A couple months ago, the Harvard swimming team seemed destined for an undefeated season and the Eastern Seaboard Championship crown.
Since then, junior co-captain and All-American Hess Yntema has decided to quit swimming and last season's diving star Dave English has been sidelined by cervical surgery. A once runaway Crimson aqua-machine has been tamed somewhat and a close four-way race between Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Dartmouth has developed for the Ivy laurels.
Harvard will get a chance to test its swimming fortunes very soon as the Crimson hosts powerful Dartmouth on Saturday at the IAB in a 2 p.m. meet.
The Crimson will be counting on a strong showing by a new crop of freshmen as well as good repeat performances by last year's returning lettermen to take the important meet with the Green this weekend.
Middle distance man Francisco Canales, breaststroker Ivor Gordon and diver Mike Toal lead one of the strongest freshmen contingents in years.
Canales was a six-medal winner for his native Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Games last summer while Gordon is a national record holder in the breaststroke in South Africa. "Gordon has been very successful on a minimum training program," coach Ray Essick said yesterday. "We're going to see if he can handle a stepped-up program this winter. And Toal is as good a freshman diver as I've seen."
Freshman Duncan Pyle is expected to complement fellow backstroker Tom Wolfe much as Toal has worked with improved veteran diver Roger Johanigman who has taken over as the top diver in English's absence.
Senior captain Dave Brumwell and sophomore Ed Fullerton are back to reinforce their claim as the two best breaststrokers in the East. Peter Tetlow will try to repeat his performances as one of the best long-distance men in the East, but he will have his competition cut out for him in Princeton's Joe Loughran who developed over the summer to the point where he was threatening world records in the longer distances.
Dartmouth is seen as a league contender this year, although the Green will be missing two or three of its top men this Saturday. "Some of their kids went the summer quarter and not the fall," Essick said, "so they won't be coming back until the next quarter starts after Christmas."
Two years ago, Dartmouth shaved for its first meet of the year against Penn. The Green is not expected to make a major effort like that this year. "Dartmouth is like us in that we are not allowed to stay overnight in sports like swimming," Essick said. "The chance that they would ride a bus three hours and then shave down is very small. But then again, I don't think it'll be as one-sided as last year's meet [80-31]."
Yale and Princeton are expected to make their perennial strong challenges for Ivy supremacy. Yale probably has the best bunch of freshmen in the league this year. Although Princeton lost Keith Strange, the fine breaststroker, to UCLA and Charlie Norelli to the track tream, it is expected to be almost as strong as last year's Eastern Seaboard Championship squad. Loughran is back as is diver Billy Heinz who has never lost in league competition and is not expected to this year.
"It should be a more interesting year now," Essick said. "We can't afford any errors, either by the coaches in placing people in events or by the swimmers. We are going to have to finesse in some events where before we were considered strong favorites."
"Since Yntema is not here, there is a lot more pressure on the other kids," Essick said. "It's going to be interesting to see how they respond."