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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
It has been a long wait. For some, like captain Bill Backman, it has taken four years. But around the 400 block of Huntington Ave today there will be nine guys prancing from building to building accepting campus congratulations and pats on the back with a grin from ear-to-ear. The people will point and some will stop and fondle the treasure.
At the end of the day, the nine will go their separate ways, possibly on the bus home retelling just once more the tale they've told a 100 times already: and when its time to hit the crib they'll take off, neatly fold up, and tuck away the fondest memory they've every known--a maroon rowing shirt with a white Harvard 'H'.
Yes, for the first time in history Northeastern has beaten Harvard and in the process sprinted away with a much bigger prize--the Eastern varsity heavyweight rowing championship. However, Harvard boats overpowered the opposition in the second boat and freshman divisions to take two out of three of the heavyweight titles and capture for Harvard the Rowe Cup symbolic of heavyweight supremacy in the East.
In the varsity race the Huskies, who while compiling an undefeated record were still not given a second look for the title by experts before the race, had the slowest qualifying time in the six-boat finals, but pulled off a break-neck finishing sprint in the final 500 meters to nose out Brown for the laurels by a full-length.
The Bruins, who had lost to Harvard earlier this year by two and a half lengths and had topped Northeastern by 2.8 seconds in the presupposed weak heat three of the morning trials, were racing next to the Huskies in the finals on the far two lanes opposite the Worcester side of Lake Quinsigamond.
The two virtually unnoticed boats flew in tandem from the rear of the pack to grab the lead from a fading Harvard eight which had held a lead of up to one length throughout the entire race until the last 500 meters.
"Northeastern may have started to sprint before us, but they had already started to move on us and I don't think any adjustment we could've made would've made any difference," Harvard's coach Harry Parker said.
It was a beautiful race for the Huskies, whose previous best finish, since crew was established at Northeastern in 1965, was a third in 1967.
"It was without a doubt our best race of the year." Huskie coach Ernie Arlett said. "I let my stroke (Calvin Coffey) row his own race. He's a brilliant oar and he did just what he wanted--I really didn't have anything to do in deciding the race plan."
The victory by Northeastern which was seeded third, marked the first time in 12 years that a crew other than the Adams Cup trio of Navy, Penn and Harvard had taken the title.
Navy, who as defending champion and second seed, was again supposed to battle first ranked Harvard and Penn for the championship in a replay of last week's Adams Cup won by Harvard, failed to make the finals when stroke Chuck Munns caught a crab with 200 meters remaining and Cornell and Wisconsin passed the Middies who were trying to regain momentum. Cornell and Wisconsin finished fourth and sixth respectively in the finals.
Penn, another of the pre-race favorites, defeated the Crimson by 3.4 seconds in heat one of the qualifying trials but finished a disappointing fifth in the finals after battling Harvard for the lead through much of the first 1500 meters.
"We can't row with a stroke that low and expect to beat anyone." Penn coach Ted Nash said. "We got down too low and just didn't know it."
In the second boat race, the Crimson avenged an earlier season and morning trial loss at the hands of Brown, and walloped the field in the finals. Harvard smashed runnerup Navy by 3.7 seconds while Wisconsin and Brown finished third and fourth respectively.
Harvard's freshman crew completely dominated its competition as it has all year and breezed to victories in the trials and finals. Winning by 7.1 seconds--close to two lengths--the powerful Crimson eight coached by Ted Washburn was the first Yardling squad to bring a title back to Newell Boathouse since 1967.
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