Ever since I can remember I have loved track and swimming, perhaps due in some way to the masochism necessary to achieve success in these two sports. I have vivid memories of swimming in my freshman year in prep school and feeling like I was going to throw up after every practice (I didn't) and running the half mile for the next three years and feeling like I was going to vomit after every race (I did most of the time). I was willing to go through the agony of an 880 and the ritual throwing-up because I ran good times and won, while I wasn't really so thrilled about turning green after swimming because I was awful and never came in better than an occasional third.
But this weekend I was torn between the two--going to Princeton to see the swimming team face the Tigers in a league championship showdown or staying in Cambridge to watch the track team run the GBC's. The choice was a difficult one, for both were undefeated and having fine seasons, but in the end my track bias prevailed and I stayed.
Coach Bill McCurdy's team rewarded my loyalty with a stunning victory. The GBC win marked the re-emergence of Harvard track as a Boston, New England, and Ivy power after a couple of disappointing seasons, and might have been the best single afternoon in Harvard track history.
The Crimson virtually rewrote the record book. It set eight meet records, tied one Seven of those were new Bubble standards, four set new Harvard marks and one incredible pole vault was a New England record as well. They were well earned records, for as someone told me on the way out, "It used to be easy to break records in the Bubble when it was new because almost every time somebody ran they'd break a record. But it's a helluva lot harder now." That reminded me of the time I ran the 1000-yd. run at Lawrenceville. I ran an awful time, 2:23, but it was a record because nobody had ever run it before. The next time it was run, four years later, somebody beat my time by six seconds.
Harvard runners obliterated old records just about as easily as the guy who broke mine. The two-mile relay lopped seven seconds off the GBC mark, Bob Clayton ran the 1000 three seconds faster than the GBC standard set just last December, Nick Leone bettered the meet record in the 600 by over a second, and Vincent Vanderpoole-Wallace jumped five inches further in the triple jump than anyone else had previously.
What was even more amazing was the fact that four Crimson times were superior to those recorded in a top invitational meet in California. Clayton's superb 1000 is, as far as I know, the fastest in the world so far this year. His 2:08.0 was a tenth of a second faster than the winning time by Kenyan Olympian Mike Boit at the L.A. Times meet. Nick Leone's 600 was better than that recorded in L.A., while both the two-mile and one-mile Crimson relays also topped L.A. clockings.
"This is the greatest team Harvard has ever had," co-captain Clayton said after the meet. "We've got the times to compete with anybody in the country." But even if it doesn't, the enthusiasm and talent of this year's Crimson team ranks it among the best in Harvard history.
Although it lost to Princeton Saturday to complicate the league standings, this year's Harvard swimming team may be one of the best in history as well. In winning eight of ten individual swimming events, Don Gambril's squad again indicated that it has the first-place strength to match anyone in the East. That the Crimson's lack of overall depth makes Harvard's Eastern swimming supremacy still probably a year away detracts little from the superior performances turned in at Princeton by a talented group of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.
The swims by freshman Hess Yntema were particularly outstanding. His time of 49.9 in the butterfly leg of the relay was excellent considering his unfamiliarity with the turns in the Tiger pool. In the 200-yd. butterfly Yntema lowered his school record time to 1:55.0, which should put him back among the top ten in the nation. And in the 200-yd. backstroke he was robbed of yet another Harvard record by some confusion among the official timers.
Dave Brumwell, who has been living partially in Yntema's shadow after being the top individual star of the team in his freshman year, is having a great season. He came back Saturday to regain his 200-yd. individual medley crown with a very good 1:58.8, and continued to swim midseason 2:14+ 200-yd. breaststrokes he only attained at the very end of last season.
Sprint freestyler Tim Neville swam a fast 21.3 50-yd. free and has set his sights on a time in the 20's. Rich Baughman came back from a month of illness to beat Curt Haydon in the 1000, and, barring sickness, he could play a major part in the Crimson efforts against Cornell, Penn, Yale and the all-important Easterns at Army in March. Captain Fred Mitchell is having his usual steady season and last Saturday again nipped Haydon in the 500-yd. free.
Harvard swimming has both changed a great deal and remained much the same since Gambril assumed the head coaching job last year. He has taken a small nucleus of fine swimmers, added two crops of talented freshmen and molded a swimming power in just two years. That is new. But, at the same time, Gambril has succeeded in adjusting to Harvard's peculiar style of athletics, a style dominated by the individual idiosyncrasies and personal needs of a Harvard athlete. This mix, of high-powered team ambitions and low-keyed personal attention, has proved to be a successful one. Whether Gambril takes Harvard to the top of Eastern swimming now seems only a matter of time.