By the time the Eastern Seaboard Swimming Championships get started at Dartmouth today, the odds of the Harvard team coming home with its third straight title may be off the board. Last year the Crimson racked up the highest point total in the history of the Easterns to finish 106 points ahead of second place Princeton, and those in the know predict a similar result this time around.
Glancing down the list of last year's individual champions in each event, however, the average observer would probably be surprised at such a forecast. After all, this year's team returns the winners of only two of Harvard's eight individual championships. So why isn't Joe Bernal crying into his coffee? Why do the experts see this year's meet as another chapter in the story of the Crimson swimming dynasty? Because depth wins championship meets and depth builds dynasties.
As a matter of fact, if you just scored the individual winners in last year's meet, Princeton would have edged the aquamen nine to eight. But 32 of the 90 finalists wore Crimson suits. Harvard's depth was so overpowering that one opposing coach was heard to murmur that it was nice of the Crimson to invite everyone else to its intrasquad meet.
Missing from this year's contingent are Steve Schramm, David Lundberg, and Ron Raikula--and with them at least six fairly certain Eastern wins. But with freshmen like Julian Bott, Karl Illig, and Mike Miao along to take their places, the loss is far from fatal.
Today's events include some of Harvard's best. Last year saw the Crimson take four of the top six and five of the top 12 places in the 500-yd. freestyle. And all with Bobby Hackett suffering from a viral infection. This year a healthy Hackett figures to win the event, and he could find the friendly faces of teammates Larry Countryman, Tim Maximoff, Ted Chappell, and Andy Lockman in the finals.
The 200-yd. individual medley is another Crimson strong spot with last year's second place finisher, Tom Verdin, and 1979 champ Mike Coglin the men to beat. In the 50-yd. free, the Crimson can field four speedsters with an outside chance at knocking off defending champion "Beaver" O'Hara of Princeton.
The freestyle sprints have been among the weakest of the aquamen's events since the graduation of two-time Eastern champ Malcolm Cooper in 1979, but if Jim Carbone and freshman sensation Miao can join last year's Harvard finalists. Geoff Seelen and Jack Gauthier, in turning in good times at this year's meet, then O'Hara and the Tigers may be left in the wake.
In the one-meter diving, defending champion Schramm has been lost to graduation, but sophomore Jeff Mule (fourth last year) has hopes of bringing back Schramm's crown. If he doesn't, it may be only teammate Illig that keeps him from it.
In today's final event, the 400-yd. medley relay, the aquamen will be looking to win one of the few Eastern titles that have eluded them in Bernal's three years here. Last year the Princeton relay outdueled the Harvard squad by the barest of margins, and this year's seniors realize that they have never beaten the Tigers in a medley relay. Winning this race would be a nice touch for the careers of those who inaugurated the Harvard swimming dynasty three years ago.