Drexel director of rowing Paul Savell appreciates the support his men's and women's crews receive - from the student body to the alumni to the athletic administration - and doesn't mind if all that enthusiasm creates some pressure on his Dragons.
"We like that pressure," Savell said Friday on the banks of the Schuylkill. "You wouldn't have any diamonds if you didn't have pressure. No, we like that."
The Dragons thrived in Friday's day-long heats at the 74th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, advancing eight boats - equally divided between men and women - into the semifinals. Drexel will have nine boats in all in Saturday's semis, counting one in the men's junior varsity heavyweight eight, an event that did not require qualifying heats.
The Dragons posted the fastest time, 6 minutes, 6.90 seconds, in the men's freshman/novice eight and won their heat in four other races: men's heavyweight eight (6:06.10), men's pairs (7:42.50), women's freshman/novice eight (7:10.49), and women's heavyweight four (7:48.93).
They also advanced in the women's heavyweight eight, the men's freshman/novice four, and the women's junior varsity eight.
If Drexel can keep up this level of performance, it will find itself in the mix for the Jack Bratten Overall Point Trophy, which is a measure of the team's showing in all races.
"We've been pushing each other all season, all year," Savell said. "Everybody is pulling for each other. We're hoping to get after this team title. That's one of our goals, having the overall top team experience for everybody."
The conditions were sunny but windy, but Savall said the winds weren't much different from what his and other crews have been facing for much of the spring.
"Everybody probably prefers calmer conditions," he said. "But we've been racing in fairly windy conditions every week, it seems like, so I don't feel like it's bothering us at all. I don't think it's going to bother the competition that much either. You know what to expect, that it's going to be a little sloppy, and you prepare for that."
The winds are expected to die down Saturday with temperatures approaching 80. While that may be a little too warm for rowing with maximum effort, that's exactly what all the coaches are expecting, Savell included.
"I think after the heats, as they narrow the field down, it just gets tougher," he said. "Pretty much anybody that races on Saturday is fast. But we're hoping for good things. It was a great day, and everybody did what they were supposed to do."
Temple also had a good day in qualifying seven boats for Saturday's semifinals. The Owls posted the fastest time in the men's freshman/novice four (6:51.07) and the No. 2 time in the men's heavyweight eight (6:04.00), and won their heat in the women's freshman/novice four (8:08.61).
Temple also will row in the semis of the women's heavyweight eight, the women's heavyweight four, the men's pair, and the men's single. The Owls' eighth semifinal will be in the men's junior varsity heavyweight eight.
St. Joseph's won its heats in the women's heavyweight eight and recorded the fastest time (6:56.57) in the women's junior varsity eight in advancing six boats into the semifinals. La Salle and Villanova qualified in two events each.
Western Ontario had the fastest time in two events - the men's heavyweight four (6:35.62) and the women's lightweight four (7:32.50).
The heavyweight eight trials were led by Florida Tech (6:01.59) on the men's side and Miami (6:33.19) on the women's.
For Dad Vail coverage online, go to www.philly.com/dadvailEndText