2022 Dad Vail Program

The Sunday, May 9, 1971 edition of The Washington Post sports pages reported “Georgetown University’s varsity heavyweight crew slipped effortlessly through fog and drizzle to win easily in the Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuylkill...” That description belied a challenging season that began with a hard-fought loss to Princeton on Lake Carnegie followed by a four-length loss to St. Joe’s on the Potomac and an upset to UVA on the home course. However, it also included away wins at Syracuse and Marietta. But more than crew racing was happening that spring. In the week before the Regatta, Georgetown’s campus and its Washington, DC were convulsed with street protests and clashes between antiwar protesters and police and National Guard in the massive May Day demonstration. In addition to dodging tear gas and roadblocks to reach the boathouse, Georgetown rowers later found that one of their own had been swept up in the largest mass arrest in the nation’s history. His incarceration forced a last-minute change to both the varsity and JV eights. Those of us in the final varsity lineup (from bow), Gerry Marosek, Mike Litton, John Bradley Jay Couzens, Greg Carroll, Erik Meyers, John Devlin, stroke Brian Lynch and coxswain Larry Marantette – used those early challenges on the water and off to sharpen our focus on our year’s goal: return to the winners’ dock at the Vail. A year earlier, four members of the 1971 varsity boat and Coach Benson had had their dreams of victory dashed by St. Joe’s in the 1970 Dad Vail final, as St Joe’s then realized its own redemption after losing to an upstart 1969 GU crew. Determined not to let new Head Coach Frank Benson down in his second season, the eight developed confidence in each other and boat speed as the season progressed. At the Vail, we took our initial heat with the fastest time of the Regatta, won our semi, and never stopped until we crossed the finish in the final. In the final, we quickly took the lead off a smooth, fast start, settled to a 36, and then swung at that rate like a metronome down the course. Coming into the Island, we opened water on second place and kept pulling away from the field. It was one of those rare races in which the boat was moving so well, we dared not – and did not need to – take a finishing sprint. Our rate notched up only a one to 37 for the last twenty strokes as we cruised across the line. GU finished in 5:52, the Hawks almost 5 seconds back, barely holding off fast-closing University of Virginia in third. Coast Guard, Trinity and Ithaca rounded out the field in that order. It was the third GU heavyweight varsity eight win in four years. In addition to the traditional toss of the coxswain, our eight was eager to give Coach Benson a swim. Frank had coached all but three members of that varsity boat as freshman novices before he took the heavyweight head coach position in the fall of 1969. Despite holding down a demanding full-time job teaching and administering at a local public high school, Frank somehow found time and energy to coach a batch of smartalecky college kids six days a week, helping to raise them as well as his actual two children through his largely volunteer coaching role. Sadly, I must note that Frank Benson and several teammates from that unforgettable day are no longer around. While Greg Carroll, John Devlin, Brian Lynch, and Frank Benson have all passed on, in my memories, they still loom bright, young and strong as they did on that May afternoon on the Schuylkill a half century ago. Erik J. Meyers, Georgetown University, BSFS-71 (6 seat) 1971 Men's Varsity Eight: GEORGETOWN Returns to Victory Stand 50YEARS AGO