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The Harvard lightweights, whose Eastern supremacy has gone uncontested in the last four years, will face a strong challenge to that supremacy this Saturday on the Charles, when the Princeton Tigers come to town to challenge for the Goldthwait Cup.
Saturday's race, which also features Yale, was once considered the Big Three match-up of Eastern rowing, and while the Eli are no longer the lightweight threat they once were, the presence of Princeton and Harvard in head to head competition distinctly elevates the contest to the "Super Race" category.
Despite the fact that each year the Tigers maul their way through the lambs on their early-season schedule and roar into town anticipating another victorious feast. Princeton has traditionally been declawed, debilitated, and defeated at the hands of superior Harvard boats. The Tigers have not won a Goldthwait Cup since 1957 and have a lot of embarassment to make up for. Since then the title has been exclusive Harvard property.
If Princeton is ever going to make a bid for the title, this is the year to do it. The Tigers have been building the present varsity boat for two years and are a superb, dedicated, and highly disciplined group. Every position is filled by a returning letterman and there are those observers who would rate Princeton the favorite in Saturday's race on the basis of the Tigers' 4-0 record.
Woody Fischer, Princeton mentor, was not openly buying the favorite role. "There's not much to it one way or the other," he said yesterday. "Harvard could just as easily be called the favorite--you are the people who have the 34-race win streak. However, our program is coming into its own, and I think we can knock heads with anyone."
Crimson coach Steve Gladstone would venture no prediction for Saturday and has felt the pressure this week, as starting time draws nearer and nearer. The Goldthwait action could turn into the closest race ever of his Cambridge reign.
"There's no doubt that I'm really emotionally wound up," he said yesterday. "It's the most highly emotionalized race that I've been involved with since I've been here."
Nevertheless. Gladstone plans no changes and has been highly satisfied with the varsity's performance in practice. "We unquestionably look the best that we have all year," he said yesterday. "I think we've found the solution to some of our pace problems." Gladstone would not reveal whether that solution involved any new strategy for Saturday's race.
The Crimson will go with the same lineup that convincingly turned back the Navy challenge a week ago. Pete Huntsman will again row bow, followed by captain Howie Burnett at two, Andy Narva at three, Phin Sprague at four, Jim Richardson at five, Rick Eustus at six, and George Host at seven. Tony Brooks will stroke and Jay Galeski continues as cox.
By race time on Saturday, emotions are likely to be sky high. Of all opponents the Crimson faces, Princeton far and away draws the strongest gut response, based on a wide range of reasons--from Harvard pride to personal experiences and grudges.
Senior Rick Eustus, a first-year varsity oarsman, put it this way: "I have nothing personal against Princeton--I just never want to lose. This is my only year on the varsity and I don't want to ruin it like that."
George Host's impetus comes from an incident that occurred over intercession this year. "I was down at Princeton, talking with a friend who rows for them," Host recalls. "I was casually asking a few questions when the Princeton coach (Woody Fischer) came in, and, upon learning I was from Harvard, peremptorily evicted me from the boat house. I've got a personal vendetta to settle with them now."
Tony Brooks looks at Princeton with a little more hostility. "It's grudge match for us to keep them down where they belong. Everyone we've met who has been beaten by Princeton wants us to really schlong 'em."
Pete Huntsman stresses the element of pride going into today's race. "We're Harvard, and by being Harvard we have a great psychological advantage," he said. "If we exploit it we can't be beaten. But all things considered, it boils down to this: It's going to be one scraunchy race. Whoever's balls get caught in the slide first is going to lose."
Whatever the outcome, it appears that Saturday's race will be memorable. Race time is 11:15 a.m. for the varsity. JV and freshmen race at 10:45 and 10:15 a.m., respectively. Action takes place on the Charles River Basin.
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