Before he was hoisted up and thrown into the Schuylkill by the jubilant members of his varsity eight crew, Temple coach Brian Perkins got misty-eyed Saturday as he held a Mass card that had been taped inside the boat during its race at the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta.
The card commemorated his mother, Catherine Perkins, who passed away May 2. No one knows for sure whether the card gave the boat a little something extra, but the Owls rowed with focus and passion and captured the climactic race of the 80th regatta in a mild upset over St. Joseph's.
"It was really something that I think Perkins did for us at such a high-stakes moment," said senior and captain Tyler Baldo, the No. 5 seat on the boat. "He lost someone very close to him and, honestly, his mood was unaltered during this whole time. I think he missed one practice.
"He was just so dedicated to us, and I think it was only right to have her with us throughout this whole win. It didn't make sense otherwise."
Perkins, who is finishing his second season as Temple's head coach after succeeding longtime coach Gavin White, said he made it a point to minimize distractions for his team.
"When all this was going down, I didn't want them to know," he said. "It's their senior year. My life can't intrude on them. They obviously became aware. They're good guys. They can compartmentalize, I try to compartmentalize. If that helped them in any small way, then it's awesome."
The Owls, who extended their own record with their 21st victory in the Dad Vail varsity eight, held the lead through 1,000 meters and never were caught. They were timed in 5 minutes, 34.409 seconds, with St. Joseph's second in 5:37.005.
The Hawks, who were seeking their first varsity eight win since 1970, posted the fastest time in Friday's heats. They had gone 3-0 head-to-head against Temple on the Schuylkill this spring, winning the Murphy Cup, the Kerr Cup and the Bergen Cup.
"St. Joe's is a really strong team," Baldo said. "They've definitely been a huge push for us to keep getting better from week to week. I think that was a big part of it. We know what they can do, we just have to do better. We just stuck to that principle to the end."
The Owls also won two other eights races – the freshman/novice eight and the junior varsity eight.
Drexel captured the overall team points title for the sixth consecutive year, and the Dragons women repeated their points crown. The women won the junior varsity eight while the men took the third varsity eight race and the junior varsity fours. Delaware edged Temple to win the men's points title.
"Today really took a whole team effort to get there," Drexel coach Paul Savell said. "Some of our top boats struggled a little bit, but, as a team, we really came through and had some great results. So we're always happy to win the team title. The competition was tough. This was one of the toughest Dad Vails I've seen."
In Temple's case, the Owls maybe had a ninth rower helping out in the varsity eight.
"We got beaten by the best all season long and we were able to pull out the win today," Perkins said. "I'm really proud of them. They made it happen.