With 25 years of coaching Harvard's cross-country team under his belt, Bill McCurdy doesn't expect any new experiences. But last Saturday, McCurdy's harriers gave him a 27-28 victory and a new thrill.
"The Brown squad arrested our topless performers," McCurdy said yesterday of Saturday's rain-drenched meet in Rhode Island.
During the course of the race, four Harvard runners shed their shirts, arousing the Brown squad to stage a two-hour protest that culminated in the disqualification of the strippers.
Without the disqualifications, the Crimson would have annihilated the Bruins, 19-39, but with the lost men, Harvard eked out a one point win.
Peter Fitzsimmons, the sophomore sensation, won the meet and broke the 5.5 mile course record by nearly a minute with a time of 26:52.
"I felt pretty good," Fitzsimmons said yesterday. "I didn't mind the rain. It never occurred to me to take off my shirt," he added.
Reed Eichner was 14 seconds behind Fitzsimmons. After Eichner, the drought of eligible runners commenced.
A shirtless Stein Rafto, running what McCurdy called the best race of his career, placed third at 27:19, and an equally thin-clad Jeff Campbell placed fourth.
After four Bruins finished, the remaining six Crimson runners, two of whom were eventually disqualified, came in and clinched the dual meet victory.
Soon after the race started, the heavy rain began. "We couldn't see three feet in front of us," Tom Phillips said. "At the 1.5 mile mark, everyone was totally drenched, but we were pretty confident of winning," Phillips added.
At that point, some of the harriers, led by Jeff Campbell, started taking off their shirts. Officials told the runners that they had to be wearing their shirts when they crossed the finish line, so Campbell and Rafto tied their shirts around their necks. The two were disqualified anyway.
Much of the relatively new course borders the Seekonk River, but McCurdy claimed that the runners couldn't tell if they were running on the river bank or in the river itself because of the "monsoon-like rain."
"We would have preferred running in the Charles," McCurdy said. "The footing is better."
But the rain didn't affect the course very much because most of it is laid out on roads, and very little is on turf.