Drexel crew roars into history books At 79th annual Dad Vail Regatta

  • April 24, 2018

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Drexel crew roars into history books at 79thannual Dad Vail Regatta

Philadelphia, PA (April) –The Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta has a rich tradition in Philadelphia and Paul Savell, the Director of Rowing/Head Men’s and Women’s coach at Drexel University makes sure to share that tradition with his program.

Every spring, the Drexel men’s and women’s crew program counts down the days until they get to row in front of teammates, family and alumnae on the historic Schuylkill River, a place they call home.

This year will be a little different for Drexel as the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, presented by Independence Blue Cross, Coca-Cola and PECO, prepares for its 80thanniversary on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12. For the first time in school history, the Dragons will enter as defending champions of the Men’s and Women’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight.

“It was extremely rewarding to continue Drexel Rowing’s winning tradition at the Dad Vail Regatta,” Savell said. “Winning creates more pressure to keep winning, and I was so happy with how the team rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations.”

In addition to battling a talented field, the crews woke up on the final day realizing they would also have to battle weather as a steady rain fell making conditions more challenging.

“Rowing is an outdoor sport and weather is often a factor,” said Savell. “Everyone hopes for good flat conditions, but you need to prepare for all conditions. All of the boats in each race are racing in the same weather conditions, no matter how clear or how difficult. They were tough, but there’s no time to let up when you’re that close to another Dad Vail title. I was proud of how our team battled through the elements and kept the eye on the ultimate prize.”

With the UMASS women hoping to claim an unprecedented third consecutive Varsity Heavyweight Eight title along with a fourth straight Women’s Overall Point trophy, the five other schools in the final including Drexel knew the task at hand.

Amidst a steady rain as the race for the Evelyn Bergman Trophy (Women’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight) began, the Dragons got off to a quick start and never took their foot off the gas, eventually creating open water between them and UMASS en route to their first ever coveted Dad Vail Gold Medal.

“Coming across the finish line of Dad Vail last spring in the pouring rain and open water on UMass was the absolute culmination of all of the hard work and dedication we had invested towards that victory for our boat and our entire team and all parents, coaches, alumni and donors that we had supporting us the whole way,” said Paige Propp, who sat in the 7 seat for the 2017 Dad Vail Regatta. “We have been chasing this goal for many years, and it was unbelievable to be able to be a member of the boat that was finally able to make it a reality. It was a day that I will never forget and one that I am exceedingly proud to say that I could be a part of.”

The women also garnered victories the JV Heavyweight Eight, the 3V Heavyweight Eight and the Varsity Heavyweight Four on their way to the school’s first Overall Women’s Point Trophy.

Not to be outdone, the men followed the women in dramatic fashion of their own capturing the Richard O’Brien Trophy (Men’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight) fending off city rival St. Joseph’s who had posted a quicker time in their respective semi-final heat.

In the finals, the Dragons got off the starting block quickly and created open water allowing them to enjoy the taste of victory for the first time since 2013 when they had to come from behind shocking the University of Michigan and Florida Institute of Technology.

“Winning the Heavyweight Eight event at Dad Vail solidified my understanding of how far the Drexel rowing program has come since its inception,” said Ben Lee, who rowed in the 7 seat at the Dad Vail Regatta. “Ten years ago, Drexel was having trouble making the grand finals. Twenty years ago, the program was off the map. Now, the team is consistently placing in and winning the majority of events offered at the Dad Vail Regatta. The last and only other time the program has won the varsity eight event was in 2013. I have high hopes for the future of the program. Winning the overall points trophy could likely become an annual occurrence.”

Savell added, “Each year has been very unique and last year very special for that group.  This was the first time we were able to win both the men’s and women’s varsity eight events (the premiere events) at Dad Vails. To come away with the first women’s varsity eight gold, another men’s varsity eight golds, a program-record five gold medals and the overall title for the fifth time was really an incredible moment for the program.