ROWING HAS always been a big part of Philadelphia sporting culture. Ever since the conception of Boathouse Row in 1858, the Schuylkill River and Kelly Drive have been a fixture of the deep passion the city has for rowing. This weekend, the river will be overtaken by more than 120 teams from around the country that will compete in the 76th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta.
"Rowing infiltrates the town," said Paul Savell, Drexel's director of rowing. "It is the largest collegiate regatta in the country. There is a lot of prestige and a lot of history. Boathouse Row is one of the rowing centers of our country."
With Philadelphia the center of the rowing world for the weekend, all eyes will be on the Dragons. Drexel won the overall team championship last year, the first in school history. All 12 Drexel boats reached the semifinals and six won medals, including four gold. Drexel finished first in the men's division and third in the women's.
"It was lots of hard work building up to it," Savell said. "The team had been very focused on Dad Vails as their goal right from September all the way through the winter and the spring, to make that happen. Our team had never won the team title before. It was like a goal had come to fruition."
While it is tough to repeat in a sport like rowing, the expectations from within the team have been raised after its win last year. In the past, the goal of winning the Dad Vail seemed far off. Now that they reached that goal, they are not resting on their laurels.
"It changes the team's approach to the whole year," Savell said. "We keep raising those expectations."
The Dragons have had a successful year thus far but are not nearly done. They are focused on the main event of the year.
"The team definitely has good focus," Savell said. "They saw the success last year, so that helps them know where they want to go. It is hard to say with so much good competition coming in from across the country. There is like 120 schools that are going to be there. I think we are in a good spot."
The event starts with races today and will run through tomorrow. While Kelly Drive will be closed to cars the whole weekend, there will be no lack of action on the river.