Harvard's Olympics-hopeful heavy-weight crew races Northeastern, Brown and Rutgers for the Stein Cup today. The race will be the heavyweight's only contest on the Charles this spring.
There are only two college crews in the East which can hope to seriously push the varsity Crimson shell this year: Northeastern and Pennsylvania. Last year, the Huskies came within one second of Harvard in the season debut. Harvard's coach Harry Parker says he is "impressed" with Northeastern's improvement since then.
But Harvard has improved, too. Last summer's rowing, capped with spectacular victories and near-misses against big-time international competition, raised the sights of the seven men who return from the 1967 varsity.
The varsity boatings for today's race: Paul Hoffman, cox; Art Evans, stroke; captain Curt Canning, 7; Andy Larkin, 6; Fritz Hobbs, 5; Scott Steketee, 4; Steve Brooks, 3; Cleve Livingston, 2; and Dave Higgins, bow.
The only new men in the boat are Evans at stroke and Brooks at three. Competition for the seats was keen. Evans, who rowed six in last year's junior varsity, beat out Monk Terry, who stroked the lightweight varsity last spring, and the 1967 stroke Ian Gardiner. Today Terry strokes the heavyweight junior varsity and Gardiner sits at bow in the third varsity boat. Kit Wise strokes the third boat.
Brooks's competition for the three seat came from Mike Livingston. If Harvard suffers another near-disaster against Northeastern today, Parker could well decide to shake up the roster, but this is considered unlikely.
The oarsmen in the varsity shell average 198 pounds, 6'3".
Because of the Mexico City Olympics this year, all college regattas will be raced over 2000 meters. The normal heavyweight distance is one and three-quarters miles.
The shorter distance means Harvard will be stroking the bodies of its races much higher than it has been accustomed to doing in the past. The 37 or 38 beats per minute expected this spring compares to 33 or 34 common several years ago.
Vesper Beat Huskies
Northeastern already has raced twice so far. The Huskies thrashed M.I.T. and B.U., and, a week ago, they came in a length and a half back of Vesper Boat Club of Philadelphia. Vesper is expected to provide the main competition for Harvard at the Olympic trials in mid-July.
Pennsylvania, which won the IRA's last June, is expected to put another exceptionally strong boat on the water this season. They are drawing on the brute strength of the 1967 freshmen as well as their junior varsity which took Harvard by four lengths on the Charles last year.
But Penn is rumored to have morale problems. Joe Burke, coach of the Red and Blue heavies, has instituted a selection system for varsity shell boatings which has caused several defections from Penn to Vesper. The system is based on an objective point count of trial races won earlier this year. Burke has taken a big gamble on this new system, but it may work.
Harvard rows Penn in the Adams Cup at Annapolis, May 4. The Compton Cup against M.I.T. and Princeton at Princeton, April 27, should provide no challenge for the Crimson.
Ted Washburn, whose rigorous training programs and disciplined coaching have turned out consistently winning freshmen crews for Harvard in the past four years, has a substantially lighter and less experienced squad to work with this spring.
The freshmen face major competition from Northeastern and Penn, and also from Princeton.
Northeastern appears to be in an especially strong position for today's race with Jim Dietz as the stroke. Dietz has achieved the reputation of rowing's newest wonder boy. He is the official world youth champion in single sculls, and won a gold medal for the United States in double sculls at the Pan-Am games in Winnepeg last summer.
The Northeastern freshmen have been working out regularly with their varsity this spring and have two races under their belt. The first race is always a psychological trial-by-fire for a freshman crew, and Harvard will be laboring under this disadvantage. But Washburn, who is unaccustomed to predicting victories against anyone, says "I think we'll beat them."
The boatings: cox, Tony Kane; stroke and captain, Bo Weisheit; Rod Petersen, 7; Bill Hobbs, 6; Roger Brooks, 5; Clark Gunness, 4; Brian Johnson, 3; Chuck Hewitt, 2; and Jim Ehrman, bow.
It is too early to assess Harvard's chances at the mid-July Olympics trials. In the East, Vesper is the crew to beat. Pennsylvania and Northeastern may also offer competition, depending on how well they fare against the Crimson during the season. Washington and California are the traditional powerhouses on the West Coast, and although it is too early to get a line on their development, they are reported to be weak this year.
All Harry Parker will say about going to Mexico City is this: "It is fairly clear that we have the potential to make a boat fast enough to go to the Trials and win them. But these oarsmen realize that a lot of different elements go into making a winning combination. It's not automatic. We're looking for that combination, and I think we have as good a chance as anyone else of finding it."
Major races this afternoon will begin around 4:00. Spectators gather at the finish line near the B.U. bridge. There is also a lightweight regatta: Harvard, M.I.T., and Dartmouth.