Canadian rowers score win at Dad Vail

Drexel's Paul Schmidt locks grips with teammate Liam O'Neil after winning the men's varsity pair Bob Negaard Cup. Schmidt and O'Neil finished in 7 minutes, 17.43 seconds.
Drexel's Paul Schmidt locks grips with teammate Liam O'Neil after winning the men's varsity pair Bob Negaard Cup. Schmidt and O'Neil finished in 7 minutes, 17.43 seconds.
Posted: May 09, 2010

The severe winds that whipped up and down the Schuylkill on Saturday afternoon made it a hold-on-tight adventure for most crews in the 72d Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta and, in several cases, swayed the balance of power.

In the men's varsity heavyweight eight final, No. 12 seed Brock, from St. Catherines, Ontario, claimed the Richard O'Brien Trophy with a clocking of 6 minutes, 28.35 seconds. The Badgers became the event's first Canadian champion.

Brock's regular season runs from September to November. The crew first hit the water this year March 11 and only competed in one scrimmage, a week ago, before the Dad Vail.

"With the weather as rough as it was, we wanted to establish ourselves early in the race," Brock men's heavyweight coach Steffan Wagner said. "We went for it early, [and] placed ourselves in a real confident position."

Brock rowers, though, are used to brutal weather.

"Last week, Steffan made them practice in exactly these conditions," head coach Peter Somerwil said. "We always tell them in practice, 'This is what it could be like when you get out on the water on race day.' "

With 45 points, St. Joseph's, which medaled in seven finals, gained the overall (men's and women's) championship. Delaware (26 points) brought home the men's title, and Buffalo (31) took the women's crown. St. Joe's (25 points for the men, 20 for the women) was runner-up in both divisions.

Due to winds that were estimated at up to 37 m.p.h. and gusts up to 48 m.p.h., Dad Vail officials delayed the event for 1 hour, 35 minutes.

"Once wind conditions reached a point where safety became a concern, organizers made a decision to put the regatta on hold," said Jim Hanna, Dad Vail president. "Officials in three different boats went to the starting line to inspect the conditions on the race course. They then made a decision that conditions were sufficiently calm to restart the races."

In the women's varsity heavyweight final, Sacramento State earned a gold medal in 7:01.51.

"It's an amazing feeling," said senior cocaptain Holly Hopkins, the boat's stroke. "Two years ago, we won a silver here. This time, we took first."

The fourth-seeded Hornets were followed by St. Joe's (7:05.77) and Drexel (7:11.97). Top-seeded Purdue (7:17.41) took fourth place.

According to Hanna, Purdue lodged a protest with race officials.

"They said that we operated races in conditions that were unfair," he said. "They alleged that certain lanes were advantageous in adverse conditions." (The Boilermakers were in the No. 3 lane for the women's varsity eight.)

The protest did not lead to a change in the results.

With a mark of 6:34.67, Delaware was runner-up to Brock in the men's varsity eight.

"They gave it everything they had," Blue Hens coach Chuck Crawford said. "They weren't quite able to handle the wind as well as Brock. We fought from behind the whole way.

"It's a very notable feat to win the men's title," Crawford added. "These guys fought extremely hard, as hard as any other team in the country. We're extremely proud of them."

Drexel's men's team captured gold in the junior varsity heavyweight eight (7:10.88) and varsity pair (7:17.43). The varsity pair was made up of Liam O'Neil (No. 1 seat) and Peter Schmidt (stroke).

Mayor Nutter, who helped in the effort to keep the Dad Vail from moving to the Navesink River in Rumson, N.J., appeared during the finals. He stepped onto the dock and presented medals to rowers, getting his shoes wet in the process.

"This is incredible," Nutter said. "It's just fantastic. It's everything we thought it would be and more. The Dad Vail brings such a life and energy to the city. This is what collegiate rowing is all about, and we have it right here in Philadelphia."

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or

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