By Ross DiMattei

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  The largest collegiate regatta in the country is underway on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia on Friday. And for the first time since the pandemic started, spectators can attend in person.

Despite a delayed start, the 2022 Dad Vail Regatta was met with a sound that hasn’t been heard at the event in three years – cheers from a live crowd.

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In 2020, COVID forced organizers to cancel the event entirely.

The race resumed last year, but without any fans in the stands. This year, the spectators are back and ready to root for the 1,500 student athletes on the field.

“The rowers certainly appreciate the support,” Jim Hanna, the president of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee, said. “All our volunteers appreciate seeing the spectators. It’s simply a larger group of people and it adds to the excitement.”

“I can’t wait to see the energy, especially on finals day. That afternoon is going to be, I’m sure, just rocking,” a man said. 

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That man and his wife drove 11 hours from Michigan just to be able to see their son compete and cheer him on in person.

“It’s great how they’ve put a link online so that you can watch if you can’t be here,” the man’s wife said. “But it’s wonderful to be able to be here in person and scream and shout and give hugs when they’re done.”

For the Philadelphia school in the field, this race is an opportunity to row against the best while defending their home turf.

'I Can't Wait To See The Energy': Spectators, Philadelphia Schools Excited As Dad Vail Regatta Returns

“Really, for the team, the level of competition, it’s something they’ve been looking forward to,” Paul Savell, the Director of rowing at Drexel University, said. “It’s a springboard on to our national championships.”

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“This is something we build all year for, so it’s big for these guys,” Temple men’s rowing coach Brian Perkins said. “It’s very important to them and we try to defend it like it’s our backyard.”