One year ago yesterday the varsity crew hit the river for its first outdoor practice. Seven of the eight men in the boat that day held down their positions for the rest of the season.
This year outdoor rowing has been going on for upwards of two weeks, but if the current first boat lasis out the year it will be some sort of a minor revolution in the sports world: only two of the five returning lettermen are there now, and the balance of the outfit is made up of six sophomores.
The situation is probably not as remarkable as it sounds, for with more than six weeks until the opening race the boatings are anything but definite. In fact the secret of the Demise of the Varsity Crew probably goes no deeper than the fact that right now the eager sophomores have he jump on their varsity competitors because they have been training harder and longer--some since last September.
But Coach Tom Bolles is taking more than a passing interest in the current situation; in his own words he is looking for "some pleasant surprises"--meaning new men--in his eventual seating plan.
The six sophomores who are currently straining themselves to look like a pleasant surprise include Art Rouner, stroke of last year's freshman boat; Ollie Iselin, who rowed right behind him; Ted Anderson, a seventeen-year-old dark horse who failed to make any boat last year and Buffy Bohien, George Hewitt, and Clarence Asp, three more members of the '51 boat. Captain Frank Strong and perennial bowman Mike Scully are the varsity holdovers with Bill Leavitt up from the Jayvees as coxswain.
Lettermen Languish in Second Boat
All this leaves Bill Curwen stroking the second boat, with his Varsity cohorts Ted Reynolds and Don Felt behind him at seven and four, respectively. Bob Taggart, who did a short tour of duty with the Varsity early last spring during Jud Gale's absence is at five, with two other Jayvees, Nat Ober and Lou Cox, at three and bow. Ham Fish, up from last year's combination boat, and sophomore Ken Keniston round out the roster.
But these combinations are in a constant state of flux, and as Coach Bolles re-shufiles the lineups almost daily, not too many conclusions can be drawn from the current situation. By spring vacation, however, he hopes to have sifted his hopefuls down to three boatloads.
The twenty-four lucky winners will spend their holiday plying up and down the Charles often to the extent of 20-odd miles a day. By this process a fairly definite varsity boating will have emerged by the time the rest of us return to Cambridge.
The vacation-time grind is not merely an endurance test. The steady training enables the strokes to raise their cadence to racing conditions, and it is then that the true varsity material emerges and the 20-stroke Apollos fade into obscurity.
Once the personnel problem is settled, Bolles' problems really begin. "The day is over," he sighs sadly, "when you could take some of your opposition for granted." This year's difficulties begin right at home, with a triangular race against M.I.T. and B.U. on April 23. Tech, which was no pushover last year, has been reinforced by talent from a very strong Freshman boat, and B.U. only in its second year of rowing, is also on the upgrade.
From there is Varsity proceeds to the Adams Cup Regatta against Navy, Penn, and Columbia. Advance information on the latter two is scant at tilis stage, but the Middies have seven men back from last year's powerful and heavy shell.
Tech gets a second chance at the Crimson (or vice versa) in the Compton Cup races the following week, when Princeton and Rutgers also try their luck. Bolles considers both New Jersey schools "southern crews," and this year, at least, he's perfectly justified. The balmy winter permitted both to row outside all season, which gives them a tremendous jump on their northern foes.
Three more races remain on Harvard's agenda. The next is the E.A.R.C. 2,000-meter sprint championship, which the Crimson will be fighting to retain for the third straight year. Following this comes a fight with Bolles' old nemesis, Cornell. Last year, the Ithacans were the only crew (outside of the Olympics) to mar the Varsity's record; and this spring's race takes place on Lake Cayuga, the only place where a Bolles-coached crew has raced but never won.
Fortunately, Cornell has graduated most of its varsity boat, including Van Wrangle, Morehouse, and Collier, three of the East's best Oras. But the performance of Cornell's Freshmen here a year ago indicates that there are plenty of capable young men to carry on.
Finally, of course, comes Yale. The Elis have many returning veterans from the crew that scared the Crimson into setting an upstream record on the Thames in June, and in conformance with Coach Skip Walz's "beat 'em till they bleed and then beat'em for bleeding' philosophy, Yale has been working out all year. In December the Blue beat Penn, Princeton, and Cornell by more than a length over a 2,000-meter course at Miami.
Rumor has it, moreover, that Walz's contract stipulates at least one win over Harvard if he wants a renewal. Rumor also has it that the aforementioned contract runs out in 1950, and that the coach has become rather fond of New Haven.