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Last year, Harvard cross country fans could usually count on Mike Koerner and Rick Rojas to finish 1-2, although not necessarily in that order. This meant two things: (a) that if both were running, the rest of the team had to do only reasonably well to win: and (b) that when Rojas was injured, Koerner was there to finish first.
Rojas is back this year, but Koerner isn't. This means two things: (a) Harvard fans will be praying that Rojas doesn't get injured and (b) that the second level runners have to improve on last year's performance.
These theories will be tested for the first time today as the Crimson meets Northeastern at Boston's Franklin Park. The Harvard Frosh Northeastern JV race begins at 3:30 p.m. and the varsity race starts at 4 p.m.
Northeastern only lost one meet last year, to Harvard in the season opener. The Cambridge harriers, who finished 7-3 last year, will probably win again today, but it won't be an easy race.
"It's hard to tell what you have, both for Northeastern and for us," coach Bill McCurdy said yesterday. "It was a close meet last year. Koerner and Rojas got out in front, and they were gone. The rest was pretty mixed up."
Team captain John Quirk, and Marshall Jones, both seniors have shown considerable improvement. Junior Andy Campbell, who was out all last year due to injury, looks to be among the top runners. "Fred Linsk, another junior who shows flashes of brilliance occasionally, also appears to be a top contender," McCurdy says.
Among the men to watch will be Jimmy Hughes, a star of last year's freshman team, and Tom New, who has potential.
"There will be a good deal of interest in watching the Harvard sophs," McCurdy says. "They represent an unknown factor in this season, but their work so far would indicate that they could develop into a very real help.
Among the sophomore dark horses are Bob Reason, Rob Alden, Jimmy Keefe, Bill Muller, and George Farrelly.
"Harvard's problem is probably one of consistency except for Rojas," McCurdy continued. "In a sense, it is an inexperienced group at a relatively high level of performance. Jones, Quirk and Linsk have all run excellent races before, and so have Hughes and Keefe."
Northeastern's team is a mixture of freshmen--Harvard cannot use frosh in varsity meets--and veterans. Top veterans include captain Jim Crowley. Bill Goldsmith and Nick Rowe, Rowe ran very well last year and is considered Northeastern's top runner as well as one of New England's finest.
But in a practice meet a week ago Saturday, Rowe ran behind freshman Larry Greer by six seconds. Greer finished sixth in the race at 25:26.
Northeastern took the optional meet with 47 points. The University of Connecticut finished second at 66. "Since this was only an optional meet, it may not mean anything," said McCurdy. "The only thing that can be told is that Northeastern has a fairly solid group."
Looking toward the future, Harvard's chances for overall success--which in recent years has meant defeating Penn--look fairly bright if the squad can coalesce. Penn's top runners, Julio Piazza and Karl Thornton, graduated last year, and Tom Merrick has left school, thus weakening the Philadelphia squad. The team remains strong, however, and will still be hard to best.
For the superstitious and the sentimental, two additional news notes may be of interest. The Crimson squad defeated coach McCurdy in the pre-season handicap run this year. Last year, McCurdy won While he protested the judging of this year's race. McCurdy said he was pleased with the outcome.
And McCurdy added the second note: "There's no way we can lose. Quirk is a local boy, and he's not going to let a local team beat him."
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