Eleven Crimson stalwarts will compete against representatives of 75 teams today in the IC4A track championships at Princeton's Jadwin Gym. The thinclads will take part in what has evolved into a small-school battle in which the diminutive Manhattan squad must be favored to win.
The Jaspers, winners of last year's IC4A and NCAA indoor competition, have just enough top runners and jumpers to make it two in a row.
The Crimson might be witness to some incredible distance running by Villanova's John Hartnett. The only man in the competition to run a sub-four-minute mile, the Wildcat star could be Villanova's margin for victory.
Other possible IC4A championship contenders include Pittsburgh, Penn State and Maryland. The Terrapins come in boasting some impressive field men, while the two Pennsylvania state schools feature large crops of 1:50 half-milers.
Although Harvard can't logically expect to pull off a victory with its small contingent, coach Edgar Stowell still doesn't expect to come back to Cambridge empty-handed.
"We've got two athletes--Mel Embree in the high jump, and Blayne Heckel in the pole vault--who placed for points last year, so it is realistic that we can get some more this year," Stowell said.
The Crimson might also expect to pick up a few points from expert jumper Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace. The ubiquitous VPW missed last year's IC4A's because of injuries, but this year the Bahamas native is going into the meet in his best shape ever. "He could place for points with a 49-ft.-plus triple jump and a 24-ft. jump," Stowell said.
Jay Hughes and Steve Niemi both look like scoring possibilities in the weight throw. A 60-ft.-plus toss by Hughes could put him high among the competitors. John McColloh, Mel Embree's high-jumping sidekick, might finish in the top 20 high jumpers.
But where the Crimson will meet most of its high-powered opposition will be on Jadwin's 220-yard track. There Harvard distance man Ric Rojas will run up against many of the top two-milers in the nation. The Harvard senior could be a dark horse victor among the 8:50-plus two-milers, and might be the Crimson's biggest surprise.
Freshman standouts Steve Brown and Jeff Campbell will vie for top spots in the 880 and mile events. Brown enters into a stacked field of half-milers, where he can look for some revenge after last week's disqualification in the heptagonal meet at Cornell.
Middle distance man Bill Okerman, progressing at each outing, will wrap up the indoor season against the Northeast's top 1000-yard runners. Okerman's top competition is likely to be Boston College's Keith Francis.
Without a strong running contingent the Crimson can hardly expect to finish strong in this mostly running competition. Unlike many other big indoor meets, the IC4A features three relays, a 440 and an 880, to supplement the usual 600 and 1000 events. This heavy running emphasis gives small squads like Manhattan, which has several good middle-distance specialists, a better chance to win than those teams more oriented to the needed depth of dual meet competition.
Navy, the heptagonal champion, could be just the type of team to get hurt by the over-emphasis on running. Gifted with extraordinary weight, shot and long jump men, the Middies might not have enough in the running events to match the smaller relay-oliented schools. Navy, like Harvard, will undoubtedly spend much of its time in Princeton watching enviously as the small track powers dominate the big bulky squads.