Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta
Philadelphia, PA (May ,2020) – The small contingent of Colgate Crew fans grew louder as the Colgate Men’s Varsity Eight began their final 400 meters of the finals of the 81st Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, presented by Independence Blue Cross and Coca Cola. In a moment, this crew made history by winning the program’s first gold medal in the premier event of the largest collegiate rowing regatta in North America.
With hometown favorite Drexel University, a recent perennial power in this event on their back bow, the Raiders used every ounce of energy they had to hold off the Dragons to claim victory.
“Winning the Men’s Varsity Heavyweight Eight Dad Vail Gold was one of my greatest rowing achievements and will always be one of my fondest memories,” said then senior Matt Oakley, who rode stroke in the championship boat. “ Starting as a first year at Colgate, we barely had enough guys to field a novice eight let alone race a varsity Eight. After we placed 3rd in 2018 I remember being on the dock, satisfied, but hungry for more. When presented with our medals, the commissioner asked us how many seniors were on the boat and where were we looking to finish next year. Our 7 seat, Alex Damjanovic, replied none and that we will be back on this dock next year with gold medals around our necks. Going into the 2019 Spring season, also Colgate’s 200th anniversary, we knew we were going to have to give it everything we had to win the Dad Vail Gold. Colgate has always had a small team culture and that close connection is what helped us all commit and rely on each other to work harder than we ever had to win the Dad Vail Gold.”
Head Coach Khaled Sanad added, “When we entered the Men’s 8+ in 2018 we had no idea how fast we were, but we knew we had a strong boat. It was at Murphy Cup earlier that spring where we raced the 8+ that we realized it. With the rate capped at 34 strokes per minute we edged out the Finals. That led us to decide on entering the 8+ at Dad Vail where we came in 3rd place in another photo-finish with a boat that featured two juniors, four sophomores, two freshmen, and a First-year coxswain. We came back in the Fall intent on winning Dad Vail. Every workout and meter rowed, every sacrifice the rowers made, was to that end.”
With the truck carrying the boats on their way to Tampa for spring break preparation to hit the water for the first time this spring was about to commence. With the 82nd annual Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta a mere three months away at the time, Sanad was informed the season would be over before it had a chance to get started due to due to the pandemic we know as CoVid19 – that forced the cancellation of all sports meaning that this Colgate Crew must wait until May, 2021 to defend their Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta Title.
“It was tough,” said Sanad. “We look forward all winter to finally being on the water, keeping in mind that in 2018 we were only on the water 3 days before Dad Vail and in 2019 we were lucky and were on in time for Knecht Cup. Getting on the water again keeps us going when it freezing and there is snow, knowing that our big payout will come at Dad Vail. Just a few days before leaving for Spring Break training 2020 we were told our season was over. .It is tough to say goodbye for who knows how long well before you were supposed to. These guys had planned to spend the next three months racing and cashing in on their winter training together. Now it was time to go home. I know it was especially rough on the seniors, but the seniors were confident in the work that the underclassmen had done. They were looking forward to passing on their experience to them at their last spring break. The seniors, through their experience, thought we had the potential to do very well at Dad Vail again this year, seeing some of the same qualities in our team we had in 2018. Not racing at Dad Vail this year will be hard, but we can look forward to 2021.”
Senior captain Luke Smith added, “As captain, I took a lot of pride in our team and the development of the younger guys. I have a lot of confidence in our would-have-been boat this year. Win or not, it would have been so great to race Dad Vails again for one last time. It still doesn’t feel 100% real that my college career has ended. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to leave my mark last year.”