If he was the best quarterback in the school, you'd know his mother's maiden name, and if he was the best goalie, you'd know his favorite cereal, but he's only the best ski jumper, and since skiing gets as much recognition around here as an egg roll in an Italian restaurant, you probably don't know Dave Rand, period.
For that matter, neither did I until he made his biggest jump of the winter--from South House to Winthrop at the outset of this term. The fact that Rand was in a position to make such a jump in the first place is a story in itself.
Rand is a member of that distinct group who once upon a headmaster attended prep, private or whatever you want to call it school. But only for a year.
Otherwise known as a post-graduate, Rand went to Northfield-Mount Hermon (Mount Hermon in the good old days) the year after his graduation from Lincoln-Sudbury (Lincoln Suds any day) for a simple reason--to get into college.
He had gone 0-4 at Lincoln Suds, but whereas you would no doubt take this fact and hide it under your SAT instruction booklet, Rand talks freely of the path upon which he skied into Cambridge, of the April morning in '75 when he received four letters in the mail--from Harvard, Bowdoin, Vermont and Colorado College--and they all said "No." As in "We are sorry to inform you that we are unable to offer you a place in next year's freshman class."
So Rand went west, tried again and the results, after a shaky start, were a little better. Bowdoin said no again--not once, but twice, early-decision breath--ditto Colorado College, but three schools said "Yes," and Harvard was one of them.
About his shutout at Lincoln Suds, "I think it's funny" Rand said yesterday while doing battle with a sausage pattie. About his experiences with the Bowdoin and Colorado admissions office, "They hate me. By the time the seniors at Mount Hermon went through the college admissions process, I had done it eight times already."
So Rand showed up in Cambridge better late than never, and proceeded to find out that even at Harvard, and even with a high school skiing captaincy pasted on his bindings, it would be no hop, skip and ski jump onto the Alpine squad.
"I couldn't make the Alpine team as a freshman," Rand said, "and I wanted to try jumping. Little did I know they'd (I can't read my writing, but it's a four-letter verb. Fill in the blank yourself) me into it as soon as I put on skis."
For at Harvard, where they accept one of everything that moves, they never accept ski jumpers. Maybe because they never apply, but Crimson ski jumpers have traditionally been converted Alpiners, who get their practice under the gun.
Rand did receive a little guidance from Nordic coach Don Cutter at last season's preseason training session at Dartmouth, but for the most part he learned the hard way--flat on his face.
According to Rand, "Cutter basically said, 'Here are the skis. There it is (the jump). You'll learn what not to do quickly.' And he was right. The first time down I made it, but the second time I got a black eye." Fortunately for Rand, though, it was all uphill from there.
Ski jumping, of course, is not your average put-on-a-jockstrap (sorry, that's sexist)-and-let's-get-at-it sport. It's one that requires jumps from upwards of 45 meters, one that most people consider as sane as having a meeting during The Wizard of Oz. (Are you a good witch or a bad witch? I'm a good witch.)
But Rand not only ski jumps, he does so at heights from which you and I would suffer nose bleeds. Try 70 meters, and you'll have to conduct a pretty extensive search of the Harvard record books to discover the last Crimson skier who tried that.
As for results, his best finish a year ago was 32nd at Middlebury, this winter he made it to 24th at Dartmouth, and considering his dearth of experince and the fact that Rand considers ski jumping a hobby, that's not bad. "At least this year," he said, "I could think about things while jumping other than survival."
Like the fact that despite their repeated low finishes in the admittedly difficult Division I carnivals, the skiers have a great time. Their weekends usually begin on Wednesday, and as Rand says, "It's like a five-day party. We have a great time. Anyone that does work gets yelled at. I learned not to bring books last year when I brought them one weekend and then lost them."
Now, however, Rand is feeling the effects of his two-month dose of five-day weekends. The work has piled up as high as a 50-meter jump, and when Wednesdays roll around, despite his itching to get out of Cambridge, Harvard's best (and one of three) ski jumpers hits the books instead of the slopes.
"The skiing definitely screws everything up," Rand said yesterday before jumping into some Chem 20 (Rand is by no means pre-med--he just likes science for science's sake). "There was one stretch when I didn't go to French for three weeks straight, and a few weeks ago I had to take a Chem 20 hourly at Middlebury, which didn't work. I flunked the hell out of it."
And so as winter supposedly becomes spring, and the snow supposedly disappears, Dave Rand becomes a student once again--supposedly. He's not a great ski jumper, but he's the best at Harvard, and that's my justification for having written a column about him. Supposedly.