Harvard's fastest swimming team in history opens its season in the IAB tomorrow night against Springfield, but because of general improvement in Eastern swimming, the Crimson may be hard put to improve on last year's record of seven wins and three defeats.
Yale, in spite of staggering graduation losses, gains Olympian Don Schollander and will dominate the League for the 22nd time in the last 23 seasons. Navy and Princeton lost nothing from the two teams that tied Harvard for third in the Eastern Swimming League last year, while Army and Dartmouth are both improved. If Harvard's sophomore freestylers don't come through, it could be a long wet season.
It is a swimming truism that you can't have a winning team without freestylers. With four individual events and two relays dependent on the freestyle, a team without a sprinter is going to lose meets, no matter how good the rest of the squad is.
Well, this year Harvard has a sprinter. His name is Bill Shrout, and last year, as a freshman, he broke five University, seven freshman, and two NCAA freshman records. Coach Bill Brooks, who goes out of his way not to play favorites, called him "the brightest swimming prospect to come to Harvard--to date."
Shrout is not the only new freestyler who will give the varsity a boost. All-American high schoolers Phil Chase and Pete Adams, and another freshman standout. Steve Coy, will join veterans Andy Grinstead and Jim Seubold to give Harvard what may be its best relay team ever.
The outstanding veteran performer is undoubtedly junior butterflyer Neville Hayes, a former world record holder and Olympic silver medal winner from Australia. Hayes went undefeated last year, and he holds the University record in the 200-yard fly at 1:57.4. He is also the team's fastest in the 500-yard freestyle, where he is backed up by Adams and juniors Dick Smith and Bob Buster.
The varsity's other star returnees are breaststrokers Bob Corris and team captain Bruce Fowler. Corris was undefeated in the breaststroke last year as a sophomore, while scoring more points than any other varsity swimmer. Corris also swims the individual medley, where he is backed up by seniors Henry Frey and Steve Teaford.
Two years ago, Fowler won the 100-yard breaststroke at the Eastern Championships with a time of 1:02.1. If, as expected, he regains his old form. Harvard will have the best breaststroke combination in the East.
In the dive, transfer John Friedman will have to fill the gap left by Eastern Champion Dan Mahoney's graduation and injuries to Charles Vines and Pete Alter. Only in the backstroke is the team without a strong contender.
Springfield won the freshman meet against Harvard last year, and has an excellent freestyle relay team. If Harvard's sprinters should upset them by a convincing margin. Army, Navy, and Princeton had better watch out.