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From Oblivion to Glory and Back Again

The Sporting Scene

By John P. Demos

Pete Reider, this year's varsity track captain, has run a mile in faster time (4 minutes, 11 seconds) than any other Harvard man, past or present, and has been, for the last two years, one of the most-feared collegiate cross country runners in this part of the country.

Erich Segal is a senior in Dunster House, who has had a locker in the varsity track room for four years and has practiced frequently with the team, but who had never competed in a varsity meet until six days ago.

Last Friday the two were briefly confused at the start of the meet against Columbia and Pennsylvania. The result was a few minutes of amusement for the Harvard runners, a few minutes of unhappiness for their opponents, and, for Segal, a few minutes of glory that he will not soon forget. As he tells it ...

Reider had been fighting a cold for most of the week; and on Friday morning at 8 a.m., when he appeared in South Station to entrain for New York with his team-mates, Coach Bill McCurdy took one look at him, decided he looked too sick to run, and sent him home.

Before the train left there was just time for a hurried telephone call for an alternate. McCurdy sent one of his managers to ring up Segal.

Rudely Wakened from a peaceful sleep in Dunster House, Segal was told that if he could be on the starting-line in New York's Van Cortlandt Park) by 2:30, he would run against Columbia and Penn.

Segal dressed quickly, called Logan Airport to make transportation arrangements, and not long thereafter was winging his way to New York.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the varsity ate its usual pre-meet steak on the train, arrived at Grand Central Station, and traveled uptown to Van Cortlandt by subway. They dressed for the meet and jogged over the course. But as the hour of the start approached, there was still no sign of Segal.

The runners from Columbia and Pennsylvania, appraised of the fact that Reider was not with the Crimson team, nourished new hopes of victory as they went through their warm-up. Then Segal arrived--just in the nick of time.

"Hello, Pete," joshed manager Skip Elsas, as Segal emerged, breathless, from the clubhouse, typing up his sweat pants.

From this bit of kidding was hatched a most devious and deceitful plot to frighten the varsity's opponents ...

"Hey, look, fellas," said French Anderson, "Reider's made it after all." "Yeah, good to see you, Pete," chorused his team-mates.

There was only a minute or two before the start and Segal (alias Reider) had just time to prance through a warm-up in front of the dumbfounded opposition. Jose Iglesias, the Columbia captain and a fine runner in his own right, eyed the impostor suspiciously. He had run against Reider before ... didn't remember him quite this way ... but then ... well, one's memory is not infallible ...

Segal took his place on the line, shook hands with Iglesias, wished him "good luck," and, when the gun sounded, lit out at record pace. A hundred yards, two hundred, three hundred--Segal was well out in front.

"Attaboy, Pete," shouted Anderson from behind. "Keep it up."

Four hundred yards. Segal still led. At this point, a Columbia runner, unable to contain himself any longer, shouted to Iglesias, "Go get him, Jose; he's getting away from you."

Iglesias stepped up the pace. In a few strides he was past Segal and the game was up. Iglesias went on to win the race by three hundred yards over Crimson captain Dave Norris. Segal beat two Penn runners.

Sitting in the locker room on Monday, Segal relived, in his mind, his great moment. "It was fun while it lasted," he said.

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