Fanfare and hoopla--chorus line dancing by team members, stretcher crews carrying away exhausted competitors, and music and one-lines from the bathing suit-clad Harvard band--dominated the atmosphere at Blodgett Pool Saturday, overshadowing some fine individual swimming performances and turning a potentially dull 71-42 Crimson romp over Army into something of an interesting spectator event.
Saturday's activities, reminiscent of the highly successful community-interest campaigns which placed recent swimming powerhouses Tennessee and Alabama on the aquatic map, are part of second-year coach Joe Bernal's effort to cultivate student interest in his attempt to create a national caliber swimming program at Harvard.
Only after a stable of horses has been assembled can a coach expect to pull along such a bandwagon. Against the Cadets, sophomore sensation Bobby Hackett proved once again that he is the thorough-bred of Bernal's annually-improved squad.
Hackett obliterated the one-year-old Blodgett pool record in his specialty, the 1000-yd. freestyle, outdistancing the rest of the field by at least two laps while clipping nearly 30 seconds from the old standard. The Yonkers, N.Y. native's time (9:08.31) is the second fastest recorded in the country this year, surpassed only by his own 9:05 effort last week against Navy.
Neither Hackett nor Bernal was as impressed with the final time as they were with the success of Hackett's pace strategy. "He was trying to negative split (swim the second half of the race faster than the first)," explained Bernal afterwards. "If he can hold :50s for the last five 100s (the splits needed to go 9:00 in the event), then we think that with the excitement of a big meet he can break that barrier."
In another experiment designed to pay its dividends later during the championship season, Bernal entered freshman ace Ron Raikula in three consecutive events--the 200 backstroke, 500 freestyle and 200 breaststroke. "My event is the 400 individual medley, which isn't swum in dual meets," Raikula said afterward. "Swimming that triple with almost no rest creates a good simulation of the stress encountered during the 400 IM."
Raikula won the backstroke in 1:55.9, splashed to second behind localite Jack Guathier in the grueling 500, and then finished s respectable fourth in the breaststroke before being hauled off by his stretcher-wielding teammates.
Despite Army victories in both relays and the 7-0 lead the visitors held after one event, the meet,s outcome was never in serious doubt. Crimson aquamen won seven of nine individual swimming events, while divers Steve Schramm and Jamie Greacen swept both the one-and three-meter diving competitions.
Diving coach John Walker was "generally pleased with Schramm and Greacen's early-season performances," citing the fact that the duo barely missed NCAA qualifying standards in the one-meter event.
"Both had trouble with line-ups (diving lingo for clean, vertical entries), but technically, both performed well," Walker said. "Line-up difficulties are usually ironed out over the course of the season," he added.
Tim Maximoff, another of this year's top recruits, exhibited his versatility by outdueling Army's Rob Ruck for 200 IM laurels (1:58.77) in a race where the lead changed hands several times, then returning two events later to muscle his way to victory in the 200 butterfly (1:55.71).
For the Crimson aquamen, the Harvard Band, the cute teenaged timers with their "Bernal's Gator's" tee-shirts, and the other entertainers that Coach Bernal has ushered onto the Blodgett stage, Saturday was only a tune-up for bigger things to come. Vols and Crimson Tide, eat your hearts out.
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