CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE NOT WON, YOU HAVE TO GO TAKE THEM
1995 Dad Vail Champion Temple Owls – 25th Anniversary
Director of Strategic Communications
The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sports section on Sunday, May 14, 1995 exclaimed “Michigan makes a triumphant return to Dad Vail Regatta.” But although the headline belonged to the Wolverines, the weekend belonged, like it had 12 of the previous 13 years before, to the Temple Owls.
The 1995 varsity eight boat had the misfortune of trying to follow in the footsteps of what some have called one of the fastest crews in Temple history. The 1994 boat had cruised to a sixth-straight Dad Vail title and then with short rest, captured the Champion International Regatta title.
Despite losing three key seniors from the 1994 boat, the 1995 crew was up to the challenge.
“This crew, on any given day, is faster than last year’s crew,” Temple head coach Gavin White said to the Inquirer at the time. “But they’re inconsistent, I call them my Forrest Gump crew. They’re like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Made up of Matt Garbutt, Dinko Vucemilovic, Steven Panzik, Kevin Gross, Jason Sneek, Shawn Reid, Daniel McGuinn, Jake Hampson, and coxswain, Jamie Beyer, the Owls shook off some early inconsistencies and lived up to potential.
Beyer, who passed away in February of 2018, was a central character in the story, commanding the attention of the boat. As McGuinn recalled to OwlsTV, “he was a character, even though he was small and skinny, he was the biggest personality in the boat, and that’s what you want from a coxswain. We’re sitting there and struggling, sucking wind, and you need that guy to keep you focused.”
The crew showed an early glimpse of what it was capable of, coming in third at the San Diego Crew Classic, behind Washington and Harvard, just two seconds off the pace of the Crimson. In addition to coming away with a bronze, the Owls turned heads with a strong showing, finishing ahead of many of the other top Ivy League programs.
However, a mid-season slump, including a pair of losses to Georgetown, had the team struggling to find that early confidence.
Enter 1964 double gold medal winning Olympic Coach, Allen Rosenberg, a Temple alum, who coach White brought in to work with the crew.
“Al was able to drive this boat and this people to become better than they were,” remembered McGuinn. “He was like a Yoda, like the Zen Master, and he gave Gavin the force. That boat would just rise out of the water like it had the force, it was amazing. It takes a lot of confidence in yourself as a coach to bring an outside guy in.”
Although the 1994 Owls had the “force” with them that Dad Vail weekend, it wasn’t a given. Despite Temple having come in as the six-time defending heavyweight eight champions, the team didn’t take a win for granted.
“Nobody really thought that we’d just row down the course and it was us,” said McGuinn. “Championships are not won, you have to go take them. You put the work in from the summer all the way up to that one Saturday in May.”
And Temple did just that. They went and took it.
The Owls jumped out to an ultra-fast start, rowing at a 39 ½ stroke rate off the line. They had a two-length advantage under the bridge and by Peter’s Island, had such a significant lead, they dropped their cadence to preserve energy.
If the end of the race seemed almost anticlimactic, it was only because once the opening gun went off, there was never a doubt that the 1994 Owls would come away with the trophy.
Temple dominated from start to finish, and they felt it right from the outset of the race.
“Gavin had us ready and chomping at the bit to get down the course,” said McGinn. “We were rocking and rolling, that was the fastest we had ever been. You could feel that even in the couple warm up strokes. We could have stopped for a couple strokes and still won; we were riding high.”
Whether it was the force, or just the hard work that carried the Owls over the line that day, the outcome was the same, Temple takes the title. Again.