The race on the Schuylkill was nearing its end above the Columbia Railroad Bridge when the coxswain for the Drexel women's novice eight called out sharply, "Look at your ribbons! We're doing this!"
The coxswain shouted a little more, about whom and what they were doing it for. At that point, Drexel was within range but still trailing a La Salle boat in the final of the Kerr Cup on April 20.
"Everybody just let go, and we just picked it up and went," said Jordan Marinchak, in the No. 6 seat.
"We went," said Taylor Brady, in the stroke seat that day.
There was an electronic beep, beep at the finish line, signaling no gap to speak of between the two boats at the end, then a delay while officials looked at a photo.
"We ended up winning by .2 seconds," Marinchak said, recalling the tears up and down the boat when they finally got the word. "A really great moment."
Marinchak had won and lost races before, but those ribbons they wore around their ankles that day were to support her and honor her first cousin, Jeff Bauman. He had become a notable survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings after a photo showed Bauman being wheeled from the finish line area, bloodied and badly injured.
Another iconic moment emerged when Bauman came out before a Boston Bruins playoff game, furiously waving a banner as the surprised crowd went crazy. Bauman was in a wheelchair, having lost his legs in the blast.
His cousin's boat, which will be back on the water late Friday afternoon at the Dad Vail Regatta, wanted to support all victims of the bombings, Marinchak said. But for her, Jeff was the guy who had come down last Fourth of July and cracked jokes the whole time as they drove around looking for a fireworks display with another cousin.
"He's just a hardworking, loving, funny kid," Marinchak said.
Her parents had texted her uncle that this race was dedicated to Jeff, and the word was passed to him that Jordan's boat had won. Just a small token amid an avalanche of gestures of support for him.
And, Marinchak said, it was a moving gesture of support for her, too.
"Jordan said she was pushing for her cousin because she wanted to do something for him, just make him proud," Brady said. "We all wanted to back her up on that, because your boat is like your family, so it's kind of like your extended family."
Drexel athletic director Eric Zillmer talked about how sports has long helped with grieving and healing, how after catastrophic events there is a natural question about when to resume the games.
"The tragedy is the symmetry," Zillmer said. "The bombing occurred at a sporting event. It is one of the biggest tragedies you can imagine. People are celebrating being alive. That's what a marathon is. The next moment, devastation. In sports, all along, starting with the Olympics to working out by yourself, it's about celebrating being alive. That's what we're doing. It's in the moment. It's not in the past. It's not in the future. It's here right now."
The other large symbol Zillmer found here, more higher ground, was that a group of students was able to look outside itself.
"This is going on at Drexel, but it's true for college students across the country. They are much more involved from a civic perspective," Zillmer said. "There's homegrown terrorism, and then there's homegrown heroism. Whatever you call this new generation, they have a consciousness about civic issues. I'm really impressed."
Jordan was at dinner with some teammates the evening of the bombings when she got a phone call from her father, telling her that her cousin had been near the finish line and that there was a photo of him on Facebook. She found it on her phone, she said.
"I think finding out with my teammates, they were there for me immediately," Marinchak said. "They could see I was really shaken up."
She remembers somebody telling her she didn't have to look at the photo anymore. She decided to go home that night and got offers to drive her.
"They were willing to drop everything to make sure I was comfortable," said Marinchak, an Episcopal Academy graduate from Villanova, who is majoring in nursing.
She decided that she wanted to be on the river the next day, that rowing always has been a stress reliever. She also knew there were people in Boston who didn't have the luxury of deciding whether to follow their normal routine. She needed to continue for them.
Brady came to her with the idea of the boat's wearing ribbons around their ankles at the Kerr Cup.
"Instead of allowing that to pull us down, all the emotions, we used it to push ourselves more," Brady said.
They agreed that literally pulling through this helped with the chemistry the boat already had. They know nothing is a given. They came in second to Temple the following week at the Kelly Cup.
"It also brought us closer to the varsity team," Brady said, noting that one of the captains came and said they liked what the boat had done with the ribbons, suggesting that all the boats do it this week at the Dad Vail.
"Now we have the whole team backing Jordan up and backing Jeff up," Brady said.
This time, Jordan will be stroking the novice eight, with the rest of the boat following her lead. Friday afternoon's race won't be about her, she suggested.
"We all have personal things to keep us going," Marinchak said.
What you need to know before you go to the regatta. C2.EndText