By Robin Culverwell, Kristen Johanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thousands of collegiate athletes took to the water Saturday for the final day of the 77th annual Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuylkill River.

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The day started with a low cloud ceiling, but that did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the crew team members from more than 120 schools across the country and Canada taking part in the nation’s biggest rowing competition.

“We’ve been practicing all year-round, but really since mid-winter is when we really started to buckle down and get intense about it,” said Carly Hockman, a freshman on Bucknell University’s team. “And we are training specifically for this race for the majority of the year.”

Hockman echoed the sentiment of some other college athletes who say they love the camaraderie of rowing, though they train for months and months for a competition that lasts six, seven or maybe eight minutes.

“They have to bring that whole training of everything they have done all year-long,” said Jack Galloway, Chairman of the Regatta. “Whatever sacrifice they’ve made to get to practice, and their diets, and not engaging in any bad habits, for a whole year, it all comes to pay off today when they come to race.”

For some, it was the final year of competition, making it a bitter-sweet day.

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“I’ve been here for the past four years,” said Drexel University senior Bobbie McKenna. “All my best friends are on this team, and the nice thing is even if you don’t win, there’s nothing like seeing your teammates succeed, and it’s almost better than succeeding yourself.

And for others, this year’s race was brand new.

“It’s really exciting. Our boat consists of four first years and one sophomore, so we’re all new to this event, we’re new to this Regatta,” said Lillian Eckstein from Bowdoin College in Maine. “It’s great to be down here. We have finals next week, so we took off during reading period and dedicating our time to rowing is something special that we’re doing right now.”

Those who weren’t in the water competing were along the banks of the river as spectators. Paula Perry was on hand rooting for her son, a freshman with the University of Massachusetts team. She said as a fan you can really appreciate what these rowers are doing.

“It’s almost an art form to see these guys and these boats,” Perry said. “When done well, it looks like art. It’s beautiful. It’s so smooth and you can see the collaboration it takes between all of them.”

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Among some of the other schools competing were Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma University, Temple University and Drexel University.