Led by an army of awesome freshmen, spurred on by a surprisingly large throng of screaming fans, and driven by a burning desire to avenge the humiliating defeat of one year ago, the Harvard swim team splashed to a lopsided 72-41 victory over a stunned Navy team on Saturday.
The highlight of the meet was the long-awaited debut of Olympian Bobby Hackett in a Crimson suit (see profile, page 6). Hackett lived up to his reputation as a world-class swimmer by smashing the pool, meet, and University records in his first event, the 200-yd. freestyle. The freshman from Fordham Prep then returned about two minutes later to whip the field in the 200 Individual Medley.
But Hackett was not the only Yard resident to shock the Midshipmen and delight the excited IAB crowd. After Harvard's Medley Relay, with two very quick splits from first-year men Tuomo Korola and Julian Mack, had opened the meet by finishing more than four seconds ahead of their counterparts from Annapolis, freshman Englishman Mike Coglin led to a 1-2 sweep of the 1000-yd. freestyle, to give the Crimson a 15-1 advantage.
The smooth-stroking Coglin, who led the whole way and looked stronger and stronger as the grueling 40-lap race progressed, was followed by gutsy Crimson co-captain Paco Canales. Canales, who competed in the Montreal Olympics for Puerto Rico, spent the second half of the race engaging Navy's Chris Pearson in a thrilling neck-and-neck duel for second place.
The crowd--ignited by Crimson coach Joe Bernal's rowdy pre-meet show, (featuring the Harvard Band), Canales' heroics, and Hackett's fabulous debut--got another treat when Harvard's Malcolm Cooper stepped up to the blocks.
The speedy junior sprinter gave the Crimson a 26-8 lead after he jetted to victory in the 50-yd. freestyle with a meet record time of 21.31.
The Crimson divers remained true to past years' form by thoroughly dominating both diving events. Harvard's top-notch diving coach John Walker has kept his very talented corps of acrobats virtually intact, providing a big boost to his colleague Bernal. Sophomore Steve Schramm, a high school All-American, further increased Harvard's bulging lead by nailing down both the required and optional events.
Crimson mentor Bernal eased the intensity of the Harvard assault by keeping many of his starters dry late in the meet. The one weapon he did unleash was Finnish freshman sensation Tuomo Kerola. Kerola, another Olympian, completed the devastation of the Midshipmen by shattering the pool record in the 200-yd. breaststroke with a lightning-quick time of 2:10.91.
The final 72-41 score was a near-perfect reversal of last year's 71-42 tally. Navy, who had shaved down for last year's contest, arrived hairy-legged to Saturday's meet, much to the disappointment of the revenge-crazed Crimson. Malcolm Cooper, whose times reveal just how psyched he was, lamented afterwards, "I'm really disappointed they didn't shave, because we would have burned 'em anyway."
Navy must have looked at the recruiting list, and decided that where there's smoke, there's fire.