It had to happen just when the Harvard men's swimming team had started to get it all together and make a strong bid for its sixth straight Eastern championship at West Point N Y yesterday.
"It" was a dubious disqualification of the Crimson's Lars Reierson's eighth-place finish in the 400 yd individual medley which sent the Harvard camp searching angrily for answers and helped send the aquamen plummeting from the lead into third place after the second day of competition.
Apparently, the meet director saw an "obvious" discrepancy between the times in Reierson's two runs and disqualified the freshman for too little effort--swimming so poorly in his first run. Crimson Coach Joe Bernal did not see it that way.
"I think it was a shot at keeping the tournament out of Harvard's reach. He [Reierson] swam it legally. It's a cheap way to take points away from people."
Bernal has protested the decision to the three-man league committee but doubts he will get much action or sympathy in return You see, one of the committee's members happens to be the Princeton coach.
What's wrong with that, you ask? The Tigers just happen to be leading the tourney, and by all accounts, they would like to keep it that way. Furthermore, fourth-place Cornell's coach is the second man on the committee, and he's not likely to donate points to the Harvard Championship Fund either. Hence the problem.
What's the big deal about an eighth-place finish, you may further wonder. Well, as it stands. Princeton is on top with 283 points to Harvard's 262. Reierson's placement in the top 16 would have kept the aquamen ahead of Brown (265 points) and brought them to within 10 points of first place.
The Tigers shot into the lead thanks partially to Dan Veatch's victory in the 100-yd backstroke and Jim Tuchler's second-place performance in the 400-yd IM. For Harvard, senior Mike Miao won the 200-yd, freestyle in 1:39.10 and was followed in third-place by Co-Captain Courtney Roberts's 1:40,45. Sophomore Peter Egan came in third in the 400-yd. IM and the 400-yd, medley relay of Dan Simkowitz. Reierson, Bill McCloskey, and Miao placed fifth to set up the showdown today and tonight.
Not that all is lost for the Crimson. Harvard figured yesterday to be its toughest day of the three.
Bernal believes that the squad has weathered the day's tidal wave of events "nicely." Luckily, the Crimson has also figured (and now desperately hopes) that Saturday will be its biggest day.
First on this morning's agenda for the acquamen is the 1650-yd, freestyle, an event which, if all goes well, should catapult the squad back into first place, at least temporarily. Roberts and sophomore Tim Ford are ranked first and second, respectively.
Perhaps as significantly, Princeton will have no swimmers in this event and only one in the 100-yd freestyle. Conversely, the Crimson will hope to mop up the 100, where it carries the third, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth seeds.
"It's going to be closer than we thought." Bernal said, "I think we'll make a fantastic account of ourselves."