After three days and three nights of see-saw competition between the previously unbeaten Harvard aquamen and their none-too-genial host, Princeton, the Eastern Seaboard Intercollegiate Championship hinged on one race, the concluding 400-yd. freestyle relay.
In a fitting climax to a superbly contested meet, Crimson anchorman Hess Yntema gamely closed the gap on Tiger sprinter Mal Howard, only to have the electronic clocking system declare the Tiger quartet a .4 second victor, giving Princeton a slim 419-411 final edge in the overall competition.
For the Crimson, it was the first taste of defeat after ten crushing wins in dual meet competition. Despite breaking 11 University records, the elusive Eastern Seaboard Championship had once more slipped away.
For the Tigers, the victory meant sweet revenge. In early February, they had been annihilated by Harvard, 82-31, claiming victories only in diving. By Saturday night's end, they had settled that score.
Harvard began Saturday's competition 16 points ahead of the Tigers. The bulge would have been bigger but for the disqualification of the Crimson's 400-yd. medley-relay team on the first day of the meet, costing the Crimson an invaluable 32 points.
Saturday started inauspiciously, as junior Tim Neville could not duplicate his victory in the 50-yd. freestyle, grabbing fifth in the 100-yd. free. Princeton placed second and third in a very fast field.
Crimson freshman Peter Tetlow, who had been ambushed by a Princeton buzzsaw named Curtis Hayden in the 500-yd. freestyle on Thursday, fell again to his Tiger foe in the grueling 1650-yd. event, this time by only two frustrating seconds.
Hayden moved ahead of the field at the 500-yd. mark, and then held off a late charge by the game Tetlow. Junior Rich Baughman was also nipped by his Princeton opponent, finishing a scant .8 seconds behind Joe Loughran in the battle for third place.
Following this discouraging defeat, the Crimson rattled off three quick victories, shattering two University records in the process. Sophomore Tom Wolf started the barrage, cruising over the 200-yd. backstroke distance in 1:54.05, besting Chuck Holum of Yale by two seconds and eclipsing his own University record by three full seconds.
Freshman Ted Fullerton and junior Dave Brumwell continued the assault on the record book in the 200-yd. breaststroke. Finishing first and second in the event, they both bested the old Harvard record, with Fullerton's time of 2:08.82 establishing the new standard.
Sophomore Hess Yntema then nailed down his third individual championship in as many tries by blitzing the field in the 200-yd. butterfly. Peter Tetlow, swimming in his second final of the evening, captured an important fifth place.
At this point the Princeton diving corps took over the show, as Tiger Bill Heinz handily won the three-meter competition, with teammates Mark Anderson and Steve Robbins placing fifth and sixth. Crimson freshman Roger Johannigman garnered Harvard's only points in the event, finishing eleventh.
That set the stage for Princeton's meet-clinching victory in the free relay. A phenomenal 45.7-second third leg by Tiger freshman Charles Norelli established the lead that Yntema could not overcome.
Harvard and Princeton easily outclassed the rest of the 16-team field. Dartmouth wound up in third place with 219 points, followed by North Carolina, Yale and Penn.
In an interview yesterday, Crimson coach Ray Essick was hoarse from cheering, but proud of his team's effort. "The disqualification on the first day bonded our team together. Although we lost, our team really showed a lot of class," he whispered.