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Prospects Are Uncertain For Mermen

Talented Team Returns

By Charles B. Straus

How does a coach top a 6-3 season, 11 new University records, and Harvard's highest Eastern finish in a decade if he has 11 lettermen returning, including all the record-holders, and several promising freshmen who together comprise the youngest, most talented Crimson squad in Harvard history?

On the strength of these facts alone head coach Don Gambril might be tempted to paint an extremely optimistic picture of the season's prospects. But instead, the second-year coach is decidedly more cautious in his appraisal of the varsity's chances for the nine-meet campaign which starts Saturday against Navy.

"We have the material to break every school record," Gambril said yesterday. "But we could honestly do it and still lose one more meet than we lost last year." For despite a sophomore-and-freshman-dominated squad with good freestyle depth, strength in the individual medley and breast stroke, and improved scoring potential in the dives, backstroke, and butterfly, Harvard may have difficulty improving on its 4-3 Eastern League mark.

What clouds the Crimson's optimistic chances is the continuing improvement of the overall caliber of competition in the league. Thus Gambril's rebuilding job, while raising the level of Harvard swimming drastically, probably won't bear first-place fruit this year because the Crimson's renaissance only allows it to maintain pace with the high-powered and more established recruiting programs of Eastern and Ivy rivals Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn, and Yale. It is, as Gambril admits, "a much tougher league."

Difficult Task

Thus Harvard faces the difficult task of overtaking these four schools in the scramble for the league title, and it is more probable that if the team moves up in the standings it will be just a notch or two, not a quick sprint to the top as Gambril had hoped to accomplish this season with a far larger influx of freshman talent. The fierce competition for swimming talent among the Eastern schools prevented such a haul.

Despite the uncertain prospects of improving its league record, Harvard certainly has as fine a team as it has enjoyed in its 41 years of competition. The glaring weaknesses of last year's squad--a lack of overall depth, a season-long problem in the backstroke and butterfly strokes and a weak diving contingent--are more carefully camouflaged this winter, and the Crimson's freestyle swimmers are as good as any in the league.

Led by junior captain Fred Mitchell, the returning freestylers hold University records in every single event from the 50 on up to the 1650. The strength, however, is in the middle and distance events where three-time record-holder Rich Baughman, freshman talent Hess Yntema, and Mitchell are very strong. Sophomore Tim Neville returns to lead the Crimson effort in the 50 and 100 yd, distances, but his records of last year won't be equalled for at least a couple of meets. The return of sophomore Mike Cook after a year's absence will also help.

In the specialty strokes, the outlook is somewhat less than bright, but improved over last year. Freshman Tom Wolf joins junior Paul Scott in a stronger backstroke department, but a surrent of top-notch backstroke talent in the lengue leaves the event a question mark. With record-holder Dave Brumwell returning in the breast stroke, the Crimson will be very strong, and the prospects are brighter in the butterfly as well with the performance of freshman John Craig a mild surprise.


The individual medley, with Brumwell, Wolf, and Yntema, may be one of Harvard's deepest events. All are capable of going under the two-minute mark. In the drive, freshman star Dave English has jointed a vastly-improved junior John Zskotalk to help eliminate a Harvard trouble spot.

The two relays, however, continue to be a source of concern. The loss of freestyler Steve Baird, who has taken a year off, has hurt the 400-yd. freestyle relay, and Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, and Penn return top-flight medley teams. "We'll have to make up for this by taking a lot of points in the individual events," Gambrill said yesterday.

"We don't have any real weakness," he said. "We can win races at every distance this year, and I'm extremely pleased with the team's attitude and morale." The squad had, in fact, been working extremely hard this fall, and with the added incentive and practice time afforded by a two-week training trip to the Canary Islanda over Christmas, Gambrill may be able to fashion some upsets in January and February.

It may be that Gambrill has this year the kind of dedicated swimmers that he did not have last season, and this is an important step toward a successful swimming program at Harvard, one that will continue top attract the top talent Gambrill needs to fashion the winning attitude and first-place team he knows he can produce

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