So far this season, Crimson swimming coach Ray Essick has played the role of the diplomat. While most coaches fret about devising a winning strategy, Essick has had to contrive ways of keeping his team's margin of victory within reason. The opposition has to score some points. Shutting out your opponent in a swimming meet is analogous to keeping your basketball regulars in the game to pad a 50 point fourth quarter lead. It's an unnecessary show of strength. Besides, it's bad for public relations.
The Crimson have been so overpowering this season that their closest meet was against Dartmouth back in early December, an 80-33 shellacking of the Big Green. Since then the meets have resembled target practice at point blank range. Johns Hopkins, Navy, Army and Springfield, teams which in past years provided stiff competition, have all found themselves hopelessly outclassed. But the point is that Harvard is that good; the other teams are not that bad.
The key to Harvard's success is, of course, top quality personnel. The appointment of Don Gambril as coach three years ago and of Essick as his successor this year has attracted some world class swimmers. Freshman Peter Tetlow's best time in the 1000-yard freestyle ranks him with Olympians John Kinsella and Rick Demont. Sophomore Hess Yntema is nationally ranked in the 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley. And the list goes on.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Harvard's five dual meet victories this year, has been the experimenting Essick has done with his lineup. It is a luxury few coaches can afford. Shuffling his swimmers in and out of events from one meet to another, Essick has given just about everybody on the squad a chance to swim under competitive conditions. It was even rumored that he was going to use the team manager to swim the butterfly leg of the medley relay against Springfield.
But all of this changes when Princeton comes to town on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers boast a few nationally ranked swimmers of their own and lead the Eastern League with a 4-0 record. They have a freshman freestyler whose battle with Tetlow in the long distance events should provide the meet's highlight. Not only do the Tiger swimmers excel; the Princeton diving program is rated one of the country's best.
There will be no experimenting in this meet. Undoubtedly Essick has prepared a few surprises for the Tigers, but the Crimson will be going with everything in their arsenal. University records should fall, but that will be only a sidelight to the events themselves. Virtually every race promises to be what is known in sports jargon as a "barnburner." The final score may not be close, but the individual races will be.
Surveying the calibre of talent on both teams, Essick termed this Saturday's contest, "The best quality meet on the East Coast in the last 15 years." It should certainly be that. Not only is the level of talent high; the Crimson will be looking to avenge last year's only dual meet loss and will be performing before a home crowd.
If you want a taste of what college swimming is like, this is the meet to attend. There is an electric quality about a close swimming meet which is difficult to describe but which will be in evidence Saturday afternoon at the IAB. The only problem could be scaring up a ticket.