Walt Hewlett overcame a snowbound starting position at East Lansing, Mich., to place fifth in the NCAA cross-country meet, the highest finish by a Harvard runner in the 26-year history of the race.
The Crimson took 14th position in the team standings with 337 points; Western Michigan was the winner with a total of 86.
After the race, Harvard coach Bill McCurdy said that Hewlett, who finished 12th last year, might have won this time if it hadn't been for the elements. All the runners had to fight scattered snow and slush, a 36-degree temperature, and 17-m.p.h. winds, but Hewlett got a particularly bad deal.
There's Many A Slip
Walt's strategy for this race was the same plan that had worked so well in the Heptagonals and the IC4A's--to go out fast and set the pace. But his starting position was such that he had to wade through four inches of snow over the first fifteen yards of the course, and by the time he emerged from the icy morass, the more advantaged runners were packed in front of him.
Hewlett spent most of the four-mile race fighting for position and trying to avoid the slipping and sliding runners in front of him. He was the 15th man to pass the three-mile mark, but once he found running room he moved up quickly and was gaining on the leaders when the race ended.
Walt's fifth-place finish climaxed the greatest season any Harvard runner has had since 1928. Hewlett won all eight regular season meets and the Heptagonals and finished second behind Georgetown's Joe Lynch in the IC4A's.
Walt avenged that defeat yesterday when he passed Lynch in the final half-mile. The Georgetown senior finished in eighth place.
Yesterday's individual winner was Ohio University's Elmore Banton, who got off to a fast start and led all the way. His time for the four miles was 20:07.5, much slower than Vic Zwolak's winning time of 19:35 at East Lansing a year ago on a sunny day over a slightly different four-mile course.
Bill Clark of Notre Dame finished 50 yards behind Banton in second place; Jim Murphy of the Air Force Academy was third and Dave Wighton of Colorado University finished fourth, 0:06 ahead of Hewlett. Walt's time was 20:24.3. Joe Lynch of Georgetown, who beat Hewlett in the IC4A's last week, was eighth.
The second Harvard runner to cross the finish line was Dave Allen in 72nd place. Third for the Crimson in 84th place was Jim Smith, who ran even with Allen until midway through the final mile when he fell on the slippery ground and lost position.
Captain Bill Crain also took a spill and finished 129th; soccer player Keith Chiappa was Harvard's fifth scorer in 132nd place.
The University of Oregon and Ohio University finished second and third behind the champion Western Michigan Broncos. The title was the first national championship in any sport ever won by a team from the Kalamazoo school.
Four teams in the IC4A league finished ahead of the Crimson--Notre Dame, fourth, Georgetown, sixth, Villanova and Providence. Harvard beat Providence in last week's IC4A's.
Up and Up
Yesterday's meet ended a season in which the Crimson squad showed steady improvement. Early season losses to Providence and Brown gave Harvard a 1-2 record after three meets, the first time that a McCurdy-coached Crimson squad had ever had a losing record.
But after the Brown meet, Harvard won all the rest, largely because of the improvement of Dave Allen, who consistently finished second behind Hewlett during the latter half of the season. Allen placed second behind Walt in the Heps also, as the junior pair and Bill Crain, who took ninth place, led the Crimson to a surprise runner-up finish behind Navy.