Dean Farris Leads Harvard Into Top 10 With Title — His Goal All Along

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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After crushing the 200 free American record to lead off the 800 free relay on Wednesday, Harvard’s Dean Farris was asked about not swimming the 200 free individually, a decision that left a lot of swimming fans, even swimmers, scratching their heads.

After all, why not do an even that you have done better than anyone in history? It was the stunning moment of the NCAA Championships so far, and it was the very first event.

Farris answered that watching the 100 back last year, he was eager to try something different and thought it looked “fun.”

He made it even more fun on Friday as he surged to the NCAA title in the 100 back, clocking a 43.66 — Harvard’s 11th individual title, and first since 1989.

“I am just really excited,” Farris. “I guess now it looks like the smart move. It was a good race and it worked out.”

But it wasn’t a decision Farris and his coaches made on a whim.

“Honestly, it has been the plan since last year,” he said. “This whole year, I was excited about doing the 100 back.”

And it wasn’t just about seeing if he could swim it, but seeing if he could win it.

“Pretty much the whole year, I thought I had a shot. I worked backstroke all year,” he said. “I was just kind of done with doing the 200 free. I needed a break this year. The 800 free relay was a good opportunity to swim fast. After nationals this summer, I didn’t train backstroke all summer and I went a 54 in the 100 (meter) back). I wanted to fix my stroke and see what I could do in it. I have had fun just trying to get better at it. It worked out this year.”

Harvard’s David Berkoff won the NCAA title in the 100 back in 1987 and 1989, well before Farris was born. But he was aware of the history in the event.

“It was definitely on my mind. I remember watching a video of his swim and he was at Austin when he did it,” Farris said. “I watched it at the beginning of the year. That solidified the fact that I should do it. I had a couple of thoughts today about it, but I tried to push them out and not put any pressure on myself.”


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Now, having another national champion has helped Harvard’s reputation in the pool growing. And it is not just Farris, though he is clearly the ringleader.

Going into the final day Harvard has 98 points and sits in eighth place, a huge feat for a non-Power 5 conference.

“When I committed to Harvard, the goal was definitely to make Harvard into a top 10 team,” he said. “My first year, we had a couple of finals, last year we were 18th and this year, when they show the scores, they don’t even have to scroll — Harvard is right there. It is pretty cool.”

Farris saw this transformation coming, just like he saw his event transformation coming.

So while everyone was wondering why Farris decided to do an event more difficult to win, he went out and won it anyway. Farris knew he had just as good of a shot at winning the 100 back, and it turns out, the chance was even better, giving Farris his second stunning moment of the meet — and we still have one night to go.


  1. Stephen Paul

    hallowed be thy name dean Farris we are not worthy of you

  2. avatar
    Taylor Covington

    Incredible. What a student athlete. This is what it’s about!

  3. Dan D

    This swim was stunning because we really weren’t sure how good he was in the backstroke… now we know

  4. Dave Hoover

    He’s hands down the swimmer of the meet in my books…

  5. avatar

    Most definitely swimmer of meet to me!