Among Philadelphia’s many treasures, Boathouse Row is perhaps one of its most iconic. Their trademark lights illuminate the waters of the Schuylkill each night, creating the picturesque landscape whose majesty photographers and artists work tirelessly to capture. Walking north on Kelly Drive from the art museum, dodging the inevitable roller skaters and bicyclists on the road, one quickly comes upon the stretch’s only brick installments, whose arched brick windows and gleaming blue and red door capture the attention and evoke feelings that royalty lies within. This is the Bachelors Barge club, one of the oldest rowing clubs in the nation. Open since 1854, the club has been home to Philadelphia elite since its founding. While its prestigious founders have come and gone, it seems as if the building still continues to breed success, a fact enjoyed by its current tenants: the Drexel University rowing team.
Among the many athletic teams to take to the courts, fields and pools in the Drexel blue and gold, few of late have experienced the level of accomplishment enjoyed by those who make the Schuylkill River their home. After posting impressive campaigns in the fall and spring seasons of 2016-17, the men’s and women’s crew teams enter this season more determined than ever.
Last October, the Dragons competed in the Navy Day Regatta on their home waters. On the men’s side, the varsity eight and second varsity eight took home first place, with the other three boats posting top five finishes as well. The women recorded top-four finishes by the varsity eight and second varsity eight as well. The team persevered through difficult conditions at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston and earned top-half finishes in the Princeton Chase before closing out the fall season emphatically at the Frostbite Regatta in November. This event included the women’s eight sweeping each of the three events in which they were entered on a day which included four more victories and two second place finishes.
This set the stage for successes to continue into the spring. After a string of early season races on the Schuylkill against largely local competition, the team travelled to the Potomac to compete in the George Washington Invitational in Washington D.C. A win by the women’s varsity eight helped to cement an overall points victory for the Drexel women’s side, highlighting an effort that included three other wins and a handful of other top five finishes. Weeks later, the women won their sixth straight Kelly Cup to claim the city championship, while the men’s side came in second to Saint Joseph’s University.
While these victories are impressive in their own right, the season highlight came in May, when the Dragons took to the Schuylkill for the Dad Vail Regatta, one of the sport’s most prestigious events. Quite simply, Drexel dominated the event for the school’s fifth straight overall team title. This included a first ever women’s points title, led by an unprecedented grand finals win for the women’s varsity eight. The men’s varsity eight also achieved a gold medal, with the team overall achieving a record-tying seven medals on a blustery spring day.
Arguably the best-ever women’s boat in school history concluded their season with a silver medal performance at the Colonial Athletic Association championships in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and saw Marina Forster, Nupur Parikh and Kendall Wenzke earn All-CAA honors.
With all of these successes, men’s and women’s head coach and director of rowing, Paul Savell, has established Drexel as one of the area’s (and nation’s) elite as well as one of the school’s most dominant programs. With a diverse roster that includes international recruits as well as walk-ons, Savell looks to continue these successes with a fall schedule that promises to challenge the group early on. They open at the Navesink River for the Rumson Regatta before returning home for the Navy Day Regatta. The Head of the Charles, Head of the Schuylkill and Princeton chase offer opportunities for the 2017-18 installment of Drexel Rowing to make its mark on the sport’s biggest stages. Finally, as with last year, a Nov. 11 competition at Mercer Lake in the Frostbite Regatta concludes the fall season.
As fall term rolls around, make a point to wander over to Kelly Drive. Enjoy the tree-lined street and architecture if that’s your thing. Rent a surrey or bike to explore Fairmont. Stop in at the Art Museum for some culture. But especially make time to catch the home races for the crew team Oct. 14 and 28. If the past few seasons are any indication of what’s to come, you won’t be disappointed.