The San Diego Invitational Crew Classic, held in California last Saturday, was supposed to be the scene of the Harvard crew's long-overdue demise.
But as rival crews from both coasts jockeyed for the honor of Harvard's demolition, the Crimson streaked to a 1 1/2-second victory margin over the field of stunned aspirants.
This was supposed to be the year that Harvard would be beaten. While Harvard mourned the graduation of six of its 1975 national championship eight, other crews boasted uncommon strength.
While the Crimson waited for the Charles to thaw, other crews motored furiously on their warmer waters in preparation for what was supposed to be last Saturday's debacle.
But if this is a building year for the Harvard crew, coach Harry Parker should go into the construction business. His varsity practiced together only four times before Saturday's race.
No Longer Docked
Stroking the new varsity was Ollie Scholle, a senior who had been docked with a knee injury since rowing in the number-two position of the 1974 varsity. In the important stern seats were two sophomores, Tom Howes and George Aitken.
Only two 1975 varsity oarsmen, captain Hovey Kemp at 3 and junior John Brock at 5, returned while three former J.V.'s, Bill Kerins, John White and Dave Bixby, filled the remaining varsity positions.
After Harvard trailed across the finish in the qualifying heats behind Penn and U Cal Berkeley, the victorious oarsmen all but tape-measured the Crimson for their shirt sizes.
Harvard's varsity rested in its rooms before the finals, wondering what it would be like to be the first Crimson squad to lose a race since 1973.
"Every once in a while someone would pop up and say `We got to get them,'" Kemp said. "But we were feigning meanness. No one was chewing on bed posts."
The Crimson chose to do its chewing during the finals, chopping up the cadence to a 43 off the start and biting off a half-length lead after 30 strokes.
By the 500-meter mark, Harvard had stretched its lead over the field to a full boat-length, forcing the once hopeful rival crews to trail it in traditional fashion down the 2000-meter course.
With 500 meters to go, coxswain Bruce Larson called up the cadence once more as Harvard's 1976 varsity clinched its first win with a fast 6:01.8 time.
The losers--Penn, Wisconsin, Navy and Washington--will each have another shot at the coveted Crimson shirts back east during the regular racing season. Each is already revving for a Crimson sinking.
But for the moment, Harvard is happy and much more confident. We snaked them. Kemp said Monday, "We really faked them out".