Brian Reifsnyder had to watch.
As a freshman, he had been preparing the entire season for the Dad Vail Regatta. When an illness prevented him from being in the boat, he found a bike as an alternative.
“[I] followed every Temple race, including the women’s that weekend,” Reifsnyder said. “I felt like I worked so hard to be in one of those boats to see what Dad Vail was like.”
In April 2013, just weeks before his first opportunity to row out of the Varsity 8 boat at the Dad Vail, the 6-foot-7-inch crew member was sent to the emergency room, where medical professionals performed an endoscopy procedure by placing a tube with a camera down Reifsnyder’s throat. Doctors discovered ulcers on his esophagus – a diagnosis that prevented him from eating for almost a week and caused him to lose nearly 15 pounds.
One year later, Reifsnyder is preparing for another Dad Vail – this time on water. He and the rest of coach Gavin White’s crew team will compete at the annual event May 9-10 on the Schuylkill.
Reifsnyder, now fully recovered, said he believes that the ulcers he suffered from last year resulted from both academic and athletic stress stemming from adjusting to his first year in college. After spending a couple of days in the hospital, Reifsnyder had to restrain from any physical activities for about a month as he regained his weight.
Reifsnyder spent the remainder of the season on the banks of the river, which as assistant coach Brian Perkins said, caused difficulties for the Varsity 8 boat.
“When Brian got sick, we had lost a guy, a big, strong kid, who had earned his way in there and was gelling with the boat,” Perkins said. “To lose him at the last minute affected all the boats.”
“It really impacted that boat, but it also impacted the entire program,” Perkins added.
The Varsity 8 boat did not make it out of the semifinals of the Dad Vail in 2013.
Now in his second season on the crew team, Reifsnyder has regained his seat on the Varsity 8 boat and made strides both academically and athletically in what has been an eventful season thus far.
Just days after the Board of Trustees approved a plan to eliminate the crew program last December, Reifisnyder rowed to a personal best on the ergometer machine, an indoor rowing machine, at 6,000 meters.
“Coach White’s workout plan is working,” Reifisnyder said with a laugh.
When the Owls raced against Bucknell and Williams on the Schuylkill in March, Reifsnyder reminded co-captain Zephyr Dippel that it was his first time racing at 2,000 meters on the Schuykill.
“I know he is real hungry,” Dippel said. “More so than other people. When he talks about being able to race in the Top 8 in the Dad Vails [he] gets a whole new serious race face. You kind of don’t recognize him for a second. That’s when you know he means business.”
Although it has been close to year since Reifsnyder was diagnosed with ulcers on his esophagus, he still takes medications to prevent any other developments. Reifsnyder said he is not deterred as another opportunity is quickly approaching to row in the Dad Vail.
“I want to be able to say I won the Dad Vail my first time racing in it,” Reifsnyder said.
Danielle Nelson can be reached at email@example.com.