The rowers in the varsity four boat could not see their own teammates sitting in front of them.
After being placed under a thunderstorm watch on Saturday, heavy rain and wind rolled through as the Owls were battling for medals against Army, Oklahoma City, Bowdoin College, Massachusetts and Nova Southeastern at the 76th Annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the largest intercollegiate regatta in the nation.
The Owls were in third place, when a pop-up thunderstorm accompanied the race. Lily Papaelo said with 700 meters to go in the race the Owls got hit by a wall of wind and rain which steadily decreased the visibility level. The Owls were unable to see the finish line. Members of the boat said water started to come into the boat as the bow of boat began to go under the water.
“A lot of wind was picking up water off the surface too,” Gina Inverso said. “So it was just a lot of water splashing our blades in the air.”
As the storm continued Papaelo said she was really worried about safety especially because she couldn’t see her own teammates.
“I was afraid someone was going to get hurt, I got pretty nervous about it,” Papaelo said. “I thought the refs were going to call the race and make us paddle but they didn’t.”
The Owls struggled to keep their stroke rate up as the rowers were unable to remain instinct. Temple finished outside of the medals in fourth place in a time of 9 minutes, 31 seconds.
“It was definitely some of the craziest weather I had seen here,” coach Rebecca Grzybowski said. “I thought they did an amazing job dealing with it. I was really proud of how they handled the adversity and stayed calm.”
Afterwards, the rest of the competition was suspended for almost three hours as other teams raced to get out of the water, using the Temple women’s tent as a shelter.
Along with the varsity four, the novice four rowed earlier in the finals of the Dad Vail for the first time in Temple history. Led by Aubrie Foden, the Owls finished in fifth place in 9:06. Earlier, the Owls won their semifinal and heat after members of the boat almost missed their heat on Friday when their bus never showed up. The Owls were forced to drive themselves to the Schuylkill.
“We thought we were going to be late so we were really high stressed but then we got here and then we were relaxed,” Sydney Garafolo said. “When we were on the water we were just focusing on our race. It was just race, race, go, go, go, win!”
The second varsity boat advanced to the finals to finish in a sixth place with a time of 6 minutes.
After finishing third in the semifinals in a time of 7:13, the novice 8 boat did not qualify for Saturday evening’s final.
“The biggest disappointing surprise was the novice 8 not making the grand final,” Grzybowski said. “I thought they definitely had the speed. I mean clearly they had the speed.”
The boats that finished first and second in the novice 8 semi-finals eventually won gold and silver in the grand final.
The varsity 8 boat finished in fifth place in the semi-finals after securing a second place finish in the Friday’s heat behind Drexel in a time of 6:40 seconds to advance to Saturday’s semi-finals. After facing cross-city rivals, Drexel, on multiple occasions throughout the season, the women’s varsity 8 was up against the Dragons along with Lehigh, George Mason, and Marquette in heat 5 on Friday. Temple got off to a fast start alongside Lehigh and Drexel in the first 500 meters. The Owls then placed themselves in second as Drexel separated themselves from the field to finish in first place.
Throughout the two-day event, over 100 schools and 3000 athletes competed on the Schuylkill, in the largest regatta.
Temple now looks ahead to the American Athletic Conference Championship on May 17th.
Danielle Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Dan_Nels.