Jefferson senior rowers receive diplomas early to compete in Dad Vail Regatta

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It was not your typical graduation. Instead of hundreds or thousands of students crossing the stage, there were only three students at the ceremony, the senior rowers at Thomas Jefferson University.

The trio received their diplomas at a special Boathouse Row graduation. The students opted to skip out on the traditional graduation festivities so they can compete in the Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in the United States.

"It is definitely a little heartbreaking that I don't get to be with my class, but at the same time, rowing has been my life for the four years that I have been here and just being on this team means so much to me that I wouldn't give up this Regatta for anything," said Thomas Jefferson University senior, Martina Saad.

While there is some disappointment that they will miss that May 10 commencement, the chance to compete with a team they have trained with so hard and to participate in one of the most prestigious rowing events of the year, is worth the sacrifice.

"This experience, my whole team is here, my whole family is here. I get to be with my whole rowing family which is nice because that is what I put my heart and soul into," said student Sarah Doelp.

Senior Emma Erato added, "I think I realized that I loved rowing and if that meant sacrificing my graduation, then it was all worth it because I get to do what I love, and this was a nice shorter ceremony."

This is the third time the university has held one of these special graduations since 2013.

"I think the student-athletes wish they could be with all of their classmates but, they realize the importance of the Dad Vail Regatta and they realized the importance of graduation and I think the personalization of this ceremony for the parents and the awards afterward, I think it means a lot to them," said Tom Shirley, vice president of athletics at Thomas Jefferson University.

Awards were given out and pictures were taken to capture the special moment. Now it's about the competition.

"We are number one in the East Region and we are really excited about that because the NCAA is really the end goal. So we are excited to bring our power to the Dad Vail Regatta but hopefully, the power we bring tomorrow, is going to push us into going to the NCAA championships," Saad told Action News.

The 81st Dad Vail Regatta kicks off May 10 and runs through May 11, rain or shine.

You can find out more about the Dad Vail Regatta click here.
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