The Drexel University crew program went into the Knecht Cup April 14-15 looking to build on a strong showing on both previous races on the Cooper River and its season thus far.
Competing against boats from The College of William & Mary and Temple University on the familiar territory of the Schuylkill River two weeks earlier, Drexel recorded four wins overall with two in both the men’s and women’s categories. The second and third varsity eights on the men’s side and the varsity four and freshman eight on the women’s side finished ahead of the pack.
Their good form carried over into the Bucknell Invitational April 7 on the Susquehanna River in Shamokin Dam, Pa. as Drexel’s boats put in a dominating performance. By the end of the day, Drexel walked away with four first-place finishes as the men’s varsity eight, second varsity eight, freshman eight and women’s freshman eight beat out their hosts. The splits in the men’s second eight and the women’s freshman eight heats were particularly noteworthy, as each finished a comfortable 22 and 31 seconds, respectively, ahead of their opponents.
The Dragons next arrived at the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J. April 14-15 in a good vein of form. Hosted by the Villanova University women’s crew program, the race features over 60 schools that partake in a two-day event with the qualifying heats April 14 and the finalists taking center stage April 15. With the women’s three silver-medal finishes in the eight boat category and a gold, a silver and a bronze medal in the men’s categories last year, the Knecht cup traditionally brings out the best in head crew coach Paul Savell’s teams.
As expected, Drexel continued its streak of Knecht Cup success, as all but two of the 10 boats that Drexel put into the water qualified for the April 15 grand final.
The men’s varsity eight took first place in their heat with a time of 5:55.30, almost matched by the second varsity eight, who won their heat in a time of 6:03.34. Drexel’s winning streak was halted temporarily when Philadelphia University and Army beat out the varsity four for a place in the grand final. Drexel’s third-place finish was enough though to secure a place in the petite final.
Drexel’s success resumed shortly, however, as the varsity pair of Pete Eyrich and Adam Cordi set a blistering time of 7:45.05 in their opening heat to qualify for the semifinal round. Despite shaving an extra 13 seconds off their time, the pair was beaten to the finish by Colgate University. Eyrich and Cordi’s second-place finish in a time of 7:32.03 was enough to earn them a place in the grand final.
Drexel’s novice boats continued the strong showing later in the day, as the novice eight secured a place in the grand final with a second-place finish. The novice four qualified for the semifinal with a first-place time of 7:16.94 before storming to another first-place finish in the semifinals with a time of 7:09.81, booking their place in the grand final.
In the women’s category, Drexel’s dominance on the water continued. The second varsity eight and the varsity pair both finished in grand final places with times of 6:49.72 and 9:00.58 respectively. Drexel’s other two boats suffered mixed fortunes, as the varsity eight finished outside of the grand final places. They would, however, take their place in the petite final. The novice eight continued their strong spring form by finishing in a time of 7:04.09 and qualifying for the grand final.
With eight boats in grand finals and two in the petite finals, expectation levels rose going into day 2. Drexel reliably responded.
A second-place finish by the men’s varsity eight with a time of 5:48:08 started off the medal haul for the Dragons, as their silver medal was complemented by another silver achieved by the men’s novice eight in a time of 6:02.05. The varsity pair took bronze after finishing behind Colgate and Rutgers-Camden. The second varsity eight’s gold finish happened with a time of 5:59.82, which rounded out Drexel’s collection of medals. The eight’s gold medal was further recognized in an Athlete of the Week nod from the Drexel athletic department.
Drexel’s final medal of the weekend was won with a time of 6:02.05 by the women’s eight. The high level of competition was apparent, as the Dragons missed out on the gold medal by two seconds, due to a late surge by Trinity University.
Savell’s Dragons are in action again April 21 as they host the Kerr Cup on the Schuylkill River. With the Dad Vail Regatta and the Colonial Athletic Association Championships fast approaching, Drexel will be looking to continue its strong showing this spring. And with the taste of medals still fresh on the Dragons’ palates, expectations will remain high for a strong showing from the home team.