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When open water crew practice started last year, only five lettermen turned up and only two were working in the first boat. The 1949 crew had to come pretty much from no-where. Once together it went on to easily race ahead of all opposition until June 24, date of the "incredible" loss to Yale.
The same problem that wily crew coach Tom Bolles solved with eminent success last March confronts him this year. Relatively few lettermen from last year's crack first boat are back. The 1950 crew will also have to come pretty much from nowhere.
This means that since March 16, when the shells first began to navigate the river, Bolles has had to juggle permutations and combinations like an insurance statistician to try and find the magic octet from a field of better than 40. A first boat lineup will probably be ready before the end of spring vacation practice.
The most notable loss from last year's varsity boat is Frank Strong, captain. All-American two years in a row, and the best six oar here in the last 14 years in the opinion of Bolles. Ted Anderson, last season's five, and Jim Slocum, six on his freshman boat, are possible successors to Strong. For Anderson, working at the sixth position has meant switching from rowing on the port side as he did last year to the starboard.
Bill Curwen, who in two seasons at stroke lost only two races, is the next big cavity by graduation in the first shell. A bevy of oarsmen are being tried at this position, vital because the stroke sets the "cadence" or "beat" of the crew during the course of a race. Four who had particularly good chances for the job at last look were Art Rouner, last year's J.V. stroke who lost only one race, Ken Keniston, a junior, who never worked at the post before, Lou McCagg, who stroked last year's highly successful freshman boat, and Dave Hanson, another sophomore.
Sophomores, as a matter of fact should figure prominently in the coming season. Of the five boats racing last year, only the '52 shell stayed undefeated and on many occasions it recorded times (the acid test of crew racing) of varsity caliber.
Mike Scully, who rowed four years in the varsity-bow, and Don Felt, last year's four, are the other major losses from the old squad.
Ollie Iselin, Ted Renolds, and Clarence Asp, veterans of last year's crew and juniors all, are strong contenders for the first shell. Bill Leavitt, last year's coxswain will succeed himself at the rudder and is also captain for 1950. George Hewitt, and Buffy Bohlen, J.V.'s last year, are working for varsity slots.
Bolles smilingly waves a sheaf of possible lineups at anybody who asks him for definite information about 1950's eight. "All I have is paper crews," he says, "nobody knows until we row a lot of miles."
Prolonged cold and ice on the Charles this year caused a very late start, three weeks past 1949's starting time and one week past the average starting time of river practice during the last 13 years. Hence, mileage thus far is low.
Fortunately, picking his men is one of Bolles' many fortes and the crew may be working on fine points before spring vacation is over. Nevertheless, southern crews will have a distinct advantage in the April races.
Before they hit the water last week, the crewmen had been working at the Newel Boathouse machines and in the tank almost since fall registration. Conscientious training, Tom Bolles, the return of some veterans, and the appearance of good sophomore material should add up to another of the fine crews Harvard has been blessed with for more than a decade, but Bolles cautions against any judgments except that of the clock.
"The only way to tell if a crew is fast," he maintains, is by the clock . . . we won't be in shape to race a clock until the end of spring vacation."
There is only a thirteen day gap (crews practice as a unit little more than an hour per day) between the end of that vacation and the time of the first race with MIT and BU April 22. Tech had a strong and improving freshman boat last year which should have spilled considerable good material to the varsity, BU isn't much of a threat. Both have been on the Charles since early March, however, since their end of the river is relatively ice free.
One week, the crew travels to Lake Carnegie, Princeton's artificial and excellent racing course, for the Compton Cup Race with Princeton, MIT, and Rutgers.
The two next succeeding meets will both be at Annapolis, the first May 6 for the Adams Cup with Penn and Navy and the second May 13 for the EARC races. Cornell will race here May 27, and on June 23 the crew races Yale on the Thames to add another statistic to America's oldest intercollegiate competition.
Cornell was the best of the eastern crews at Poughkeepsio last year and is expected to hold to form. Penn looked good in some mid-winter meets and the Yale boat which amazed the crew fans of the world by upsetting Harvard last June has lost only its stroke.
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