Two years ago the varsity swimming team went to West Point to face a strong Army team that was favored on paper by at least ten points. But the statistics ignored Harvard coach and master strategist Bill Brooks. Brooks surprised the Cadets in almost every event and Harvard came home with a 51-44 upset victory.
This year the same scene may well be repeated. Army, winner of last year's meet by a score of 57-38, has 14 returning lettermen and its best team ever. Most of its freestylers will be starting for the third straight year and most of them were winners in last year's meet. Harvard is a definite underdog, but Harvard has Bill Brooks.
Strategy is not all the Crimson has. In the freestyle sprints Army will still dominate, but in the distance events Dave Abramson, Jim Seubold, and Neville Hayes give the Crimson two possible sweeps. Abramson won both the 200- and the 500-yard events last year, and Bill Landgraf, the one distance man Army did have, has graduated.
In the butterfly, which Army took last year, the Crimson will have another powerful threat. Neville Hayes, 1960 Olympic champion and undefeated as a freshman, is probably the best in the East in this event. Army's butterflyers Pratt and Lee, however, have shown excellent times and could press Hayes to a real record-breaking performance.
Bob Corris and Bruce Fowler give the varsity another possible sweep in the breaststroke. Last year Bill Chadsey and Fowler took this event, and sophomore Corris led Fowler in the breaststroke against Springfield, last Wednesday.
Corris, in fact, may hold the key to victory in the individual medley where he will be supported by Henry Frye. Frye upset Army's Paul Bucha last year, but Bucha, the Cadet's captain, has supposedly improved and the race will doubtless be close. The backstroke will also be close, where sophomore Tony Fingleton and junior A1 Lincoln, winner against Springfield, meet strong competition in Cadets Gatsey and O'Hara.
The dive presents another cliff-hanger for the two teams. Army's A1 Alexander just edged Danny Mahoney off the high board last year, but Mahoney came back to flip him soundly in the Easterns and the nationals. In Cambridge Mahoney would win; with Army's judges it will be close.
If the teams split the individual events about equally, the meet will hang once again on the relays. Army's freestylers make the final event almost a sure thing for the Cadets, so to have a chance the Crimson will have to shoot for the opening medley relay.
A combination of Fingleton, Corris, Hayes, and Seubold or Andrew Ginstead would look tough to beat, even against Army's fastest freestylers. But don't count on it. Two years ago in a similar situation, Brooks counted his points, ducked the opening relay, and pulled out of the freestyle relay for the victory.