The weather was hot Friday and so was the rowing on the Schuylkill on the first day of competition in the 77th annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, where the three champions from the 2014 races all looked sharp and ready to repeat.
Drexel, looking for a third consecutive overall points title, advanced 12 of the 13 boats it entered. Michigan, the defending men's champion, moved on to the next round in seven events while Massachusetts stayed on schedule for a second straight women's title by qualifying six boats.
And while achievement in individual events is nice, the coaches of these and other teams in the regatta have their attention focused on the team championships.
"We're more interested in the team trophies than any individual accomplishments," Michigan coach Gregg Hartsuff said. "We want to win here as a team. To do that we've got to make sure we make the finals and then score as many points as we can."
The challenge of Saturday's competition - semifinals in the morning, championship races in the afternoon - will be the heat. The sun blazed over the river Friday with temperatures in the mid 80s, and conditions are expected to be the same Saturday with maybe some more cloud cover.
"We were joking that it has been either winter or summer everywhere we've gone this season," Hartsuff said. "Most of our guys rowed in the morning [Friday], but we have to make sure we take care of ourselves" to handle the heat.
Drexel coach Paul Savell was thrilled with his team's performance. The Dragons posted the fastest qualifying time in both junior-varsity eight races – 6 minutes, 15.002 seconds for the men, 7:21.171 for the women – and also in the men's freshman/novice four.
"It was a very good day," he said. "I really feel we did everything we could have hoped for. Everyone rowed well. They handled the heat pretty well."
Savell said he likes to look at the varsity eight boats as a barometer of how his teams performed. The men cruised to victory in their heat in 6:04.922 but they trailed Temple, which clocked the fastest time, 5:55.940, by almost nine seconds.
On the women's side, the Dragons' time of 6:51.504 was beaten only by UMass (6:46.947).
"We got what we wanted out of them," Savell said. "I think all the times were really close. It's really anybody's race."
The Minutewomen also had the top time in the women's four, and coach Jim Dietz praised his rowers for "doing what they needed to do."
"They were all racing well today and I'm pleased with the results," he said. "Knowing all our boats advanced to the semis is a great feeling."
Michigan rowed steadily in all its heats. The Wolverines were timed in 6:01.044 in their men's varsity eight heat and Hartsuff said, "Now the semifinals are a step up in intensity and competitiveness, another matter we have to address."
Temple had an outstanding day, advancing nine boats - five men, four women - and posting the fastest time (7:09.698) in the women's freshman/novice four qualifying in addition to the men's varsity eight.
Delaware also qualified for the next round in nine events and St. Joseph's six.