Saugatuck Scholar-Athletes Stroke To Success

“06880” seldom runs sports stories. If we did, we’d be inundated by every team and parent in town. Besides, something called the “sports section” of newspapers covers all that.

But I’m always happy to give props to national champions. I’m even happier when those athletes come with a great, non-athletic back story. So here goes.

Last weekend, at the USRowing Youth National Championships in West Windsor, New Jersey, Saugatuck Rowing Club‘s juniors repeated as gold medalists in 2 events — a first for any youth rowing team anywhere. Plus, the men’s youth pair took a bronze.

Saugatuck Rowing Club’s women’s youth openweight 8+ team celebrates after their national championship win.

Over 400 boats and 1,700 athletes — representing almost 180 rowing clubs from 30 states — competed. Saugatuck’s 50 rowers included nearly 30 from Westport.

The national titles follow other great victories, at the Head of the Charles (with a new course record) and San Diego Crew Classic, and US representation by Staples High School seniors Oliver Bub and Lucas Manning at last year’s World Junior Rowing Championships in Rio de Janeiro.

Saugatuck Rowing Club youth director and boys head coach Sharon Kriz, Oliver Bub and Lucas Manning, after earning a bronze medal at the men’s youth pair national championship.

Crew may be the most physically demanding of all sports. Saugatuck’s rowers practice year-round, often 6 to 10 times a week, with sessions before school and doubles on weekends.

Yet many of the local club’s boys and girls carry GPAs of 4.0 and higher. They find time to be Eagle Scouts, president of the National Honor Society, leaders of clubs like Save the Children and Catering for Kindness, chair of the Westport Youth Commission, board members of Safe Rides, volunteers with Builders Beyond Borders, and more.

They’ve received awards of excellence in Latin, and as Advanced Placement Scholars with Distinction.

Graduating seniors from Westport will continue their rowing careers at schools like Boston College, Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Hobart, Middlebury, MIT, Penn, Princeton and Tufts.

SRC seniors pose proudly, wearing gear of the colleges they’ll row for.

All that excellence didn’t just happen, of course. They’ve had great role models — in their families, their schools, and through Saugatuck junior director and boys head coach Sharon Kriz, herself a former US national team competitor and current president of Westport’s Kiwanis Club.

That’s the kind of sports story I love.

And if these talented, well-rounded and very hard-working young rowers have a spare second to read this, here’s hoping they’ll accept our town’s hearty congratulations too.

Members of Saugatuck’s women’s youth openweight 8+ team boat cheer as the lightweight girls are about to join them on the winners’ podium.

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