The Kevin Cunningham show debuted on the Charles River just in time for the 'Big Three' Goldthwait Cup race, and the most important critic this side of Newell Boathouse couldn't stop raving.
"We raced very intelligently," six-year veteran coach John Higginson said in the after-glow of a two-second, half-length win over Princeton on a picture-postcard Sunday morning.
"Our stroke (Cunningham) made moves at odd times that kept us in a very tight race," Higginson said.
In crew lingo, "odd" means key.
"Kev called a couple of bold strategical tactics out there and it paid off," said an admiring senior captain John Pickering about his Lowell House roommate. "Both caught Princeton by surprise and threw them off."
Princeton, which entered the race ranked second behind Pennsylvania in the coaches' poll seedings for next weekend's Eastern Sprints at Worcester, jumped out to a two-seat lead at the start.
But the Crimson eight (bow Dave Lakhdir, Don Harting, Bill Chapman, Jeff Cooley, John Pickering, Karl Forsgaard, Jim Russell, Cunningham and cox Peter Cordeiro) matched the Tigers' 36-stroke cadence by settling at 35 strokes to set a torrid initial pace that left Yale embarrassingly behind.
Harvard pulled even at 500-meters thanks to a quick power-ten, and the squads proceeded toward the Mass Ave bridge in neck-and-neck fashion. None of the Crimson faithful that lined the Charles to catch some early-morning rays were surprised when Cordeiro barked out the usual power-20 at the bridge underpass.
Enter Mr. Cunningham, who wasn't content with Harvard's three-seat lead at that juncture. "Before we lost the momentum of the 20," Pickering recalled, "Kev quickly shouted out a power-ten on top of it." The unorthodox tactic doubled Harvard's lead and gave the Crimson some breathing room as the boats headed for the final 500 meters.
That's where Cunningham proved once again that the Harvard man isn't just another pretty face. The four-year yet stroke yelled for the stretch-drive spring earlier than Princeton anticipated. The Tigers panicked and decided to try to match Harvard's sprint, but the gang from Jerseyland didn't have the petro left to catch the smooth-sailing Crimson squad.
Harvard's fifth consecutive Goldthwait Cup was in the bag, setting the stage for what should be a classic Harvard-Pennsylvania-Princeton confrontation at the Sprints.
STARBOARD SPLINTERS: Rumor around Newell that Washington's lights, the cream of the Western crew crop, may come East for the Sprints. Crimson squad drooling for Huskie match-up and crack at mythical national title.