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Harvard Athletic Achievements
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Remembering Harvard Athletics
“Rude and Smooth Memories” A handful of us arrived in Cambridge in the fall of 1971 on a mission to join the legendary Harry Parker-coached Harvard crews. A few more arrived without that focus, but with an aptitude for the sport that soon made them essential. We entered a boathouse glorious with the scent of recently minted legends. Scrapbooks from the “world’s best crew” of 1965, the silver medalists of 1967, and the Olympians of 1968 lay about the weight room, trophies stood idly by as dog dishes, and the rafters were draped with European regatta banners. Adding to the heady atmosphere, former and future Olympians pounded around, often stepping into the tanks with awed freshmen. The success of our freshmen crew in 1972 and the success of Harry and of the five Harvard alumni in the Olympic eights later that summer fixed out sights on lofty goals, to be the best collegiate crew ever and to go on to international success.
While some of us did not achieve all of our aspirations, we did succeed at the highest level. That success can be largely attributed to our good fortune in having such a strong nucleus of talented and competitive men come together at one time. Our coaches seemed to have had a healthy competitive streak as well. We drove each other to greater heights. I certainly could not have performed at that level without so many able bodies to compete with against daily.
Even after more than twenty years, I cannot easily separate the flood of memories which come from the four years at Newell: fall races on Fridays, and then, as it became too cold, contact soccer; Harry Parker-inspired cross-country skiing, including plenty of racing; three Henley trips with two victories and a handful of records; tough, close races against Wisconsin in ’74; and Red Top, especially out three-race stint in 1975. However, in addition to highlights, I recall with pleasure less glorious moments, including wet, gray March morning on a weekend during my junior year.
We were in fours. It must have been blowing fairly hard from the south because we were working in the stretch between the old train yards and the B.U. Bridge. Few were enjoying the experience – tough seat racing, lots of hard but imperfect strokes, maybe some rain, certainly some cursing and some rapped knuckles. I remember thinking of fellow students, all undoubtedly sleeping peacefully in their houses, and the oddity of this extreme form of activity. At that distinctly unglamorous moment it occurred to me, somewhat as a revelation, that I actually enjoyed the sport of rowing at this, it’s most fundamental level. I enjoyed the effort, the kinship, the varnished equipment, even the dank gray sweats and oily Charles River water. Those hard strokes without glory or reward on a gray March morning were the essence of the Harvard rowing experience, shared by National Team gods and third-boat oarsmen alike. For us, they created not only a unique experience but also a great one.