It's probably worth following up on my original post...
The risk of losing originality in the current setup, has actually forced me to be more creative. In the last two weeks I've managed to dig "originality" out of the competition, relatively late in the round. Prior to this, I would have just focused on improving the score of the first model (not very original). Instead I've been forced to find "new" attacks, which has ultimately made me better at the project. That has given me fall-back options when something quits working or isn't performing as well as I'd like.
So, I guess, to answer my own question, "Could Originality Actually Hurt Creativity?", the answer is no. It forces real creativity if you're willing to keep grinding. So I would encourage you to do just that. Keep experimenting and keep pushing, it's out there if you're willing to put in the time.
(This model was generated almost 20 hours after round 65 started)