After a six-year absence from dingy Briggs Cage, the Crimson thinclads will return there this evening to tangle with Boston University in the season opener.
"The Bubble," the Crimson's home for the past six years, burst last winter when violent winds ripped a hole in the canvas structure. With no other place to train or compete, the thinclads have been forced to return to the archaic confines of the Cage.
"I'm not concerned with facilities," coach Bill McCurdy said. "I'm only concerned with developing a team. We'll do the best we can with what we have to work with--in athletes and facilities."
Vanderpool - Wallace Leads
McCurdy's cast of athletes is led by the multi-talented Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace. Vanderpool-Wallace is an All-Ivy competitor in the long jump and triple jump and placed fifth in the Heptagonal Championship high jump. "We may even give him a shot in the sprints," McCurdy said. "Nothing that man does surprises me."
But Vanderpool-Wallace is just one of many outstanding field people. In the high jump, Harvard's strongest event, All-Ivy leaper Mel Embree and John McCullough will provide the Crimson with a powerful one-two punch. Embree has cleared seven feet and placed seventh in the NCAA championship last spring. McCullough is not far behind with a 6-foot 10-inch leap to his credit.
Complementing Vanderpool-Wallace in the horizontal jumps are co-captain Blayne Heckel in the long jump and Ahmed Kayali in the triple jump. "Heckel is going to try his new style of somersaulting," McCurdy said. "I hope he doesn't kill himself."
The throws will be handled by co-captain Steve Niemi, footballer Dan Jiggetts, and Kevin McCafferty. Both Niemi and McCafferty placed in the Heps last season.
The pole vault may be the Crimson's deepest event despite the loss of record holder Jim Kleiger. Heckel, Don Berg and Steve Hanes have all sailed over 15 feet.
"The strength of the team is certainly wrapped up in the field events," McCurdy said. "We are tough in all of them."
Unfortunately the Crimson is not as impressive on the track. The graduation of Nick Leone and Ric Rojas has stripped Harvard of its two strongest runners. "The running events are pretty much a question mark," McCurdy said.
The sprints are wide open but Mike Horton should emerge as the number the man if he gets in shape. Sam Butler will be the primary Crimson hope in the hurdles. He has recovered from last year's injury. "He looks quicker than I've ever seen him," McCurdy said.
Joel Peters and Bill Okerman should be the top Crimson guns in the middle distances. Peters copped fifth place in the Heps 600-yard run last year. Sophomore Steve Brown will also be a challenger once he recovers from an ankle injury.
The mile and two-mile, traditional Harvard strengths, may hinder the Crimson this year. Jim Keefe is still ailing from a cross-country injury, and Jeff Campbell, coming off of a disappointing cross-country campaign, will be hard-pressed to duplicate last year's 4-minute, 12-second mile.
"We have a lot that is not nailed down so the BU meet is going to be an evening of enlightenment," McCurdy said. "We are going to find out what we have."
The meet offers Harvard an excellent opportunity to solve its question marks and open a winning season. The Crimson has dumped the Terriers in 22 of 23 meets and most of those have been held in the dusty old Briggs cage.