Perhaps they were just a bit smug, or perhaps they were due to fall after 28 straight victorious meets. In any event, the Crimson aquamen one year ago lost convincingly to Princeton, 65-48, in the friendly waters of Blodgett Pool.
The Tigers had shaven for the historically heated head-to-head battle, but the win still came as a shock to the 300 fans who crammed into Blodgett's humid confines to witness what they thought would prove the confirmation of Harvard's swimming dynasty, the last nail in Princeton's collective coffin.
After all, the Harvard aquamen had triumphed the last 28 times they had faced opponents, and they were continually improving.
Princeton, however, submerged the Crimson, casting doubt on the question of Harvard H20 supremacy. Today's meet in New Jersey between the two schools that have dominated the East's swimming ranks takes on a weighty importance.
Everyone at Blodgett a year ago knew that Harvard had the better squad. But the Tigers, as freestyle ace Andy Saltzman said afterwards, had nothing to lose.
Princeton took seven out of nine individual swimming events and captured both relays, setting five Blodgett records in the process. They seized the role of the aggressor early on, and each clutch performance seemed to inspire greater ones as the meet developed.
Harvard has won five of the past seven dual meets with Princeton, but they have mostly been decided by precarious margins of a dozen points or so.
Ironically, the event which ultimately propelled the Tigers to victory was the 100-yd. freestyle, the same race which proved decisive for Harvard the previous year. Beaver O'Hara and Saltzman outsprinted current Crimson captain Bobby Hackett during the final lap to sweep first and second--shattering the image of Crimson invincibility.
The defeat could not be laid on Hackett's impressive shoulders, however. He edged Saltzman in the 200 free and came within a tenth of a second of his lifetime best in the 100.
Indeed, the fault did not lie with the Crimson at all; rather, Princeton's team effort outstripped Harvard's generally lackluster performance. Today, we will see whether the Crimson swimmers can exact a measure of revenge in this focal point of their season.