Although most of the men’s and women’s boats raced at the Murphy Cup Regatta in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on the Cooper River March 28, the men’s first varsity eight boat also traveled to California March 29 to compete in the San Diego Crew Classic.
“It was an important race for us … putting us in a situation where we’re racing other Top-20 teams,” head rowing coach Paul Savell said when asked about the team’s trip to California.
While the men in the first varsity eight boat took sixth place overall and got to experience some of the stiffest competition that they will compete against this season (in teams like California University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Naval Academy), Savell thought the racing left a little bit to be desired.
“We felt like we probably should’ve performed a little better than we did,” Savell noted. “We analyzed the race and saw some parts where we just need to do better. It’s definitely something we can build on … it was a worthwhile race to be in,” he continued.
The men’s varsity eight was recently ranked in USRowing’s preseason Top 20. The Dragons are currently slotted at No. 18; however, Savell doesn’t want to get too caught up with any rankings.
“It’s nice to be ranked, but it doesn’t really give you any advantage when you’re on the starting line,” he said.
While San Diego functioned as a learning experience for the men, the Murphy Cup Regatta saw an excellent showing of Dragon rowing, with six out of the 11 boats back in New Jersey competing advancing the final heats of their respective races.
Of the six competing in finals, three boats medaled.
“It was good to see all our eights in the finals,” Savell said. “That’s important.”
The men’s second varsity eight and the men’s freshman eight A boat rowed their way to gold medals. The other boat earning a medal was the women’s varsity eight, which placed in third, just behind tough competitors Navy and College of the Holy Cross.
Despite not being a first-place finish, this third-place result was especially good for the women, Savell said.
“Women’s varsity eight did an outstanding job to take third,” he explained. “It means we’re on a good trajectory.”
Overall, crew is kicking off its spring season to a successful start through both learning experiences and good showings at races. Savell and the rest of the coaching staff are relying heavily on the great leadership in this year’s captains to help guide the team to the best success possible, with the big goals being the Dad Vail Regatta and qualifying for NCAAs.
“We really have amazing leadership in our captains this year,” Savell said. “On the women’s side, [Catherine] Hamilton, [Barbara] McKenna, Bridget Pfeifer, they really help keep the team focused on the end goal, which is Dad Vails and trying to get to the NCAAs.
“We haven’t had a team talking about getting the NCAAs this much ever before, and when you have that goal in front of you all the time, people are going to keep reaching for it.”
The men have equally as impressive captains to lead their side.
“Marko Durica, Brian McCabe, [Grigorios] Papadourakis … they are just really positive,” Savell continued. “They kept the team really on task [the past weekend].” He said he was impressed with the focus of the men’s team despite the fact that they were split up over the past weekend.
The next time the Dragons hit the water will be April 4, for a race on their home turf, the Schuylkill River.
“It’s going to be another tough race,” Savell said.
The men will face one of their biggest rivals, and strongest competitors in a talented Georgetown University team. The women will face off with Bucknell University, who they have historically battled head to head with. Also joining them on the river will be Saint Joseph’s University, Williams College and Temple University.
The regatta April 4 will not only be very important in helping both the men and women to prepare for stiff competition and bigger races but will also serve as an important factor in seeding for the bigger regattas at the end of the season.