Drexel must have felt as if there was a target on its back throughout the 76th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, and the Dragons' rowers in the closing events of Saturday's storm-delayed championship races on the Schuylkill had to be sensing it.
But if the Dragons' women's varsity heavyweight eight crew was feeling any pressure, it certainly didn't show it, hanging on for a gutty, second-place finish to help lead its team to the overall points title of the largest collegiate rowing event in North America for the second consecutive year.
Drexel's women clocked a time of 6 minutes, 34.775 seconds - just 0.16 seconds behind fast-closing Grand Valley State - to pick up eight big points. The Dragons wound up with 42 overall points for the meet to outdistance co-runners-up Massachusetts and Bucknell.
"We've gotten a bronze a couple of times, but we've never gotten silver, so wow, this is a big day for the women," Drexel director of rowing Paul Savell said. "We're really psyched about that. They were just so amped up and ready to go. With the weather situation, we had to put them on ice a little bit, but they got themselves back and ready to go."
Lightning that accompanied two substantial spells of heavy rain resulted in a delay of more than 21/2 hours, setting up the final stretch of seven races.
The Dragons advanced eight boats into the finals. Although they won only one race - the men's junior varsity heavyweight eight - they showed enough depth to pick up the Jack Bratton Trophy for overall points.
"Overall, the team did a great job," Savell said. "Any time you're talking about team points, your whole team has to do something good. We talked about that on Thursday, that we really were counting on every single person on the team. Everybody's important in our boathouse."
Different teams won all three points trophies. Michigan, on the strength of its win in the men's varsity heavyweight eight, overtook Drexel by one point for the Dr. Thomas Kerr Trophy. Massachusetts picked up the Jack and Nancy Seitz Trophy for women's points, ahead of Bucknell and Drexel, after taking the women's varsity heavyweight eight.
Drexel was not a factor in the men's varsity heavyweight eight, finishing fourth in 5:47.619 behind Michigan, Florida Institute of Technology, and Virginia.
The Wolverines, who began their season winning the Murphy Cup on the Cooper River in Camden, opened up some daylight just past the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and held off fast-closing FIT to cross the line in 5:40.221 for their third win in the event in the last four years and fifth time overall.
"When we came through the bridge, our guys got on the move," Michigan coach Gregg Hartsuff said. "We got about four seats of open water, and I knew the race was done because I know our guys will do whatever it takes to hold on. It was holding on for dear life in the last 300 meters. FIT was sprinting hard."
Multiple event winners on Saturday were Bucknell and Oklahoma City with three each, and Massachusetts, MIT, and Brock with two apiece. Temple (men's junior varsity heavyweight eight) and Villanova (women's freshman/novice heavyweight eight) each won a bronze medal.