It's can't try for something I don't really want anymore," Dave Pottetti said Wednesday night. That afternoon, Pottetti, probably the best distance runner ever to come to Harvard, had told coach Bill McCurdy that he would not be running any more cross country.
The joy began to go out of running for him last year when cross country became more of a "commitment" than a diversion. He found that he was running for the sake of relatives and parents.
Last spring he worked hard at his running with an eye on the steeplechase at the Penn Relays. Pottetti won the race, but the great feeling of satisfaction which he expected just wasn't there.
Late this summer Pottetti decided that he would not attend Harvard's cross country camp in Groton. he call McCurdy from the West, where Pottetti had spent most of he summer, and explained his absence. There was no mension of what would happen the rest of the fall.
Through all of this, McCurdy has not tried to put pressure on the former star, an All-American in cross country as a sophomore. "I don't want to pester him." McCurdy said Wednesday before Pottetti came to talk to him. "It's not in me to tell him he owes the team something."
Pottetti says he has found other interests and that now he is busier than when he was running competitively. He has become somewhat absorbed in. Hunduism and Buddhism, but mainly the change in his life has been a new ability to appreciate other persons, he said.
"Running was my whole life for a long time," he explained, Pottetti found it difficult to get close to others. In the last half year, however, he has made more of an effort and has found great enrichment. "My life is so much fuller now," he added. "I've met so many great people."
Pottetti found that being on a team imposed "artificial constraints" on his way of life, and as he and his friends point out, Pottetti hates the feeling that he is being forced to do anything.
"Pottetti doesn't do anything he does not want to do," one teammate said. "He runs cross country and the steeplechase because he likes to."
So far this fall, Pottetti's intentions have been a mystery. Most persons involved in Harvard track were predicting that he'd get himself back in shape quickly and run in the important cross country meets in November.
His decision became doubly important when Harvard's string of 34 straight victories was ended convincingly by Penn two weeks ago. It became clear then that the Crimson could use one of the best runners in the East. Penn runners had said that the news that Potetti was not competing gave them a big lift.
Pottetti could not reach a decision. Finally, for a 48-hour period early this week, he put his thoughts together and realized that he really did not want to return to the team.
"McCurdy was fantastic about it," Potetti said Wednesday. "We parted friends."
McCurdy's handling of Pottetti was superb when he was on the team. He recognized Pottetti's dislike of competitive team practices and allowed him to take care of his own conditioning by running on his own.