After a confusing week of practice in which coach John Higginson juggled the first two boats in a frantic effort to find the magic combination. the varsity lightweight crew pushes off on the Charles against MIT and Dartmouth this morning at 11:45.
A 6.6 second swamping at the blades of Rutgers on the Harlem River last weekend signalled the week of searching and seat-racing which ended with three changes, including the stroke, from the eight that struggled last Saturday. Jeff Cooley, the J.V. stroke last weekend, has switched seats with former varsity front-man Kevin Cunningham and at three and four, Randy Vagelos and Jeff Brown have moved up to oust, at least momentarily, Pasha Lakdhir and Karl Forsguard.
Despite the changes, Higginson seemed far from optimistic yesterday. "MIT's all right, they beat Yale last weekend, and if Dartmouth is as strong as last year we're in trouble. We could be third or first. We are stronger than last weekend plus we've had more time in the water. We have some extra speed which we'd certainly need to beat anybody."
Much of the crew's difficulty stems from the departure of half of last year's varsity and the failure of last year's small freshmen boats to provide more than one replacement, Kevin Gaut, who will row at number two tomorrow.
Some of the varsity oarsmen held Higginson himself partly responsible for the unsettled nature of the squad. Five man Bill Chapman said last night, "Having been a good oarsman with a strong sense of rowing himself John expects a certain demeanor in rowing from his oarsmen. I don't think he's comfortable with very different personalities and levels of talent. He has an enjoyable penchant for self-effacing humor which goes well with national championship teams. But John doesn't know how to switch to a crew that may get beat."
"A lot of really hard-working, strong people around here would benefit from a more active and sensitive vocalization of their rowing problems," Chapman added.
Don Harting had similar sentiments to offer. John "doesn't exercise enough leadership in many situations. He leaves a lot unspoken and relies on people's sense of rowing etiquette. He rarely verbalizes, and he doesn't take the trouble to tell you what's wrong," Harting said.
Chapman also said Higginson didn't seem ready to use the ice-free Charles as soon as possible after the winter. "Last month Harry Parker went out and beat the ice into submission with his launch for three days, four hours a day. Then Harry had the heavyweights rowing three times on the weekend and seat-racing by Monday. We, on the other hand, didn't row on the water during the weekend and John didn't have his launch ready and out on the water until Wednesday. We could have taken advantage of the water more quickly."
But Chapman emphasized, "I definitely respect John, as do all the other oarsmen. He's a man of high integrity and certainly knows his rowing and has a good concept of how a boat should look." Harting also said, "John can recognize a good boat when he sees it."
But the question remains--has Higginson seen a good boat yet? Higginson admitted bewilderment yesterday. "I've never had anything like this confusion before. On alternating pieces one boat wins, then the other," he said.
Higginson did seem satisfied that Cooley should have been moved up. Despite the fact that Cunningham beat Cooley in seat racing on Thursday, Higginson felt, and his rowers concurred, that Cooley was largely responsible for the J.V.'s ability to keep up with and even outstrip the varsity during the week. Cooley's "the better stroke in establishing the swing, the length, the proportion," Higginson said. "What bothers me is that Kevin had something to offer--enormous drive--and he won't be able to offer it from the J.V."
Cunningham, while naturally "a little sad" at having been moved down to the second boat accepted that Higginson had to try something. He also said he felt Higginson had adequately explained the move to him though he added, "Higginson's character is indeed one of great reserve. One can adjust to it admire it or one can regard it as stand-offishness."
If the varsity lights beat MIT and Dartmouth "the world will be all right," Chapman and Harting chorused last night. And if they don't?
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