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"That's going to be one of the top times in the country at this time of year. It'll put Harvard right in the middle of the national scene," Crimson coach Joe Bernal said afterwards.
"I was very shocked--I just didn't think it was that quick," a very happy Bobby Hackett enthused.
They were talking about Hackett's record-shattering performance in his first race as a Harvard swimmer. Hackett, a silver-medalist in the 1500-meter freestyle at the Montreal Olympics, opened his Harvard career Saturday by gilding, apparently effortlessly, to victory in the 200-yd. freestyle with a time of 1:30.38.
Hackett's time obliterated the meet record, surpassed the pool and University records by more than a second, and was the best time ever recorded by a New England swimmer in that event.
The only Eastern swimmer ever to go faster was Fordham's Chuck Felice, coached by new Crimson coach Joe Bernal (who then coached the Rams), at last spring's Eastern championships.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Hackett's feat was that he didn't even seem to be swimming his hardest. Hackett cruised easily through the first five laps of the eight-lap race, his long, smooth strokes keeping him even with Navy's Dan Gildae. On the sixth lap, Hackett exploded--turning on the gas seemingly at will-and left everyone else far back in his wake. He went on to win the race by half a lap.
"I was really controlling it for the first 100. I knew I had to come back in the I.M., so I just wanted to be smooth and strong," Hackett explained afterwards.
Hackett came back indeed. After negative splitting the 200-yd. freestyle (negative split means to swim the second 100 yards in a faster time than the first 100--a difficult task, as any swimmer will tell you), the prodigious freshman got to rest for as long as it took Malcolm Cooper to rocket back and forth across the pool before he swam the 200-yd. Individual Medley. He won that race, beating out Crimson co-captain Duncan Pyle, in the very impressive time of 1:59.60
The scary thing about Hackett's achievements is that he has yet to swim his two best dual meet events--the 500 and 1000-yd, freestyles. When he does, the next chapter of the record book is sure to be rewritten.
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