Ed Levin
Publicity Director
Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta

As excitement spilled over with the Colgate Men’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight team crossing the finish line first at the 2019 Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, the Raiders commenced celebrating their first victory in the main event at the most prestigious collegiate regatta throughout the United States and Canada.

“Winning the Gold Medal in the Heavyweight Varsity Eight event showed us anything is possible if you work hard and have discipline,” said Colgate head coach Khaled Sanad. “It was not our first gold exactly. We have won in the small boats and fours, numerous times, but it was our first time with a Gold in the Men’s 8. Since we are a smaller team the 8+ has not consistently been a focus simply because we lack the depth. Getting a bronze in the 8 in 2018 and then Gold in 2019 showed us that we could be competitive in the 8+ even with a squad of only 12. We felt a bit like David and Goliath going up against guys who were bigger and faster, on paper at least. Hard work and discipline pays off.”

With the weather starting to break and Colgate’s anticipation growing around entering the 2020 Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta as the defending champions, everything came to halt with the news the Regatta would have to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was a lot of anticipation leading into Spring 2020,” Sanad said. “The three seniors (Luke Smith and Alex Damjanovic along with our coxswain Miranda Tompkins) who were to defend their 2019 victory never got the chance to compete their final spring. We will not only race for ourselves but also to honor their legacy.”

Fast forward nine months! With schools allowed to plan their 2021 spring schedule, Colgate circled the second week of May on their calendar hoping they would finally have a chance to defend their title they earned back in 2019.

Colgate quickly made their plans to attend once the announcement was made the 2021 Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, presented by Independence Blue Cross, Coca Cola and PECO would be staged on Saturday, May 8 on the historic Schuylkill River with races starting at 9 am.

Sanad added, “The University did an amazing job at making sure we were able to get on the water in the Fall. For months we did not have a case of covid on campus, or very few. Even now as we face a small uptick in cases, they are doing everything they can to protect our competing teams from going on a pause. Keeping the focus on being able to race and being together where other schools were not as lucky and giving thanks for that is the most important thing. Doing well at the race will have made all the sacrifices worth it.”

“It means so much to be back on the water and racing after so much time away,” said senior coxswain Tali Filstein, who was the coxswain in the 2019 boat. “We’ve all been working so hard for such a long time with the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta foremost on our minds. Even with a present goal, intense training like that can be difficult, but it requires a whole new level of resiliency to be able to practice at this intensity with the goal being so distant and, because of the fluctuations and uncertainty in the COVID situation.”

With limited preparation time, Colgate has started their spring season in fine fashion losing a tight Varsity Eight race to Holy Cross before bouncing back to defeat Marietta. With two races left before they head to Philadelphia, Sanad hopes to keep improving each day.

“Now that we’re back in racing season with Dad Vails fast approaching, it’s a huge relief to have that motivation be even stronger,” Filstein said. “Even beyond that, we’re all a part of this sport because we love to race. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of sitting at the line of a race that you’ve been training for and thinking about for so long. We’re so excited to be back in it and can’t wait to see how all of our hard work will pay off.”

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