Eight rangy young men bent to the last long stroke, eight red-tipped oars bit into the water, and as the fragile shell glided easily across the finish the little miracle of Lake Quinsigamond was complete. Cornell had won the heavyweight varsity championship in the biggest one-day rowing regatta ever held. Harvard, the overpowering favorite, had fallen. High-stroking Navy, a menacing contender, had not kept up.
It would be stretching the truth to say that Cornell's victory in the 15th annual spring championships of the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges was a stupendous upset-that it was something on the order of Centre College's unthinkable upset of the Crimson football team in 1921. For one thing, Stork Sanford, the veteran Cornell coach, is known to be a shrewd old fox with a knack for making the most of a short training season. Lake Cayuga, high above which Cornell stands, freezes over early and thaws late, so Sanford is perennially a training jump behind most of his rivals. But he can lose a race one week and then beat your brains out the next.
Additionally, the course was a short one—the Olympic distance of 2,000 meters (39 feet less than one and one-quarter miles). Short courses tend to be great equalizers. "You have a long start and a long sprint with a few strokes in between," as MIT Coach Jack Frailey says.
But as a modest miracle Sanford's achievement last Saturday on the deep, narrow, tree-rimmed trough at Worcester, Mass. will do very nicely. Especially since Cornell walloped Harvard's heavies twice during the day. Most especially since Sanford won with what was, except for one oarsman and the coxswain, his junior varsity the week before.
Now the Big Red must be regarded as a serious challenger in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta June 18 on Lake Onondaga at Syracuse and, above all, the Olympic trials July 7-9 on the same water.
Until Saturday, Olympic rowing fever (on eastern thermometers, at least) was highest at Harvard, Navy and Penn. None of the three had been defeated this season—Harvard not since a loss to Yale at the end of the 1958 season. Besides a string of 12 straight varsity triumphs, including the championship of England's Henley Regatta last year, Harvard had put together no fewer than 24 straight lightweight varsity victories.
It was a big, close-knit, savvy crew that Coach Harvey Love brought in from the Charles River to Lake Quinsigamond, and Friday found him in a cautiously optimistic mood. Wearing a battered felt hat with brim upturned, a rain-streaked trench coat and a small, neat mustache, he paused between workouts to tick off some Harvard assets: average weight a solid 183 pounds, five holdovers from last year's crew and a tremendous stroke in Perry Boyden, a craggy-faced 6-foot 4-inch, 187-pound junior out of Prides Crossing, Mass.
Perhaps because of Harvard's rowing eminence, Love was thinking about the reputation of the Eastern sprints as a regatta for settling old scores: "Everybody is here so you go out and try to clobber the people who have beaten you in the past. However, I think our chances are good. I also think that several others can say the same thing."
Lou Lindsey, Navy's new coach, who like Love and Sanford is a product of western rowing (he was a cox at Cal, Love a cox at Washington, Sanford a Washington oarsman), had a couple of problems. "We've had rough water on the Severn all spring. As a result our blade work is very far behind what it should be. Our slide work, too. We will be in better condition than some for this time of year but won't be rowing as well."
For some reason, Lindsey said, the Navy shell just didn't move except at an ultra-high beat. "From 29� up to about 32 strokes a minute we don't go anywhere. Against Princeton the other day we rowed sky high. I didn't think we'd be able to keep it up, but we were doing 34-35 into the wind at the finish—and we were strong."