Springtime in Philadelphia is a weatherman’s worst nightmare. From freezing temperatures to sweltering heat and from horizontal rain to stunningly beautiful days, the City of Brotherly Love tends to keep everyone on their toes this time of year. Thankfully, like an exquisite Swiss timepiece, Drexel University’s crew programs are the veritable models of consistency. And true to form, at the 74th annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta May 12-13, Drexel delivered.
Featuring boats from all across the U.S. and a couple from Canada, the Dad Vail has the distinction of being the biggest collegiate rowing event in the U.S. Under the guidance of head coach Paul Savell, Drexel has a history of success in the two-day event.
Friday saw eight of the 10 boats qualify for the semifinals the next day in a dominant showing on the Schuylkill River. The women’s varsity four and novice eight set the tone with first-place finishes in their heats, with the varsity eight and second varsity eight qualifying second behind Grand Valley University and Saint Joseph’s University, respectively.
Taking their cue from their female counterparts, the men’s boats were equally impressive on day 1. The varsity eight, novice eight, varsity pair finished first in their heats with the novice four coming in a close second to the Western Ontario University boat, thus qualifying for the next day’s heats.
Drexel’s form held over the next day, as five boats made it past the semifinal hurdle and into the grand finals, with the women’s varsity eight making the petite final.
In the women’s finals, the second varsity eight blew past Bucknell University in the final stretch to secure gold and the Coleman D. Boylan Trophy with a time of 7:11.124. Not to be outdone, the novice eight matched their more experienced counterparts with a time of 7:04.592, which was enough to earn them gold. Drexel got its third gold medal in the eight divisions when the varsity eight inched past the University of Dayton to win in a time of 6:55.857.
With the gauntlet thrown down, Drexel’s men’s boats responded with an equally strong response, as the novice eight and varsity eight earned medal finishes. In the Lev Brett Bowl, the novice eight crossed the line four seconds behind Marietta College to secure a silver medal. Their effort redeemed the second varsity eight, who had finished just outside of the podium in the Ernie Bayer Trophy Grand Final.
The highly anticipated men’s eight final saw the Dragons take home their second men’s medal, as they piped the University of Virginia to finish third behind the University of Michigan and the Florida Institute of Technology with a time of 6:02.401. There was late drama, however, as an appeal by the Purdue University boat saw the final result remain in suspense for two hours as the merits of their case were reviewed and the possibility of a do-over race loomed. After a lengthy deliberation, the race result stood, and the Dragons took their rightful place on the podium for the sixth time.
The strong performances from all the Drexel boats brought a very successful season to an end for Paul Savell’s crew. Top finishes in the Kerr and Knecht Cups set an early tone for the programs that they delivered on in a superb showing in the showpiece at Dad Vail. With positive results in the novice boats for both programs, there are signs that this year’s Dad Vail will not be the last time that cowbells ring out loud on the banks of the Schuylkill River as a Drexel boat surges to the finish.