Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta
About 750 meters into the Women’s Division III Varsity Eight race at the 2019 Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta when newly hired Stockton University coach John Bancheri looked through his binoculars while standing by the Kelly Statue and realized his team was in the lead but barely!
Decked out in his traditional Hawaiian shirt, Bancheri hoped his young squad would earn the first victory in school history at the storied Dad Vail Regatta.
The Ospreys would eventually hold on to claim third place and earn their first-ever medal at the most prestigious collegiate only regatta in the country.
“When you looked at their smiles, you’d have thought they’d won the Olympics, not a bronze medal in a DIII race,” Bancheri said. “But for them, it was the Olympics. I was so proud of them.”
Senior co-captain Emily Culmone said, “Earning a Bronze Medal at the 2019 Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta is my favorite memory throughout my rowing career so far. We were a small team, my boat didn’t medal at our conference championship, and we had been right in the middle of the pack all season. We went to Dad Vails just hoping to improve upon our previous performances. It wasn’t until we reached around 750 meters into the race when our coxswain said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it, you’re in first.” That’s when we realized we were in position to medal. We were racing several amazingly competitive teams and even though we finished in third place, I remember the pure joy that was immediately shared by the entire boat. Sharing that moment in Stockton Rowing history with my boat and seeing the smiles on the faces of friends, families and coaches is a feeling I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Fellow co-captain Michaela Pope added, “Medaling at 2019 Dad Vails was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was a dream of mine in high school to row at Dad Vails and I never thought I would get the chance. To be able to row and medal my first-time rowing in the Regatta was surreal. Crossing that finish line and realizing what we just did was incredible. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. We looked over to the riverbank and saw our men’s team and all the coaches going crazy for us. Most importantly, I found my parents in the crowd and saw tears of pride streaming from in their eyes and saw how proud they were of me. They’ve always supported me in rowing and a big part of me won that medal for them. Our goal is to do better this year, but I don’t think any medal will ever mean as much to me as that 2019 Dad Vail Bronze Medal.”
For years not only did Stockton University dream of medaling at Dad Vail, but they also had to come up with innovative ways to grow the program. Wanting to raise the level of student-athlete participation, the administration knew exactly who they wanted as their next head coach.
Being a South Jersey native and someone who has built many programs throughout his career including West Virginia University, University of Charleston, Wichita State, Marietta College and most recently Grand Valley State University, the school knew Bancheri was the right person for the job.
“With the team being given the opportunity to sit in on interviews during the coaching search, I specifically remember Coach B (Bancheri) talking about the growth of the rowing program at Stockton,” said senior Olivia Hurley. “At that time, we had about 9-10 girls give or take. He said he wanted to have two eights at practice so that we could race and compete against each other. The possibility of that happening seemed so far-fetched. Two and half years later, we have enough girls for three boats. The expansion of our program was a major talking point in Coach B’s interview, and he has certainly helped this program flourish whether that be in funding, team size, or equipment.”
“When I came home to South Jersey to take over as head coach of the rowing program in January of 2019, it really was the opportunity of my career to build a program from the ground up,” Bancheri said. “Stockton was primed: it has the geography with the Intercoastal Waterway, one of the most beautiful places to row in the country. And it has a president, Harvey Kesselman and Athletic Director, Kevin McHugh, committed to building a program of national distinction. Stockton had recently opened a campus in Atlantic City, and this was an opportunity to build on a South Jersey tradition and showcase Stockton University.”
After being forced to take a year-off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Osprey are looking forward to taking flight at the 2021 Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, which is being staged on Saturday May 8 starting at 9 am on the historic Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and hopefully take home their second consecutive Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta medal.