For the first time in the 75-year history of the decorated Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the host program took home the title. The Drexel Dragons, defending their home Schuylkill River, captured their first overall team title in the long history of the prestigious regatta.
The grand event, held May 10-11, pitted Drexel against some of the nation’s best crew teams. The Dragons, led by Director of Rowing Paul Savell, sent 12 boats to the semifinals, a new record for the program, and sent six out of nine shells to the grand finals.
Drexel’s chances coming into the regatta were heightened because of the team’s previous victories April 27 in the Bergen and Kelly Cup regattas.
“We set goals, train hard and prepare to win,” Savell said. “I felt confident that our team had a shot, and [I am] proud of our work ethic and dedication this season.”
The Dragons were able to secure the title with 30 overall points. The University of Michigan and the University of Virginia finished second and third with 26 and 21 points, respectively.
The men’s varsity eight keyed the victory with a gold-medal finish in the Lois Krall Boat. They finished with a time of 5:42.605, earning the program’s first-ever men’s varsity eight Dad Vail gold. That shell was coxed by Marc Smith, along with strokes Kurt Linton, Vanja Busic, Aleksandar Radovic, Lorenzo Albala, Sebastian Ryan, John Pieper, Michael Faust and bow Casimir Czworkowski to earn the Richard O’Brien Trophy.
“Winning the men’s varsity eight title means we had the fastest boat on the river, period,” Savell pointed out.
Drexel was considered a big underdog to the perennial powerhouse Florida Institute of Technology for the heat, but the Lois Krall Boat jumped out to a big lead and was able to hold off the field.
Another major group of contributors to Drexel’s first-place finish was the novice eight. They won their first gold medal since 1997, winning as a No. 1 seed in the Vince Vidas Boat. Their effort included contributions from Christopher Henderson, strokes Daniel Dollin, Mikulas Sum, Nicholas Capaldi, Michael DiLucca, Dave Hanrahan, Daniel Palombo, Daniel Pyleand bow Lawrence Lindawan. With the victory, they earned the Lev Brett Bowl, capping off an undefeated spring season.
Finally, it was Drexel’s men’s pair that secured the men’s points trophy for the overall regatta. Although the Dragons had already secured the overall team title, the pair of stroke Timothy Drake and bow Cameron Staines clinched the men’s title.
Their time of 7:03.697 in the Julia Grace Boat was good enough for the Bob Negaard Cup. Savell was impressed with the come-from-behind fashion in which the pair won.
On the women’s side, Drexel’s second varsity eight defended their first-place title from last year. In the Maria Papadakis Boat, Catherine Hamilton coxed along with strokes Elizabeth Campanella, Emily Gartland, Olivia Babiec, Sierra Baca, Amanda Kleuser, Elizabeth Daugherty, Tori King and bow Elise Levito. They finished in 6:50.013, good enough to be awarded the Coleman D. Boylan trophy. Savell described this victorious heat with one word: “Awesome.”
Not far from awesome were the performances of a few other Drexel boats. Among them were the men’s second varsity eight, who finished in 5:59.140, two seconds behind Michigan, to settle for a silver medal. The women’s varsity four won a bronze medal in their heat, medaling for the first time in that particular event in the program’s history, which impressed Savell very much.
“The women’s varsity four winning a bronze was also great,” Savell said. “It is a very tough category, and this is the first year we have had the depth to medal in the eights and the fours.”
In Savell’s opinion, the weekend cemented Drexel on the nation’s crew map. In addition to Drexel’s performance in the river, Alexandra Paulin, a former Dragons coxswain on the women’s varsity team, covered the regatta for 6ABC. The presence and success provided by the Dragons, most importantly their overall victory on the nation’s largest stage, confirmed Drexel’s place among the elites.
“Dad Vails is the largest collegiate regatta in the country,” Savell said. “It has really put Drexel [crew] on the national rowing map.”
The coach was glad to see his players gain recognition for their work all year. He was thrilled to see the hard work by his team realize a goal.
“It was such a great feeling to be able to see our athletes achieve their goals, especially knowing how hard everyone worked for it,” Savell said.
Drexel is under consideration for being named Rowing Team of the Week, which will be determined in an online poll at www.row2k.com. Savell is calling for support and for fans of the team to vote for his squad.
Savell was already very appreciative of the support his team received thus far. All along the river were Dragon fans dressed in their school colors, supporting their alma mater, classmates and favorite Philadelphia program.
“There were so many Blue and Gold fans out there cheering us on, and [we] appreciated all of the support,” he said.