First-year rowing program Adrian College Getting ready for Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta

This is Adrian College's first foray into this prestigious event.
This is Adrian College's first foray into this prestigious event.

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Philadelphia, Pa. – The Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee has taken great pride during the course of its illustrious history for providing opportunities for start-up programs to compete in America’s largest collegiate regatta.

Adrian College, a Division III school that started men’s and women’s rowing this year, is looking forward to competing in its first Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, which will be held on May 10 and May 11 and presented by Independence Blue Cross, PECO and Coca-Cola.

Nestled in the town of Adrian, Michigan, Adrian College is a small liberal arts school located approximately 45 minutes southwest of Ann Arbor. This year they became the first NCAA Division III institution based in Michigan and one of a handful in the Midwest to offer men’s and women’s rowing.

Wanting to set the bar high, the school hired Bart Thompson who immediately hit the ground running in hopes of building a competitive men’s and women’s program.

“Being able to start from scratch with a program has a lot of benefits,” said Thompson, a Michigan native and former collegiate rower at Stanford University. “I had the ability to decide from day one what kind of rowing stroke our athletes would use, what kind of equipment we would go with (boats, ergs, etc.), and, most importantly, what kind of culture we would have on our team.”

Thompson added, “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Success is in the culture.’ Culture is easy to talk about but hard to create and sustain. It doesn’t show up in the win-loss column, and yet it’s written all over a program’s results. It is, in my opinion, the most important part of a program’s success. By coming in before the program officially began, I’ve since been able to make it clear to any person that steps foot on campus with the intention to row here the kind of rower and teammate that person needs to be if they want to be successful in this program. “

So, before an oar even splashed down in the water this past fall, Thompson had plenty of time to build a team and foster a culture he hoped would allow his young rowers to reap the benefits of growing together as one.

To date, the Bulldogs have had a strong first year of results, from their first regatta (in which the team collected five medals across the four events that it entered) to its most recent regatta (in which the all-freshmen Women’s Varsity 8+ made the Grand Finals, while the all-freshmen Men’s Varsity 8+ posted a top-6 time in both the heats and finals).

When looking at the spring rowing schedule, Thompson wanted his young team to experience an event he knows plenty about but never had the privilege of rowing during his career at Stanford.

“I’ve shared with my team that the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta is the largest college-only regatta in the country,” said Thompson in a recent interview. “It is on a scale that many of them–the novices but even experienced high school rowers–will find unfathomable. It is held in Philadelphia, one of the preeminent rowing cities in the country and the world, on the iconic Schuylkill River. The competition will be the best that we have faced all year in every race we enter.”

Thompson added, “We’re incredibly honored to take place in such a prestigious regatta in our first year as a program. Many programs that have been around far longer than we have been have never had the opportunity to compete at Dad Vails; many rowers will row their entire college career and never row in this event, so the opportunity to do it right away is one that we don’t take lightly.”

The 81st annual Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta will be staged on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, on the historic Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

--Ed Levin, Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta Publicity Director