Recruiting. Say what you want about team attitude, training techniques, and the importance of good coaching, but the bread and butter of any collegiate athletic program is its success in recruiting. Simply stated, if you don't have the horses, it doesn't matter how badly you want it--you ain't gonna win much.
Despite last season's successes, several large holes remained on the Crimson aquatic depth charts, gaps that needed to be filled if the team was to move toward its goal of creating a swimming dynasty.
More freestylers were needed to strengthen the relays and allow flexibility in lineup decisions. But the most glaring necessity was to find a top-notch, preferably world-class breaststroker. This year's freshman class promises to fill all of these gaps, and more.
David Lundberg, from the unlikely locale of Provo, Utah, stands out as the thoroughbred of this herd. Lundberg's performances this past summer earned him positions among the world's top 20 in both breaststroke events (100 and 200).
Larry Countryman, Ted Chappell, Tom Verdin, Jim Carbone and Andy Lickman, all of whom were high school or prep standouts last winter, promise to add depth to the Crimson's already formidable freestyle crew.
Add these studs to a team that graduated only two major Easterns point-scorers, and it's difficult to imagine that any Ivy or Eastern League squad can seriously challenge this year's Crimson.
Harvard's depth in some events borders on the obscene. The Crimson finished first, second and fourth in the 400 Individual Medley at last year's Easterns. This season, with the addition of Lundberg (eighth in the world this summer in the event), Verdin, Countryman, Chappell and Lockman, it is conceivable that Harvard could place six or seven men in the top eight.
The 1650-yd. freestyle is another example of the Crimson's awesome power. Bobby Hackett could give everyone a two-lap head start and still win at Easterns. Tim Maximoff and Mike Coglin (second and eighth last year, respectively) return, and Countryman's time Sunday in an exhibition meet against a Canadian club team (16:00.71) would have earned him sixth place a year ago.
Ron Raikuls, defending Eastern champion in the 200 backstroke and Geoff Seelen, runner-up last year in the 100, return to anchor the backstroke corps. Butterfliers Jack Gauthier, Dan Menichella and Campari Knoepffler, all finalists last year, are back.
John Walker's divers often get lost in the publicity shuffle but have been instrumental in Harvard's building of an aquatic empire. Jeff Mule, whom Walker touts as "the top prospect in the Ivys," will join Steve Schramm (second on one-meter and fifth on the high board).
Julian Mack, whose mid-season return sparked the Crimson's win over Princeton last year, has decided to hang up his Speedo for good. Jim Carbone and Gauthier figure to fill Mack's sprint role. The addition of this year's talented crop means that no one can again accuse Harvard of being the "Bobby Hackett Swim Club." Lundberg and others will score individual points at NCAAs, and all three Crimson relays are now definite contenders for spots in the finals at that meet.
The allure of possible membership on next summer's Olympic team has inspired unprecedented dedication among team members this fall. Perhaps more importantly, the squad recognizes its potential and is setting its sites beyond the Easterns to the nationals. As co-captain Dickie Greer says, "We've experienced an Eastern Championship and are eager for more."
The long-awaited season begins Saturday at Columbia. The meet represents a homecoming of sorts for Crimson mentor Joe Bernal, who graduated from N.Y.U. and who coached in the New York area before coming to Cambridge three years ago.
Columbia would like nothing better than to spoil Bernal's return, but frankly they haven't got a prayer. The Lions have developed in recent years a reputation as the most obnoxious team in the Eastern League (their totally uncalled for 102-11 romp over hapless Penn last season is a case in point), and it is extremely doubtful that even their notoriously shady home officiating can rescue them from their fate this weekend.
We won't see a close meet until February against Indiana.
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