Saint Joseph's women rowers pursue Dad Vail Regatta crown

Posted: May 08, 2008

Walking down the aisle with your cap and gown might be the biggest achievement for many college students. It's an event you don't want your friends or family to miss.

Saint Joseph's rower Liz Sauter and six senior teammates might have to skip graduation on Saturday, but they probably won't mind. If they qualify for the championship round of the women's varsity eight, they will be speeding down the Schuylkill River when their classmates will be reaching for their sheepskins.

"We've put too much time and energy into the team with ourselves and the younger girls," Sauter said. "We have put out a lot of time and energy in school, too, but it's not like we're not getting a degree. We just won't walk down the aisle."

The 70th Dad Vail Regatta, which opens today and ends Saturday, will feature 127 schools, 516 boats, and 166 races with 3,300 athletes - 1,667 women and 1,633 men. All are records for the regatta, the country's largest collegiate rowing event. It began with three entries in 1934, and each year the event gets bigger and more competitive.

Local schools joining the Hawks at the Dad Vail will be Temple, La Salle, Villanova, Drexel and Philadelphia University.

"We're talking about [possibly] three races in 36 hours," St. Joe's women's coach Gerry Quinlan said. "That's a different type of training. Most of our races are 1-day, one-shot deals This is the largest regatta that we attend every year and we look at it as being on our home waters. So essentially, this is our championship."

The Hawks recently finished second at the Atlantic 10 Conference championship and captured the Kelly Cup varsity eight title for the second year in a row. Quinlan, a former rower at Monsignor Bonner (Class of '87), is in his ninth season at the helm. He coached the Hawks to a Dad Vail championship in 2006, their first since 1969. Over the past 8 years, the Hawks have won three gold medals, four silvers and a bronze at the Dad Vail, including a silver-medal finish in the varsity eight last year. Quinlan works hard to build the best possible team environment.

"That's the thing about our team," he said. "Rarely will you see a team of the eight strongest rowers. We base it upon endurance and, even more so, the eight rowers that work the best together. We find that out by putting different lineups of rowers in different race situations and seeing how they adapt."

Sauter was part of the gold-medal-winning freshman four at the Atlantic 10 championship in '04, and was a key member of the '06 Dad Vail varsity eight championship team.

"This is the one that we train for from the fall and winter," Sauter said. "Not just winning the varsity eight, but winning everything we do, overall. This is the last weekend that shows if it all was worth it. I am pumped!" *

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