Crew team takes gold at nation's largest collegiate regatta
The UST varsity 4+ won gold against 52 other schools. Congratulations to Jon Athmann, Dima Koshevy, Jim Portmann, Kyle Smisek and Chelsea Cook, who received gold medals with coach, Pat Johnson, on the medals dock.
This was the first ever gold-medal finish for the men's team at the 70th annual Dad Vail Regatta, May 8-10, on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pa. For St. Thomas, a D3 club team up against D1, D2 and D3 schools, this is an amazing accomplishment. Photos of the regatta can be found on row2k.com.
The heats on Friday separated the strong from the weak as many schools could not make it through the first day of the Dad Vail Regatta. The downpour and near freezing conditions added another degree of difficulty for the teams sitting ready at the starting line. The men's varsity pair took first place, assuring it a beneficial lane in the semifinals.
The men's varsity 4+ (the + indicates a coxed boat – someone steers and "yells") finished with the fastest heat time of the day, knocking third seed University of Connecticut out of the regatta. The varsity women's 8+ also advanced, showing once again its sprinting strength by passing another crew in the last 150 meters of the race. The novice women's 4+ faced tough competition and will have to wait another year before they get a shot at the finals.
The competition was fierce on Saturday for the semifinals. Out of the original 52 boats entered in the varsity 4+, only 18 remained. St. Thomas won a blazing 6:20.08 victory, faster than any other 4+ semifinal finish.
St. Thomas ' men's pair lost its course during the first 10 strokes and started to cross into another lane. They were able to stop their boat, get their point and come back fighting to obtain a victory over the pack. The varsity women advanced out of its semifinal and into the Petite final, where it finished fifth against strong competition.
A few hours after the semifinals, the varsity men once again had to prove themselves. In slightly windy conditions, the varsity pair placed fifth. It was a great accomplishment for St. Thomas, having a pair who could finish among the fastest in the nation.
The excitement ramped up for UST's varsity 4+ when their undefeated season was tested. They were in lane two between the giants from Dayton and Penn State. After the start, St. Thomas pulled ahead to a small lead.
The first 500 meters was neck and neck, then 750 meters into the race, cox Chelsea Cook called a power 10 that opened a length and a half over the other boats. As the shells approached the grandstands, the cheers from thousands of spectators set the scene. St. Thomas was in the lead with Dayton moving from fourth place to second, but UST was the faster boat, crossing the finish line as champions.
Because of this win, St. Thomas will be entered in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association "invite only" regatta. This race will determine which school has the fastest 4+ in the nation and includes all elite college teams (including scholarship programs) like Harvard, Yale and Stanford with full-time coaches and staff. UST has an incredibly fast 4+, and is able to compete with the best teams in the nation.
St. Thomas continues its successful season in two weeks when they travel to Oklahoma City for the first annual American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta (ACRA). This event will be composed of club teams not affiliated with the NCAA, and should be great competition for all of UST's boats.