By Jim Melwert and Nicole Brewer
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Last week along the Schuylkill River, it was damage from flooding. This week, 3,700 athletes from 120 schools across the country are here for the top event in collegiate rowing, the 76th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, with schools from as far away as San Diego and Seattle.
President of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee Jim Hanna says, “It took a superhuman effort and fortunately we have 200 volunteers who came to make sure the course would be in pristine condition for the race.”
Greg Mahnken is from Clarkson University, about 2.5 hours north of Syracuse.
“Yeah, we’re actually a little nervous. Our lake was frozen three weeks ago, so (laughing) we’ve been doing two-a-day practicing and I’m thinking it’s paying off. We’re feeling good.”
But, it’s a Philadelphia school defending the title this year. The Drexel men won the Heavyweight 8 and the overall points title last year.
“The Dad Vail is the only thing that matters. We could lose every single other race in the entire season and win the Dad Vail and it would be a great season,” says Temple junior Dan Sipzner.
He says it’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Owls, with threats of the program being cut, “We have come back from the brink of extinction. So, we’re here to show people that we are back for good.”
But a school across town that wears the crown, as Drexel men are defending champions of the heavyweight 8 and of overall points.
“The finals are going to be a great race. I think it’s going to be — at the thousand meter mark it’s going to be — hopefully Temple and Drexel and Michigan, all three across really even in that last thousand meters. It’s going to be a fight and it’s going to be close.”
Barbara McKenna, of the Drexel rowing team, says “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for anything in my life.”
A parent, who drove eight hours to be here, comments “It’s just so exciting and so moving to see all of their accomplishments come across that finish line.”
Mayor Michael Nutter says, “This is collegiate rowing at its finest. It takes place right here in Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Of course, it does come with some road closures. Kelly Drive is closed from Fountain Green to Strawberry Mansion through tomorrow evening.