Drexel University’s crew teams competed in what was scheduled to be their last regatta of the season May 31 through June 2, during which the men’s varsity eight took seventeenth place at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta.
The IRA Championships, hosted on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J., feature some of the best boats in the nation. The Dragons were facing their toughest opponents thus far, competing in what was the first team bid ever earned by the program.
They held their own in their inaugural appearance at the challenging event and finished faster than their No. 18 seed would suggest. Head coach Paul Savell was pleased with the accomplishment of securing a bid and was proud of his team’s performance. He considered it a success that the team finished higher than its seeding.
“Securing a bid to the men’s national championship was a great accomplishment for our team,” Savell said. ”We knew we would face the fastest teams in the country. Our guys handled themselves with poise and really stepped up on the third day of racing to place 16th overall in team standings.”
This does not mark the end of Drexel’s 2011-12 season, however. Just days later, Director of Athletics Eric Zillmer announced that the men’s varsity eight boat will be traveling overseas to the Henley Royal Regatta.
“Our men’s heavyweight eight has had a very strong year and deserves to compete at Henley,” Zillmer said.
The prestigious regatta will take place June 27 through July 1 on the Thames River in England. Philanthropists Herbert Lotman, a former CEO and chairman of Keystone Foods Corp., and Karen Lotman, president of Karen Lotman Productions, made the trip overseas possible with a generous donation.
“I am very proud of the accomplishments of the Drexel Crew,” Herbert Lotman said. “Coach Savell has done an outstanding job building an elite program, and I am happy to help sponsor them on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to row at the Henley.”
The team is excited to make the trip and is ready to put long hours in the gym and on the river in preparation. The rowers have made sure to find extra time around their many jobs, classes and other duties to put forth their best effort in the international event.
“There is a lot of excitement as we prepare for Henley,” Savell said. ”The guys have stepped up training to twice a day around their co-op jobs.”
Held annually since 1839, the Henley Royal Regatta is an international showcase of the world’s best rowing programs on the two-lane, 2,000-meter course. This will not be the first time it hosts a boat from Drexel — Drexel’s women’s varsity eight won the Elite 8 title and the Sports Council Cup at the 2010 Women’s Henley.
Savell and the male rowers hope to mimic the success of their female counterparts in years past.
Success at Henley would only add to what has already been a strong, triumphant season for the men. They have already put forth impressive showings at the San Diego Crew Classic, the Knecht Cup, the Kerr Cup and the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. According to Savell, this may have been the most successful season in team history.
“We are very hopeful with the men and the proven success they have had this year,” Savell said.
The team looks to add to its accolades and accomplishments from the season with a powerful showing at Henley.