The Drexel University women’s crew team competed at the Colonial Athletic Association championships May 19 at Cooper River in New Jersey. The team brought four boats to compete: the varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four and third varsity eight. The varsity eight and varsity four were seeded first going into the competition.
The main competitor was Northeastern University, who had previously won the overall team title five years in a row. The overall team winner earns a spot at the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. The three NCAA events that count towards the team total are the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four.
The third varsity eight raced first and came in fourth behind Northeastern, Villanova University and the University of Delaware.
The varsity four was up next. It was a battle right from the start with Northeastern and Drexel trading bow balls through the first half of the race. In the second half, the Dragons started to pull away from Northeastern to take the lead. Northeastern tried to come back for a sprint at the end, but the Dragons were able to hold them off to earn gold medals and five points for the team. Northeastern held on for second place and earned four points. This was the second year in a row that Drexel won the varsity four title at the CAA championships. Both years were led by senior coxswain Danika Meldrum.
The second varsity eight was seeded second behind Northeastern for their race. All teams started off strong at the beginning, but the Dragons started to fall back from Northeastern in the middle of the race. The crew from Eastern Michigan University battled Northeastern for the lead, but Northeastern hung on for the win and earned 10 points for their team. Eastern Michigan came in second for eight points, Villanova was in third for six points and the Dragons finished fourth for four points.
The totals after the first two NCAA races were as follows: Northeastern with 14 points, Eastern Michigan with 10 points, Drexel and Villanova were tied at nine, and Delaware had three. The varsity eight race decided the overall team title winners.
Northeastern’s varsity eight had won the event title for the past five years, which helped clinch the team’s automatic bid to the NCAA championships, but after the Dragons defeated them at Eastern Sprints, they were seeded second this year.
Northeastern came fast off the start of the race ahead of the Dragons by a couple seats. All of the varsity eights were battling for a spot on that medals stand. Last season, Delaware came in second behind Northeastern while the Dragons came in third. They were definitely out for blood again this time. The Dragons needed Northeastern to place out of the top two in order to take home the first ever CAA team title and clinch a birth to the NCAA championships.
It was a hard fight for the Dragons, but they were relentless and took the lead after the 1000-meter mark. They finished in first place with a time of 6:42.591 almost four seconds ahead of Northeastern. This was the first varsity eight win in program history.
With a second-place finish for Northeastern, the final team standings were as follows: Northeastern with 26 points, Drexel with 24 points, Eastern Michigan with 19, Villanova with 15 and Delaware finished with six. This gave Northeastern their sixth consecutive CAA championship team title, and they will move on to the NCAA championships May 31 to June 2.
For their efforts, seniors Amanda Reale, Anna Savage and coxswain Maggie Collington were named to the All-CAA team. For the win in the varsity eight category for the first time, head coach Paul Savell was awarded CAA Coach of the Year.
The Dragons grew a lot this season and were recognized as the CAA Boat of the Week four times. Reale was also awarded Female Athlete of the Year at the Blue and Gold event, and Collington received the Nicole Hester award.
The team graduates 11 seniors from the team who have definitely made their mark. In addition to Reale, Savage, Collington and Meldrum, the team will also say goodbye to co-captain Natalie Alleva, as well as Jessika Coleman, Mairen Hilary, Stephanie Horn, Maggie Johnson, Bella Orcutt and Sofia Ryan.
For the women’s team, it was a bittersweet end to an incredible season.
“I am proud of the strides the team has made this year with the first V8 CAA gold and another gold in the V4 category putting us the closest we have ever been to qualifying for NCAAs,” Meldrum said. “I can’t wait to see what next season brings for the Dragons.”
The men’s crew team did not compete this past weekend as they awaited the selection of the teams for the 2019 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, which were announced May 21.
The men’s team will send the varsity eight, seeded 21st, the second varsity eight, seeded 17th, the third varsity eight, seeded 18th, and the varsity four. Preliminary heats were also announced, and you can check out these heats at http://irarowing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-Heat-Selection-with-Seedings-Final.pdf.
The men’s team will travel to the Sacramento State Aquatics Center for the IRA National Championships, which will take place May 31 through June 2. They have remained in the top 25 in the nation throughout the season and will be looking to improve on their current seedings at the race. Good luck Dragons!