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The Harvard lightweights, undefeated for the third straight season, lay their Eastern Sprint rowing title on the line this Saturday against a field of 12 challengers on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester.
The Crimson, winners of the Sprints for the last three years, are seeded number one once again. Princeton and Navy, in that order, are rated the top two challengers.
Harvard breezed through the regular season, running up four straight decisive wins. The Crimson has already defeated every boat that could conceivably be a serious challenge on Saturday.
Last weekend the varsity eight demolished in impressive fashion what had been touted as a powerful Princeton contingent. The Crimson took very little time to prove that, when the pressure is on. Princeton's lights are paper tigers of the highest order. Under ideal conditions on the Charles, Harvard left the Tigers far behind, winning by 8.9 seconds--a two-length margin, Harvard rowed a 6:02, recording the Crimson's fastest time of the season.
On April 29 Harvard turned back third-seeded Navy by two-and-a-half lengths in the Haines Cup race. Navy had been considered one of the top teams in the East prior to the Haines race on the basis of a strong showing in the Head of the Charles Regatta last Fall.
Both Princeton and Navy will be in Worcester on Saturday, seeking to redeem themselves for these embarrassing regular-season defeats at Harvard hands. However, after Harvard's victories during the regular season, it would seem that the biggest threat to another Harvard lightweight title at the Sprints would be complacency, rather than any of the boats that the Crimson will face.
However, despite a distinct regular-season advantage, Crimson coach Steve Gladstone thinks that this weekend's action will be the toughest of the season for Harvard.
"We caught a lot of people off guard this year," Gladstone said yesterday, "Now everyone knows what we do. Last week Princeton wasn't prepared for us to come out at such a high cadence. This week they'll be staying right with us. If we are going to win we have got to do everything right. We cannot afford to make any mistakes."
The Crimson lights have been tapering since Wednesday for Saturday's race. In practice this week, Harvard has been working on form and starts. On the whole, though, workouts have been the lightest of the season.
"We want to avoid cumulative fatigue since we'll be racing twice on Saturday," Crimson captain Howie Burnett said yesterday, explaining the light practice sessions. "But more important than that is the psychological effect that light workouts have on you. By Saturday people are going to be anxious to take some really hard strokes."
The JV lights, despite the disappointment of being seeded second for the Sprints, will benefit from the arrangement of the preliminary heats. Harvard will face a relatively weak group of boats in the preliminaries, while Navy and Princeton, the two other powerful entrants in the JV field, will battle it out with each other in the other heat.
Navy is seeded number one in the JV division on the basis of an early season win over the Crimson, despite the fact that Princeton has convincingly outrowed the Midshipmen, and Harvard's win against the Tigers last weekend.
Gladstone was not upset by this slight to Harvard pride, though, pointing out that it could work best for the Crimson.
"I think it is perfect for us," Gladstone said yesterday. "Not very accurate, but good in the long run. Let Navy and Princeton knock each other around in the preliminaries. We'll be fresher for the finale."
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