Three everlasting seconds separated the men’s varsity heavyweight eight grand finale winner from the pack at the 83rd Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta
Drexel glided out in front down the Schuylkill through murky waters underlying a ceaseless drizzle, earning gold in the men’s race Saturday afternoon and first in total points (107.75). The boat finished in 5 minutes, 30.611 seconds — its fastest time of the weekend.
“We’re really happy with how the guys performed,” said Drexel 15-year coach Paul Savell. “It was a really gutsy row. … I’m just so happy for them.”
As the buzzer sounded, signifying the Dragons crossing the finish line, the team punched the water in celebration of the program’s third heavyweight eight race victory (2013, 2017). Bowing their heads soon after to receive their medals atop the podium, a colony of Drexel fans urged on a timeless Dad Vail tradition.
So the rowers sent their coxswain, junior Sam DeSilva, plunging into the water. Then the rest of the team, sharing ear-to-ear smiles, followed suit.
“It was a little bit dirty but sweet, I guess,” DeSilva said. “It’s not the end. We’re still here to make a splash. This is just another stepping stone for us. …. We had the mindset that we were going to come out and race from the front. That’s exactly what we did.”
The fight for second place came right down to the wire. It was separated by two tenths of a second. Colgate, holding third in the last 100 meters, pushed a final effort to snatch the silver medal. Temple, the reigning champions, placed third in the men’s heavyweight eight but second for the men’s overall point total trophy (92).
“I think we were focused so much on Drexel and spent so much of our effort that we got outraced a little bit by Colgate,” said Temple coach Brian Perkins. “They’re savvy, they’re a smart crew, and they snuck by us there. Bummed me out.”
Savell described the Raiders, who won in 2019, as a sneaky fast boat. And they showed it down the stretch of the most prominent race in the country’s most prominent college rowing event.
George Washington, St. Joseph’s and Delaware finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Saturday’s overcast weather added a bit of drama to the race, with fans barricading by the finish line to keep warm but, according to Savell and Perkins, it didn’t play much of a factor in the race. Drexel’s coach said it felt like the sun was shining and Temple’s coach called it the most fun weather to row through.
Drexel, the regatta favorite heading into the weekend, earned a spot in the final round without much strife and a 5:35.323 finish. The Dragons swept through a four-second victory in the preliminary round followed by a three-second semifinal victory Saturday morning. Georgetown and St. Joseph’s trailed in that heat before later falling short with a shot at medaling.
Temple accounted for the only local team in its Saturday morning heat. A two-second victory over Colgate and Delaware courtesy of some open-water separation down the stretch earned the Owls a spot in the finals.
On the women’s side, absent any local schools who were occupied competing in respective conference tournaments, Princeton took home the varsity heavyweight eight crown with a time of 6:20.598. Georgetown earned silver trailing by about two seconds then came Boston University, nearly a dozen seconds behind the Hoyas.
Wisconsin won the women’s overall point trophy with 59.5 points. Georgetown was second (58) and Lafayette (53.5) took third.