When Aggrey Awori or Merle McClung breaks a University record, his praises are sung from one end of Harvard to the other. Yet freshman swimmer Bill Shrout, who set a new mark in the 200-yard individual medley against Army last week, has had so little recognition that he might have been attacked by a shark during the second lap without anyone noticing.
Shrout's time of 2:03:5 erased the old record of 2:03:3, set by Bob Kaufmann in 1961. The new record is all the more remarkable because Shrout, besides being a freshman, had not competed in the medley for two years prior to this winter.
But what most surprised everyone, Shrout included, was the time; it was a full five seconds better than he had ever done before. It was also more than good enough to defeat Army's Charley Gantner and to help the Crimson to a 53-42 victory over the Plebes.
Shrout was not the only surprise for Harvard freshman coach Benn Merritt. Alan Birch churned to a first in the 200-yard backstroke in 2:15, a race from which Merritt expected only third. Merritt also credited Rich Tompkins and Peter Alter with good performances under pressure. The Crimson's iron men against Army were Shrout, Peter Adams, Steve Coy, and Phil Chase, each of whom swam two events and then combined to form the relay tearn that decided the meet in the final race.
Though only a freshman, Shrout is no stranger to top-level competition. He missed the finals of both the Olympic trials and the AAU national championsrip by identical margins, .9 of a second each time, While in Oklahoma for the nationals, he roomed with Don Schollander, who won four gold medals in the Olympics this fall and who enters Yale as a freshman in January.
The possibility of a confrontation between Shrout and Schollander is intriguing but unlikely. Not only is there no guarantee that they would meet in the game event, but rumor has it that Schollander may not even go out for swimming at Yale.
Merritt, however, doesn't even want to speculate that far in advance. The squad's next opponent is Williston, a prep school power. Merritt describes the team's chances as "50-50 right now. This will be decided on our second and third places," he added. And Shrout? Merritt predicted, "I very definitely expect him to break some more records."