Just three weeks ago, the Harvard swim team appeared to be a heavy favorite to win the three-day Eastern Seaboard Swimming Championship that begins at Yale this afternoon.
Since that time, though, two of the Crimson's best swimmers, Hess Yntema and Ted Fullerton, have left school for the semester to train for the summer Olympics, and it looks like Harvard may have a hard fight for second or third place.
"Looking at the best times so far," Harvard swim coach Ray Essick said this week, "Princeton, Army and Dartmouth have to be favored--and probably in that order."
"But this isn't to say we're not going to do well," Essick added. "We're ready physically and mentally. In fact, I think this will be one of our fastest Easterns ever."
When Yntema and Fullerton departed, the Crimson lost an unhealthy chunk of its first-place potential, and so Harvard will have to aim for a swarm of second through sixth place finishes. While the top 12 finishers collect points, there is a four-point gap between sixth and seventh.
For A Change
One of the Crimson's strengths this year is diving, for a change, and the diving corps led by Dave English could be the key to Harvard's fate in the meet. The Crimson's freestyle performance should also be quite a turnaround from last year's, in which Harvard copped only a measly 11 points out of five events.
Harvard should do well in the individual medleys (200 and 400 yards) and in the backstrokes (100 and 200 yards). The Crimson does not really have anyone to fill the spots vacated by Yntema in the butterfly and by Fullerton in the breaststroke and is not expected to pick up many points there.
The relay teams could turn in some quick times, but probably not fast enough to capture any of the races (400 medley, 400 free and 800 free).
'Pull A Penn'
For the first time, there is a distinct possibility that Harvard could be leading after the first day of competition since the Crimson is particularly strong in that day's events (50 free, 500 free, 200 individual medley, one-meter diving and the 400 medley relay).
"If we're leading at the end of the first day, we might pull a Penn and walk out," Essick said in reference to a stunt the Quakers executed here several weeks ago. After their medley relay swimmers captured the opening event, the entire Penn squad walked out, declaring it was quitting while still ahead.
Harvard, will need a hefty advantage going into the second day of competition (400 individual medley, 200 free, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, and 800 free relay): The Crimson has scoring potential in only four of these six races.
Harvard's performance should brighten on Saturday. The Crimson could easily pick up points in every event (1650 free, 100 free, 200 back, 200 breast, 200 fly, three-meter diving, and 400 free relay), except the breaststroke.
[For an analysis of the events and the swimmers, see below.]
So don't expect the Crimson to walk away with the Eastern Seaboard crown this weekend even if the aquamen did tie for the EISL title. But then again, don't be too startled if there are a few surprises in the next couple days.