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STAIRWAY TO EVAN: First-Years Draw Crowds

By Evan R. Johnson, Crimson Staff Writer

As most Harvard students gossiped and goggled over Fifteen Minute’s ever-popular “Fifteen Hottest Freshman” scrutiny last week, most probably noticed a rather obvious trend amongst this year’s picks—they were all good looking.

But the Crimson Sports Board—well, one of its female members—found an even more pervasive connection amongst this crop’s males. Of the eight that were chosen, six of them play varsity sports.

Is it any small wonder then that size of the crowds for each of the sports that these six striking men play on—hockey, lacrosse, basketball, swimming and tennis—has increased dramatically this school year?

Now before everyone begins calling me crazy and sexual harassment complaints start clogging up my inbox, just take a look at some recent history. Against Brown this year the men’s hockey team—with the addition of Dylan Reese, one of the fifteen selected—packed 7,890 people in the stands for its games against the Bears. Last year that number was at just 4,321, nearly half of the 2003-2004 campaign’s attendance.

“We have some hot athletes,” said Carle Stenmark, a lacrosse player and one of the six athletes selected.

And like with the hockey team, the freshmen’s good looks have proven to be some valuable eye candy. Word of Stenmark must have gotten out early among the Harvard community, as 918 Crimson less-than-faithful jammed the sidelines of Jordan field in the team’s home opener against Hartford. During the 2003 season, 200 fewer people turned out.

Is it really any wonder then, that when Victoria Ilyinsky—one of the FM’s hottest women—was asked what “hot is,” she replied, “LAX’ers of course!”? Or that the other three people profiled on the centerfold spread are all gazing longingly in Stenmark’s general direction? After all, he did describe himself as “ridiculously good looking.”

And the crowds agree.

Even teams that had a less successful season than the year before—like the basketball squad—managed to keep the numbers up all year long as a result of the delectable ’07ers.

In its first and last home games this season, the cagers dragged in impressive attendance records of 1,413 and 1,932, respectively. Meanwhile, the 2002-2003 team—without knockout freshman Ko Yada, another FM pick—put up figures of 1,306 and 1,522 for each of those games.

“It’s been a life-long dream,” Yada said, when asked how he felt about being picked.

Of course, those numbers might have been even greater, if Harvard coach Frank Sullivan had managed to recruit players attractive enough to land multiple members from his team in the top 15—like the swimming team.

“I’ve noticed more people in the stands this year—especially the ladies,” said sophomore John Hastrup, a swimmer not chosen as one of the FM’s hottest.

The influx of freshmen John Voith and Joc Christiana have obviously made the team more than just a collection of your average Joes in Speedos, and into a handsome force to be reckoned with.

“We’re the best looking team on campus,” Voith said.

Of course, not all of this beauty has come without a price. This round of eye-popping first-years has also found themselves the brunt of some unfair criticism from some of their closest associates.

“Even if I’m on the tennis court training, there are guys ripping on me,” said Gideon Valkin, a freshman from the fifteen who puts the model back into the model/athlete.

Players from teams that aren’t even in season have been on the receiving end of many a cruel joke, even though they can do little to change their appearance.

“I was definitely verbally harassed by the players, the coaching staff, [and] the strength trainers,” Yada said.

But if history should teach those short-sighted upperclassmen anything, it’s that they should be thanking these brave young men for bringing a little bit more than just sunshine into the hearts of the young women sitting court-side. And to the coaches of these male teams: way to think out of the box. Because if winning isn’t going to increase the size and spirit of the Crimson crowds, the new wanton good looks of the teams certainly have.

—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at erjohns@fas.harvard.edu. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.

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