"We've got an odd assortment of rowers in the bow who have come out of the blue," Harvard lightweight crew coach John Higginson said, looking ahead to today's race with Columbia and Rutgers on the Harlem River in New York, adding "and that's where they'll probably go back to after the race."
Higginson, who sports a five-year mark of 19-2--including three Eastern Sprints Championships--believes that the Crimson's inexperience up front and the absence of boat cohesion may translate into some rough treading against Rutgers. "I don't think we're ready," Higginson said bluntly, "and I'm not particularly optimistic or confident."
The Scarlet Knights, judging by their recent two-tenths of a second loss to San Diego Class lightweight champ Pennsylvania, should prove formidable adversaries, while Columbia (not quite the 'gem of the ocean') should not be a problem in the 2000-meter contest.
"Quite frankly, we won't pay any attention to Columbia," Higginson, whose Eastern champs destroyed the Lions by 16 seconds on the Charles last year, said, "But I'd have to say, based on the results at this point, that Rutgers has a better squad than we do," he added.
Higginson has assembled a solid rearguard in senior veterans Kevin Cunningham (stroke) and captain John Pickering (seven-seat). The talented pair held down these same slots last year during Harvard's perfect season, and they have never lost a race in their J.V. and varsity careers.
"The boat hasn't come together yet," Pickering, whose Superman feats on the water belie his bespectacled, Clark Kent mild-manneredness, said. "Our timing is off--we're not catching [a term describing the entry of the oars into the water on the stroke] together properly at this point and we're worried about such a hard race this early in our season," the seven-man said.
Senior Don Harting has moved from the number-two slot to the six-seat, replacing graduated captain Jeff Parker, while Bill Chapman remains anchored in the same five-seat he excelled in at last spring's Easterns. But then the lack of varsity experience and the guessing game begins.
Higginson has tabbed senior Mike Rubin (up from the third boat) as his opening day bow to fill the void left by graduation. Senior Karl Forsgaard, who wasn't even on the crew roster last season, has earned the starting two-seat nod, while sophomores Dave "Pasha" Lakhdir and Kevin Gaut will get the call at numbers three and four.
Lakhdir has shifted over from the freshman heavyweight bow position he occupied last year, while Gaut filled the six-seat on last year's freshman lightweight boat. Senior cox Carlos Cordeiro (120-lb., soaking wet), up from the third boat, will bark signals in the Big Apple.
Higginson says he chose his starting eight on the basis of qualitative individual technique development, quantitative ERG scores, seat races, and the intangible judgments a crew mentor must make in molding a defending EARC champ. "But I wouldn't hesitate to reshuffle my line-up on Monday," he said.
Captain Pickering echoes those sentiments. "We realize we're not fast yet and Rutgers will be psyched. Let's face it--we've got a tough test ahead of us and we've got to start pulling things together."
And it looks like maybe even Superman won't meet that charge in a single outing in the metropolis.
CREW SPLINTERS: Crimson will miss the presence of three-seat Chris Kennedy, sidelined for the season with knee tendonitis... Junior varsity stalwart Geoff Brooks also gone after trading oars for thespian gear in Hasty Pudding Show... The last time Harvard rowed on the Harlem River (1975), a Crimson rower was hit in the head with a rock from a spectator's sling-shot and was rushed to the hospital. Pickering had to race both J.V. and varsity that afternoon on a river he says is filled with "tires, nail-boards and bodies"... The race will be going with the tide-flow, which could make for swift times and could be a major plus factor for Harvard... J.V. race should also be a dandy. Rutgers J.V.s knocked off Quaker counterparts by eight seconds. The Crimson J.V. boat will find Tony McAuliffe in the bow, Michael Cominsky, Randy Vagelos, Jean Sykes, Mark Worrel, Jeff Brown and Jim Russell at two through seven, with Jeff Cooley at stroke and Peter Cordeiro coxing... "Sarge" Paulovich fans take heart--he made the third boat.