The details of what actually transpired are as clear as an overcast night in Pittsburgh, but for the record, the Crimson harriers opened their season by losing to Providence and by being involved in a nolo contendere decision with UMass in what was supposed to be a tri-meet yesterday afternoon at Franklin Park.
"It set an historical precedent," Crimson coach and quipster Bill McCurdy said afterwards. But even McCurdy seemed a bit baffled by what happened.
It seems that two or so miles into the race, the leaders, most of whom were wearing Providence jerseys, got a bit confused and began running a course of their own design.
"The course wasn't properly lined out," McCurdy said. "After two miles, I ran across to a point where I could see the leaders at the three-mile point, and all I saw was three Harvard guys." Which wouldn't necessarily disappoint McCurdy, except that it was an impossibility.
Where the Minutemen and Friar runners traveled is anybody's guess, but when it came time to cross the finish line, there were the Friars, misdirections and all.
Paul Revere's Ride
"Those guys are so damned good," McCurdy said, "that they ran all the way to Boston, came back, and won anyway. It was sort of a mismatch."
So Providence was declared the winner, but nobody really decided anything about the Harvard-UMass affair. "I think that we would have won," McCurdy said, before admitting that the UMass coach no doubt has the same opinion about the Minutemen.
And, since Harvard was the home team and therefore responsible for such things as making sure that the course was clearly marked, it was only gentlemanly for McCurdy to call the race a no decision. "There were questions," McCurdy said, "because a party of the leaders ran the wrong way and significantly altered the race."
In McCurdy's mind, though, the only really significant factor was the performance of his team, which he termed "really splendid. We exceeded our expectations against this caliber of competition."
Particularly pleasing to McCurdy were the performances of Peter Fitzsimmons, captain Jeff Campbell, and Reid Eichner, who were the three harriers to show up by their lonesome at the three-mile point, and Stein Rafto, who McCurdy said "ran better than expected." Only the Achilles injury to preseason standout Ed Sheehan put a damper on things.
Regardless, though, of the Crimson performances and the fact that the road not taken was the proper one, there was no way that the Friars were to be roasted. "Providence was head and shoulders above everybody," McCurdy said. "They had the Holy Father out there as well as the team." Which says a great deal about McCurdy's religious convictions seeing as how his team spent the last month at the Grotonwood Baptist Training Center.
"I'm happy and sad all at the same time," McCurdy said. Happy, because his team ran much better than expected, but sad, because all the record shows is a loss to Providence and a no decision with UMass. Make that 0-1-nolo contendere.