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Lindsay Burns '87 won silver in Atlanta.
Lindsay Burns '87 (left) won silver in Atlanta.

Harvard at the Olympics

How to cap off 13 years of competitive rowing with a flourish: Win a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games. In the final of the women's lightweight double scull event, Lindsay Burns '87 of Big Timber, Montana, and her partner, Teresa Z. Bell of Washington Crossing, New Jersey, placed second. Their time of 7:14.65 put them about two-thirds of a boat length behind the Romanian champions, and a similar distance in front of the two bronze medalists from Australia. Since the 1996 Olympics were the first to include lightweight rowing, Burns and Bell enjoy the distinction of being the first Olympic silver medalists in their event, and Burns became the twenty-third medalist from Harvard since the modern Olympics began in 1896.

"It was close but not agonizingly close," Burns told the Harvard Crimson after the race. "We still had to sprint as hard as we could, to focus in and jump hard. I knew I couldn't spend even a fraction of a second looking around and wondering where we were."

Burns began rowing shortly after arriving at Harvard in 1983 and rowed for the Radcliffe varsity crew before going to Cambridge University in England, where she earned a doctorate in neurospsychology in 1991. She continued rowing in England, and over the last several years has been a member of many U.S. national teams. She was U.S. national champion in the lightweight double sculls in 1994, and took the bronze medal in that event at the 1994 World Championships. She and Bell slipped to seventh at the 1995 Worlds before rising to the occasion this summer at Atlanta. The silver medalists were coached by Kathy Keeler, an Olympic champion in 1984 and the wife of Harry Parker, Harvard's varsity men's crew coach.

Burns works as a research fellow in psychobiology at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. She has developed a potential new treatment for Parkinson's syndrome (which, coincidentially, affects Muhammad Ali, who lit the torch to open the Centennial Olympics). Burns' process transplants fetal pig cells to help replenish cells affected by degenerative disorders. That, and her stellar accomplishment at the Centennial Games, should help with her next goal-getting what she calls "a real job."

Burns strained for the finish.
Burns strained for the finish.
Burns was not alone on the water. Rowers were prominent in the Harvard contingent at the Olympics-six of the nine Harvard-educated athletes who competed there did so on Lake Lanier, site of the rowing events. Two oarswomen, twin sisters Betsy McCagg '89 and Mary McCagg '89, both of Kirkland, Washington, rowed in the U.S. women's eight. The McCaggs (nicknamed the "Twin Towers" for their 6-foot, 2-inch, stature) had helped power the women's eight to a silver medal in the 1994 World Championships and then a gold medal in 1995.

Thus, as reigning world champions, they were favored to win gold at Atlanta. It didn't work out that way. In their preliminary heat, the Americans showed surprising vulnerability, losing by a full boat length to Belarus. Then the women won the repechage, the race that gives crews who lost their heats a second chance to make the final. But in the final itself, the U.S. eight came in fourth, behind Romania, Canada, and Belarus. Their time of 6:26.19 put them about two boat lengths behind the gold medalists from Romania.

Rainey ran through the 800 meter semifinals.
Rainey ran through the 800 meter semifinals.
Harvard oarsman Adam Holland '94, who stroked the U.S. men's pair, achieved 15 minutes of fame during the Olympics, albeit in connection with a sad event. A photographer from Newsweek shot Holland observing a moment of silence in memory of the previous day's bombing at Centennial Olympic Park, and the picture became the cover of the magazine's next issue. When the photograph was taken, Holland was awaiting the start of the "consolation" race. His pair came in fourth in the semifinals, not high enough to make the final.

Cécile Ulbrich Tucker '91 also rowed for the United States; she was in the women's quad, the boat that teams up four scullers. They finished fifth in their heat and fourth in the repechage-again, not high enough to qualify for the finals.

Holland made Newsweek's cover.
Holland made Newsweek's cover.
Tom Auth, J.D. '94, rowed in the lightweight men's double scull, the male version of the new Olympic event in which Burns earned her silver medal. Auth's boat, however, proved less competitive than the women's double, finishing out of the finals and ninth overall.

Turning to dry land, Meredith Rainey '90 ran for the United States in the 800-meter footrace, in which she was favored to medal. She had won the Olympic trials in 1:57.05, the third fastest time in American history. But at the Games, Rainey finished fourth in her heat, then faded to seventh in the semifinal, and so did not advance.

A couple of Crimson athletes (or Crimson athletes-to-be) also competed for other nations in the Games. Incoming Harvard freshman Pingtjan Thum '00 swam in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly events and in two swimming relay races for Singapore, but reached no finals. Nick Sweeney '92 threw the discus for Ireland, placing seventh in the qualifying round-again, not high enough to advance.

