrrell) for steering us and creating such a great atmosphere. It laid the foundation for many friendships that continue to this day (in addition to some fast swimming). I’m an only child, but the 70+ guys I shared the pool with during my four years all felt like brothers. That’s especially true for my classmates Jan Cieslikiewicz, Rick Dewey, Leif Drake, Mike Gentilucci, Ben Hanley, Andrew McConnell, Ryan Parmenter, John Persinger, Nate Towery, and Cory Walker. We saw each other at our best and at our worst, experienced many highs and lows together, sometimes drove each other nuts, and got to know one another in a deep way that just doesn’t happen elsewhere in life. When I see anyone from those teams (some I still see on a regular basis) we pick right up as if no time has passed. It’s such a strong bond that the feelings of kinship extend to anyone who is an alumnus of Harvard swimming, even if we have no real personal connection. I’m fortunate to also have had, and continue to have, a special relationship with Tim Murphy himself, who was also my coach growing up. Tim is a truly great coach without whom I wouldn’t have been anything special. 

On a final note, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my parents, Dan and Julie Shevchik. They were perfect swim parents in every sense of the word, attending every single meet all four years, and offering nothing but love and support. Every athlete (and kid) should be so lucky.
 

-- Your Team for Life --