During two days of competing in the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, Purdue had to endure "a lot of hiccups," in the words of its coach.
The Boilermakers sat their No. 3 seat on the men's varsity eight boat because of illness. They brought up a substitute from the junior varsity, which affected the JV. And in the varsity eight race, their boat struck a log in the river, knocking off the rudder and forcing the coxswain to stick his arm into the Schuylkill to make the turn at the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.
But amid all that, and the fact that it didn't win a single final, Purdue managed to take the overall title in the 74th annual regatta by two points over Drexel.
"We'd have liked some crews to finish a little bit better than where they did," said Dave Kucik, the Boilermakers' director of rowing. "But I think the total-point trophy is the thing that shows how strong your team is. There were a lot of excellent crews here, so we really feel very good about that."
Michigan, a repeat winner in the men's heavyweight eight, took the men's points title. Bucknell captured the women's points crown over second-place Duke. The Blue Devils edged the Bison in the women's heavyweight eight final.
Purdue placed six boats in Saturday's finals, rowed on a gorgeous, sun-splashed day, and posted a best finish of second in the freshman/novice lightweight-eight final.
The Boilermakers were believed to be neck-and-neck with Drexel going into the final event, the men's heavyweight eight, and were rowing in Lane 5 next to Michigan when coxswain Kyle Flood felt two thumps. The boat had struck a log floating near the surface.
Flood needed to think quickly, Kucik said, or the Purdue boat would have drifted into Michigan's lane and possibly struck the Wolverines' boat.
"Out of safety, he elected to put his arm in the water, make the turn, and see if we could stay competitive without a rudder," Kucik said. "Without a rudder, you have to do some maneuvering to hold your position in the lane. But we couldn't hold pace with the rest of the group."
The Boilermakers limped home last, 22 seconds behind the Wolverines' time of 5 minutes, 58.60 seconds, and filed a protest requesting the race to be rowed again. After nearly 90 minutes, the Dad Vail jury rejected the protest.
"It's an outdoor sport; things like that happen," Kucik said. "Instead of trying to find reasons why not to do a re-row and honor a protest, the officials should just say: 'There's a good reason. Let's do it.'
"But is there some bitterness? No. We would have liked to have a fair and clean race. The committee certainly took the time and the effort to try to resolve. The only clear resolve was to re-row, and they didn't get around to doing that."
Michigan, which also won the men's junior varsity eight, barely held off Florida Tech in the heavyweight eight and was thrilled to win it in this particular year.
"We wrote it down on the board in our boathouse: 'Break the even-numbered-year curse," Wolverines coach Gregg Hartsuff said. "We've never won this race in an even-numbered year. I think our guys latched on to that and said, 'That sounds great.' "
Duke, making its first trip to the Dad Vail, had a similarly tough time holding off Bucknell, winning the women's heavyweight eight by a scant 0.24 seconds.
"We've had a lot of close races throughout the season," Duke senior Rory Erickson-Kulas said. "We've been practicing the sprint, and we just decided to go and not worry about who's around us. This was a wonderful experience."
For Drexel, this was its best Dad Vail ever. The Dragons captured the women's junior varsity eight and the women's freshman/novice eight.
"I thought they had a great performance out there, and we're real proud of them," director of rowing Paul Savell said. "All the way across, the team had a strong showing. We got second overall and I'm real proud of that."
Temple got first place in the men's freshman/novice four, with that crew remaining unbeaten this season.
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