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Finding the word to fit the Harvard freshman lightweight crew is no easy task. Words like "great," "unbelievable" or "fantastic" simply aren't sufficient to describe a team whose average margin of victory this season has been 21 seconds, a whopping five boat-lengths.
The most significant thing behind this record is that the team achieved it with only two rowers, stroke Clint Rubin and number seven man Jon White, who had previous rowing experience.
The other six members of the team-Peter Fuchs, Bill Chapman, Ed Timmins, Ricky Taylor, Mike Loucks and Jeff Parker-never touched an oar prior to last September.
All of the oarsmen are natural athletes, having played football, basketball, soccer, track, swimming and wrestling in high school.
But on coming to Cambridge in the fall they opted for the rigors of Newell Boathouse.
"I liked the unique physical conditioning and muscular development that crew offered," says number five Chapman.
Bow man Parker adds, "I discovered that there was a spirit of camaraderie in crew unlike that found in any other sport. Crew is a team sport, not an individual one. There are eight guys pulling together for the common goal of moving the boat."
An integral member of the team is coxswain J. Allen Cox. Cox has his own peculiar reasons for liking crew.
"I like being outside and on the water," says Cox. "As coxswain, I feel I contribute to the team in the way a quarterback or a jockey does."
The biggest problem facing the oarsmen is weight. The crew had to lose an average of 18 pounds per man for the boat to average the required 150 pounds. Number four Timmins had to shed 28 pounds to reach his assigned weight of 151.
Although it is premature to label the Yardlings the fastest freshman crew in the East-that will be decided at tomorrow's sprints-they do have the potential to break the record of the largest margin of victory, eight seconds, set by last year's Crimson freshmen.
The man responsible for the success of the Harvard lightweight program is coach Dick Prentke.
Prentke was captain of the Princeton lights ("We beat Harvard my senior year," he says with pride) and coached at Jeb Stuart High School and Georgetown before coming to Harvard Law School and assuming the freshman coaching reins.
In an era when player-coach feuds have wracked many Harvard teams, it's refreshing to hear the freshmen talk about their coach-they all love the guy.
"He's the best coach I've ever had, seen, or heard about," says Timmins. "He's a great coach and an even greater person."
Number two Loucks adds, "He makes you want to do all the stadiums and ergometers not just for him, but as a challenge to yourself."
Prentke has a simple formula for handling his rowers.
"I just try to be friendly, direct, and honest," he says.
Prentke has accumulated an impressive three-year record of 10-1, including the sprints title last year and a second place finish two years ago, in addition to this year's powerhouse.
The remarkable thing about this record, since Harvard does no recruiting, is that he taught all his crews from scratch how to row.
What does he like about coaching?
"The most important thing to me is that I've introduced rowing to ten boatloads of people and had contact with 400-500 freshmen since I've been here," he says.
The biggest tribute to Prentke's salesmanship abilities is that, in a year when the freshman heavies can barely fill two boats, Prentke has four enthusiastic boat loads of people.
His second boat could qualify for the sprints final, and his third boat is better than any second boat around.
Prentke is cautiously optimistic about his team's chances at the sprints.
"You can't count your chickens until they've crossed the finish line," he says. "By my calculations, Rutgers will be the toughest, with MIT also very strong."
Unfortunately for Harvard, this marks Prentke's last race as a coach. He graduates from the Law School this year.
"Well, at least maybe I'll stop losing hairs from my head," he says.
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