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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

...Lights Outrace Rocks and Rutgers

By Richard J. Doherty

"Said I'd like to know where you got the notion,

To rock the boat, Don't rock the boat baby,

Rock the boat, Don't tip the boat over..." Hues Corporation

The Harvard lightweight varsity fell victim to some literal 'rock the boat' action in its pre-race warmups on Saturday as number seven oarsman Todd Howard was hit on the head with a stone thrown from the banks of the Harlem River.

But J.V. seven man John Pickering filled the seat of the injured Howard (three stitches) and the Crimson eight regrouped to outlast a persistent Rutgers crew en route to a four second victory in its first race of the season.

Stoned in the Boat

Howard was beaned while the varsity was going through some practice pieces close to the shore. Similar incidents had occured earlier in the week on the Columbia race course.

Gil Welch, rowing directly behind Howard said, "I heard a frightened scream and blood spurted from his scalp and in all honesty I wasn't sure if he hadn't been shot."

"It was a real messy thing and I don't want to go back to Columbia," he added.

As for the race, the Crimson started the floating, staggered start at the high cadence of 43 strokes per minute. By the 1000 meter mark, John Higginson's eight had moved out to a six length lead over the Scarlet Knights.

Columbia was floundering in its "Gem of the Ocean" role and eventually finished some six lengths behind the Crimson.

"It ended up being closer than it should have been," captain Ned Reynolds said. "We were sloppy throughout the race and just sort of thrashed down the course."

The J.V. race of the day turned into an intracollegiate affair, as the Harvard second varsity eight found its closest competition to be its Newell house bay mates, the third varsity.

Columbia did not launch a J.V. boat and Rutgers was out of the race after the third stroke. J. V. oarsman Ham Potter said, "The 3V kept holding with us, but we had a length lead after the first 500 and Rutgers just kept falling back."

The final margin of victory was six seconds on the tide-aided Harlem. "I sensed it wasn't our fastest race by a long shot," Potter said, "it was more like a workout."

Freshman Thriller

The only real excitement of the day came in the freshman race, where coach Gregg Stone's charges edged out the Lion's eight by a scant four tenths of a second.

Next week the lights cruise on up to Dartmouth to face the boats of MIT and the Big Green. The Crimson will be out to capture its twelfth consecutive Biglin Bowl.

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