Navy's varsity heavyweight eight prefers a low-key approach to rowing: the crew enjoys the privacy of weekday practices on the Severn River, and plays down both the victories and the defeats in one of college crew's most demanding schedules.

Still, the Mids gladly would accept all the accompanying notoriety should they manage to win the Eastern Sprints rowing championship May 13 on Lake Quinsigamond in Worchester, Mass.

"That's where the rubber meets the road," said Steve Squires, captain of the veteran crew. "There's a lot of crews that row real well all year and don't even qualify for the Sprints."

Navy, ranked seventh in the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges coaches' poll, should get a good idea of its strength the next two weekends when four of the top 11 teams invade the Severn River. Saturday, Navy will battle defending Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) champ Syracuse, ranked ninth, and No. 11 Cornell for the Goes Cup. Navy's lightweights also race Harvard for the Hainnes Cup.

The following Saturday, the Mids should receive their stiffest test as second-ranked Harvard and fourth-rated Pennsylvania visit to fight for the Ajams Cup. Both regattas start at 7:15 a.m.

"the next three weeks are the meat of our season," Rick Clothier, Navy crew coach, said. "We really have a traditional schedule. We've rowed this schedule for some time. As it turns out, in time we race a pretty damn hard schedule in the dual and trimeets.

"That's a large part of the story: the legacy, the tremedous amount of people who have rowed here. Navy's been (the United States representative) in the Olympic eights three times (1920, 1952 and 1960). They have also had some small boats in the Olympics. They won the IRA several times. They've won the Sprints several times."

Thus far, in their 110th season of rowing, the Mid varsity eight has placed sixth in the prestigious San Diego Crew Classic, 12.5 seconds behind victorious Harvard, and nipped 12th-ranked Princeton by one second on Lake Carnegie.

The Mid heavyweight eight, small by major college standards with an average of about 183 pounds per man, has six returning oarsmen from last year's crew, which placed fourth in the Sprints.

The eight, which Clothier calls "the best I've ever had" in his five years at Navy, consists, from bow to stern, of senior Ken Russell, juniors Ray Griggs and Steve Moreau, senior Squires, sophomore Dan Lyons, and seniors Joe Hoffert, Erik Doyle and Rick Lopez, the stroke. Soph Tim Griffith is the coxswain.

Doyle is the only three-year veteran in the shell; Griggs, Lyons and Griffith are the newcomers.

"We're about the smallest (major college) crew in the nation," Squries said. "We try to row better and pull harder (than bigger crews). If we can do that, we can win (the Sprints).We like to stay low-key, but we're confident about our ability."

The varsity eight is just one of 19 shells Clothier sends out on the Severn each day. There are three sub-varsity eights, three freshman eights and a frosh four with coxswain, four varsity and four freshman lightweight eights, and three women's eights. Navy initiated women's crew last year and there are 30 women out for this varsity season.

If things go well, Clothier plans to send his varsity heavyweights to the Pan American Games trials in Syracuse, N.Y., June 8-10, although, he notes, "There's a lot of other colleges and a lot of very prominent boat clubs who are going to be there."