THE BEARS HAVE THE CROWN ...
BUT ALL EYES ARE ON THE GATORS
by Bill Bell
Swimming World Magazine
The United States may be a non-participant at the
Moscow Olympic Games this summer but the world will
certainly be coming to Harvard's Blodgett Pool starting today.
While perhaps not exactly one hundred and ten percent
accurate (to borrow George Allen's favorite phrase), the
above rather well sums up the extremely high caliber of
competition expected at this 57th annual NCAA Division I
Swimming & Diving Championship.
When the NCAAs were last held at an Eastern institution
(Brown in 1976) it was also an Olympic year, and the performances there were truly Olympian in quality. Five individual American, U.S. Open and national collegiate
records tumbled beneath the waves of the Smith Swimming Center that third weekend in March, and a not inconsiderable number of those winners parlayed an NCAA victory into an Olympic gold medal at Montreal four months
The site of this year's title meet, Blodgett Pool, is barely
two years old yet has served as the locale for several
significant national and international competitions, including the second Women's International Cup meet in
January of 1979; and the Eastern Seaboard Championships a year ago, coincidentally won by Harvard for the
The pool is 50 meters by 25 yards with the short course
end a minimum seven feet in depth, making it one of the
finest and fastest swimming facilities in the Northeast.
Seating is available for 1,500 spectators. The multi-
megabuck aquatic facility is, of course, the home pool for
Coach Joe Bernal's rapidly rising Harvard Crimson team,
whose latest and certainly most noteworthy accomplishments, include a dual meet victory over perennial
Big 10 champ Indiana last month and a successful defense
of the Eastern Seaboard title earlier this month.
It's been said (not at all inaccurately) that winning an
NCAA Championship is tougher than winning an Olympic
gold medal. For one thing, there are only six finalists in the
NCAA meet versus eight in most other international competitions, including the Olympics, World Championships,
Secondly, the qualifying standards just to make it in to
the NCAAs, let alone enter the finals, are equally challenging. The meet is designed so that only the fastest swimmers compete — no dawdlers need apply.
The American collegiate swimming program has long
been a breeding ground for the most talented domestic
and foreign aquatic stars, and 1980 is no exception. At this
year's NCAAs expect to see the most successful competitors from nearly a dozen nations outside the U.S.A., including Brazilians, Nicaraguans, Norwegians, Puerto
Ricans, Canadians, Swedes, Frenchmen, Mexicans, Dutchmen, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Australians, New
Zealanders and Englishmen, plus a native Samoan who
now lives in California and attends college in Florida —
Miami's sensational diver, Greg Louganis.
In fact, with the exception of a handful of top Russians,
East Germans, Czechs and Hungarians, a Brazilian (Djan
Madruga), an Australian (Mark Kerry) and a Canadian
(Graham Smith), the world's greatest male swimmers will
be competing at Harvard.
Madruga and Kerry, who swam for Counsilman's Indiana
squad last season, have opted to sit out the year and train
for the Olympics, as has Smith, who was a triple gold
medalist last year for Coach Nort Thornton's champion
Cal Golden Bears.
No Eastern-bloc swimmers have as yet enrolled in
American universities although rumor has it that Bernal
has been hot on the trail of Soviet double World Champion
Vladimir Salnikov for the last several years.
With America's presence at Moscow in doubt, many of
the more prominent U.S. collegians (and a like number of
the leading foreign swimmers) regard this year's NCAA
Championships as their short course "Free World Olympics."
"I think I'll make an even greater effort to win at Harvard
because I probably won't be going to Moscow," states sextuple national collegiate gold medalist Brian Goodell, the
mainstay of Coach Ron Ballatore's UCLA squad. "This
meet has, I'm sure, taken on added significance for
everybody because of the boycott situation and I believe
the performances will fulfill everybody's high expectations."
Harvard's own Bobby Hackett, runner-up to Goodell last
season in both the 500 and 1650 frees and who has, seemingly, been chasing his California foe for gold and glory
since the two were high school juniors five years ago, is
another top-ranked swimmer who isn't worried about the
international situation having an impact on the NCAAs.
"I would expect that most of us will be at our emotional
'peak' because for some this meet just might be our 'Olympics'," The Crimson junior believes. "We'll be going all-out
to win ... there won't be any 'holding back.' "
When Cal's Golden Bears romped to last year's championship at Cleveland State (after having finished third the
year before), a milestone of sorts for collegiate swimming
was achieved in that it was the third time in as many years
a different university had captured the No. 1 ranking.
And if Coach Randy Reese's powerful Florida Gators,
third-place finishers last season and favored to occupy the
"throne" in this first year of the new decade, do in fact accomplish that feat, history will indeed have been made.
Never before in 56 years of NCAA championship swimming competition (dating back to 1924) have four different
universities won team titles in consecutive years.
(Continued on Page 8)