Chris Pardee, ‘66, scored valuable points in the high, long, and triple jumps as a member of the best men’s team in Harvard track history, a team that won 27 straight dual meets and five of six Heptagonal Games titles in three years, a tenacious team that won one championship by two points and another by one.
June ‘63. Chris was a surprise winner in London, when as a Freshman he bettered his Harvard record by jumping 6’8” against Oxbridge. When the team flew home, he stayed on and hitchhiked to Istanbul via Rome and Athens, returning via the Balkans, arriving back in the English capital in the middle of something called Beatlemania. Arriving in Boston two weeks before the start of term, he got back on the road and hitched to Florida to see his family, passing through Washington DC a week before the march on the capital, a cause he believed in, little suspecting he’d forever be kicking himself for missing MLK’s “I had a dream” speech.
Pardee’s first varsity indoor season was probably the most exciting, when in one three-week period the Harvard Sophomore faced his two main East Coast rivals three times. In the first encounter – in New Haven – Chris psyched out Yale Junior Kim Hill and out jumped Princeton captain John Hartnett. The following week Pardee arrived at the Indoor Heptagonal Games in Ithaca with a worrying cold and the realisation he hadn’t prepared himself mentally. Hartnett won. Chris beat Hill on countback. To his relief, Harvard defeated Navy. By two points. The following week was the showdown... at the IC4As in Madison Square Garden. Bragging rights were involved. Both jumpers achieved PBs at 6’8”, with Hartnett ahead on countback. John missed his three attempts at 6’9”. Chris, on his final attempt, cleared the bar... then the highest jump in Heps history.
In his era, using a straddle roll technique, Pardee was an unequalled record breaker, bettering the University high jump mark eight times and the Outdoor Heptagonal Games record three times. Having failed to win the Indoor Games on his first two attempts, Chris found redemption his Senior year when he broke the Harvard, Barton Hall, and Indoor Heps high jump records, with a second place in the long jump, points crucial to the team’s single point victory over Army. The height of his indoor career - joining a select circle of Harvard track men - was being voted Outstanding Performer at the ‘66 Indoor Heptagonal Games.
As a Sophomore in ‘64 Pardee became an NCAA All-American, one of four jumpers to clear 6’10” at the Outdoor Nationals in Oregon, the first time the four top jumpers reached that height. As of 2020 his fourth place is still the best Nationals finish of any Harvard high jumper. Only the winner, Olympic medallist John Rambo, jumped higher that day, clearing 7’0”.
After the Nationals Chris bid farewell to the Harvard contingent and hitchhiked 3700 miles from Oregon back to Cambridge via the Grand Canyon, explaining to teammates he “wanted to see America for himself”. Before the summer was out, he’d hitchhiked over 12,000 miles across the States and Canada, visiting his family in Miami, getting into a bar fight in Kansas City, meeting up with a teammate to buck bales on a ranch in Wyoming and to work state fairs across the Midwest with a travelling carnival, before hitching back to Cambridge from Omaha with an ex-girlfriend from Radcliffe, who’d come up from Mexico. Heady days!