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Philadelphia is quiet once again. The 250 women athletes who invaded the town last weekend, representing all eight Ivy League schools, have left the City of Brotherly Love and returned to books, classrooms, and the remaining games of their regular season schedules. The Palestra has once again returned to the clutches of the Big Five, the men's basketball league to which Penn belongs, and the splashing in Sheerr Pool has subsided now that last weekend's events are over.
You might say that tranquility has returned to the University of Pennsylvania campus. But somehow, all the action, chaos and feverish excitement of Ivy Championship weekend did not really upset the daily routine at Penn. The benefits of hosting the weekend proved numerous, far overshadowing the inevitable hassles tournament sponsors encounter.
The organizers of the tournament obviously worked hard. They ran the swim meet exactly on schedule, delivering results promptly and keeping the atmosphere friendly. For the first time women from all of the Ivy schools were competing together at poolside, and this fact alone was greatly rewarding.
The meet unified women's swimming and diving in the Ivy League, giving many of the swimmers a chance to renew old friendships, compare times, and share their experiences as swimmers at different schools.
In the basketball tournament at the Palestra, some intense rivalries developed. The weaker teams like Barnard and Dartmouth were trounced by powerful Princeton and Yale, but continuous action and constant tension sparked the gymnasium crowd. In its third year, the hoop tourney was more exciting than in previous years because of an improved level of play and the increased competitiveness of various squads.
Princeton dominated both the swimming and the basketball competitions, but Yale and Harvard offered strong challenges to the Tiger supremacy. The orange and black has reigned for the past two years in these events, but improving women's programs at the other Ivy schools should slowly cut into the New Jerseyans' dominance.
Courtside and poolside were both emotionally charged. While the individual nature of swimming prompted personal responses to success and failure, the hoopsters reacted en masse. If a swimmer's time was abnormally slow, dejection and a determination to do better would show visibly on her face, while a new personal-best time might prompt an athlete to swim extra laps with seemingly endless energy. A euphoric basketball squad would rush onto the hardwood and mob each other with embraces when victorious, but when defeated the team would walk somberly to their locker room, grab a Coke and a pretzel, and hurry off to the solitude of a hot shower.
For all the high points, the weekend also had its misfortunes. Injuries, never far from an athlete's mind, marred the tourney weekend. The most tragic accident befell the Cornell teams when their bus went out of control on an icy road and flipped over as the women returned to Ithaca Sunday night. Several team members were hospitalized and two were placed under intensive care.
Injury also struck the Harvard teams. Guard Ellen Hart spent the second half of the Brown game with ice on a strained ankle. After nursing it that night, she returned to action the next day, but could not play her best. Swimmer Maura Costin left the pool after her heat of the 100-yd. butterfly shaking from the pain of a muscle spasm in her injury-riddled back. She also competed after the injury, with the help of massages from assistant coach Paula Newman, but Costin, like Hart, could not perform up to par.
Food and festivity followed the athletics. Saturday night, Penn served up large portions of roast beef at a sumptuous banquet. Sunday night parties celebrated the tourney's end. The Harvard women took over Pagano's, a Philadelphia Italian restaurant featuring lotsa pasta. They cornered Pagano's bar and danced tirelessly to a band blasting the best of the disco sounds. Diving coach John Walker invented a new dance called "the basketball," and the band dedicated Rolls Royce's "Car Wash" to the Harvard women, presumably with some reason behind the selection.
Returning for a last night at the luxurious University City Holiday Inn, in the heart of Philadelphia's fast-food district, the Harvard women performed their last heroic task of the weekend, forcing fully clothed basketball captain, Katherine Fulton, into a sobering shower.
With a hectic weekend of competition and socializing finally over, the teams returned to Cambridge. En route, basketball coach Carole Kleinfelder, swimming coach Stephanie Walsh and Nikki Janus, assistant director of athletics, probably reflected on how successful the weekend had been, but they undoubtedly also thought about what they would do next year, when Harvard hosts the tournament.
Maybe then the athletes will even see a few fans at the IAB...for a change.
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