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After numerous postponements, the new Soldiers Field natatorium will finally open its doors to the swimmers--although the first meet won't be held there until next month--but the opening comes with one strike already against the pool.
The delayed completion of the pool forced the relocation of this past weekend's U.S. Women's International Swimming Meet, originally slated for the new Harvard facility, from Cambridge to Providence. The meet, sponsored and conducted by Harvard, was run Saturday and Sunday at Brown University's Smith Swimming Complex.
Despite the move away from Cambridge, Harvard retained control of all meet operations.
"The women swimmers went to Logan Airport to meet the teams coming in from other countries," said Maura Costin '80, a Harvard swimmer. "We rode with them down to Providence and tried to help them in getting settled for the meet."
Along with the swimmers, who helped out in the operation of the meet with timing, selling programs, keeping order around the pool, and offering assistance to the visiting swimmers, the Harvard swimming coaches assumed the task of managing, organizing, and directing the entire meet.
"It's too bad we couldn't have hosted the meet here, because it would have been much easier to run," Costin said.
Joe Bernal, the men's coach, and Stephanie Walsh, the women's head coach, teamed up with their assistants, Steve Berizzi and Paula Newman, to form the nucleus of a Harvard staff that anchored the operations of the two-day event for which NBC provided national television coverage.
In an attempt to keep a Harvard atmosphere in the Brown pool, Harvard put up a large Veritas banner and kept the Harvard name and insignia visible on T-shirts, programs, and meet souvenirs.
Touch of Harvard
"It was nice because there was a touch of Harvard all over the place," Costin said, "but it's just too bad that the swimmers didn't get to see Harvard, Boston, and the new pool."
The presence of former Harvard swim coaches added to the Harvard-in-Providence atmosphere. Don Gambril, the men's swim coach here from 1971-1973. was at Brown as a coach with the U.S. Women's national team.
Skip Kenny and Jay Huneke, both one-time assistant coaches here under Gambril, were also active in the meet, Kenny as an independent coach, and Huneke as a coach for the Canadian National team.
Ray Essick, men's swim coach here from 1973-1976, worked at poolside with the AAU as the director of international meets.
A group of Harvard men's swim team members helped with the presentation of awards.
"It's just too bad that all that had to go on in Providence," said Harvard diver Sue Abkowitz. "It would have been a big bang to have the meet here to open the new pool."
Both the men's and women's team will host Brown here today in dual meets, but the Harvard coaches have decided not to swim the meets in the new pool. The women's meet, at 4 p.m., and the men's contest, at 7 p.m., will both be run at the Indoor Athletic Building.
"The coaches felt that we would give up a home pool advantage if we swam against Brown in the new pool, since the teams have not yet worked out at Soldiers Field," said Anne Liccardello, Harvard women's swim team manager. "The swimmers would not be familiar with the walls and the blocks, and that might hurt them on starts and turns. In addition, Brown is really used to swimming in a pool like the one at Soldiers Field, so they might actually have an advantage."
The swimmers will practice in the pool this week although the official dedication is set for February 4, when the men will host Princeton. That is the next home meet for either Harvard team
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