During opening ceremonies, the Centennial Olympics honored 100 "Golden Olympians." Among them were Harvard's director of athletics, Bill Cleary '56, who won a gold medal in ice hockey in 1960, and figure skaters Tenley Albright '55, M.D. '61, a 1956 gold medalist, and Dick Button '52, LL.B. '55, who won gold in 1948 and 1952.

Fall Preview

Women's soccer: The women's soccer team, which compiled an outstanding 14-2-1 overall record last year and was the undefeated Ivy League champion, could be even stronger this fall. Despite their stellar attainments, the NCAA chose not to invite the Crimson booters to its tournament last season. But this year, the tournament field includes an automatic spot for the Ivy League champion-and Harvard is favored to repeat in that role. The Crimson has 17 letterwomen (including 9 starters) returning, and lost only three to graduation.

Harvard's offensive powerhouse is midfielder Emily Stauffer '98, last year's Ivy League Player of the Year. She also made First Team All-America and was a finalist for 1995 Collegiate Player of the Year. The amazingly foot-dexterous Stauffer scored 35 points on 13 goals and 9 assists last fall. She'll get help from speedy sophomore Naomi Miller, who was both Ivy League Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Ivy in 1995. Miller had 26 points on 10 goals and 6 assists. Junior Keren Guderman, a Second-Team All-Ivy selection, added 7 goals and 11 assists to the 1995 effort. Sophomore goalie Jennifer Burney returns as keeper. Last season she recorded a stingy goals-against average of 0.72 per game.

Football: This fall, Harvard hopes to rebound from a dismal 1995 season in which the Crimson finished with a 2-8 overall record and a 1-6 mark in the Ivy League. The latter statistic was good enough for a last-place finish in the Ivies, so the 1996 campaign offers ample prospects for improvement. Head coach Tim Murphy enters his third season at Harvard with 12 returning starters, having lost 10 to graduation.

The most significant departure was that of quarterback Vin Ferrara, who graduated as the third-leading passer in Harvard history (3,022 yards). Jay Snowden, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 200-pound junior, steps up to start at quarterback after having backed up Ferrara last year. Although Snowden didn't start any games last fall, he played in seven contests as a situational quarterback. He has good mobility; he often entered games in goal-line situations, and capitalized by rushing for three touchdowns. He completed 8 of 22 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions.

Offensively, Harvard's biggest asset is senior halfback Eion Hu, who, at 5 feet, 10 inches, and 200 pounds, is one of the finest running backs ever to play for the Crimson. Two years ago, Hu was Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Last year, he was a unanimous First Team All-Ivy selection and was also named New England Division I Player of the Year. Hu enters this fall season just 18 yards short of becoming Harvard's all-time career rushing leader. (The current record belongs to Vic Gatto '69, who piled up 2,130 yards.)

In 1995 Hu ran for 1,101 yards, a Harvard single-season record. He scored eight touchdowns and gained an average of 4.8 yards per carry. In a 19-game varsity career, Hu has rushed for more than 100 yards per game 11 times, including a 229-yard performance-the third-best total in school history-in last fall's victory over Colgate.

Hu is a workhorse. A straight-ahead, punishing runner, he set a Crimson record with 234 carries in 1994 and added 230 more in 1995. The Harvard coaches feel he can be even more effective if he carries fewer times. The development of sophomore running back Troy Jones may make this possible. At 6 feet and 185 pounds, Jones has both strength and speed and, as an outside runner, can perfectly complement Hu's inside power. The fastest player on the team, Jones can run the 40-yard sprint in 4.48 seconds. Last fall, a broken finger and a hip injury limited his playing time; still, he had 28 carries for 95 yards and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week after the win over Colgate.

The Harvard backfield will benefit from a rebuilding project that has strengthened the offensive line, which allowed only 18 sacks in 323 passing situations last fall. The line's anchor is senior right tackle Sean Riley, who is also this year's team captain. At 6 feet, 4 inches, and 285 pounds, Riley has balance and quickness to go with his size; he's the only Harvard player to start every game over the past two years.

That line should not only spring Hu and Jones for ground gains, but allow Snowden to hit receivers like junior split end Colby Skelton, who led the Crimson with 35 pass receptions in 1995-the tenth-best total on Harvard record books. Skelton snagged three tosses for touchdowns and averaged 14.2 yards per catch. Sophomore Kadar Lewis, who runs the 40 in 4.52 seconds, is the team's deep threat; he pulled in three passes for 58 yards last year and also ran the split end reverse three times. Out of the backfield, Eion Hu gathered in 16 passes last fall and Troy Jones caught six.

On the other side of the ball, it's clear that to improve its record the Crimson will need to become stingier on defense, and the key to this achievement is the team's young, talented defensive line. All four starters return, and there was only one senior among 11 players on the squad's depth chart during spring practice. Look for good things from junior left end Tim Fleiszer, a 6-foot, 3-inch, 255-pound All-Ivy candidate. Fleiszer was the team's starting fullback as a freshman before moving across the line last fall. He made 40 tackles last season.

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