Drexel crew coach Paul Savell acknowledges that everything his men's and women's teams have done on the water in recent months has pointed to this weekend at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta.
And his rowers couldn't be happier that Friday's opening day of the 77th edition of the nation's largest collegiate regatta is finally here.
"Waiting always is the hardest part," senior Cat Hamilton, coxswain of the women's varsity eight, said Thursday after practice on the Schuylkill. "Once we're in the boat, we're all ready to go. It's out here [at practice] when it's leading up to it that the nerves are there and you're excited. You just want to get going."
The Dragons, who will race 13 boats over the two days of competition, are seeking their third consecutive overall points (combined men's and women's) title. The women finished third in points behind first-place Massachusetts and Bucknell last year but finished second - best in program history - in the women's varsity eight.
Given their depth and ability, the Dragons may have the target on their backs, but they don't look at it as added pressure.
"I think we work well under pressure," sophomore Marina Forster said. "As a team, we've really worked hard to overcome the nerves. When we're at the starting line, you just take a deep breath and you're ready to go. You've put the training in to get there, so there's nothing else you can do other than bring it all out in the water."
Savell said that all his rowers have seemed pretty relaxed to him and that they've been "pretty mature about how they're handling" any pressure. He also likes the focus he has seen.
"I just think we keep everything focused inward on us just being able to perform at our best," he said. "Nobody sees this on our team as a repeat. It's more like this is a brand new team trying to accomplish something brand new for us."
The Drexel men, who won the points title in 2013, took third last year, finishing fourth in the varsity heavyweight eight.
The defending men's and women's points champions, Michigan and Massachusetts, respectively, will attempt to repeat at the end of the two-day competition, which will see 125 teams row in 178 events covering more than 20 hours. About 3,500 rowers will take part.
The Wolverines captured the men's varsity heavyweight eight crown last year for the fifth time since 2005 and edged Delaware and Drexel for the men's title. Michigan coach Gregg Hartsuff said he'll have five new rowers in the shell this year.
The Minutewomen used their win in the varsity heavyweight eight and their depth to win the women's point title for the third time since 2000.
But the major attention, at least locally, will be on Drexel, and that's fine with Hamilton.
"They're gunning for us, but we're gunning for them right back," she said. "No matter where we're seeded, we're always going into it with the mentality of the underdog and confidence with all the past wins that we've had."
Schedule tweaked. Jim Hanna, president of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee, said there were some late registrations that prompted a slight juggling of the schedule. "People wanted to get in at the last minute," he said. "Our commitment is to the smaller, fledgling crews. We want to make sure that everyone rows. We want to fit everyone in."