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ROWING: Orchard Lake St. Mary's hosts 40th Laddie Cup

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ORCHARD LAKE — Teenagers spending time on the lake is a pretty common sight around Oakland County, but when they do it on Orchard Lake it looks a little different.

Just about any day there isn’t ice or lightning over the lake student athletes from St. Mary’s or Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood can be found pulling on oars, training for events like Saturday’s Laddie Cup hosted by the Eaglets where 676 rowers from 20 schools in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois competed.

“It’s great that we can bring people to see what great inland lakes Michigan has,” Cranbrook head coach Mike German said. “St. Mary’s does such a great job hosting the regatta with an army of volunteers, and it’s a great way to show off our area.”

The Laddie Cup is named in honor of long time St. Mary’s crew coach Jack “Laddie” LeBlanc who, along with Judson Ross, pioneered the crew program at St. Mary’s.

“He had a vision,” Julie LeBlanc said of her late husband. “When he saw (St. Mary’s) campus, he said, ‘there should be rowing here.’”

When most people think about rowing on a crew team images of New England and the Ivy League jump to mind, and certainly the sport is more common in that area, but there has been plenty of growth in Michigan and Oakland County recently.

“This isn’t Philadelphia, this isn’t Boston,” St. Mary’s head coach Chris Czarnecki said. “This is Oakland County, Michigan. It’s unique, but at the same time there are some pockets here where you are finding some very high-quality rowing getting done. Some kids are incredibly competitive at a national level. Our varsity-4 finished ninth in the nation last year.”

St. Mary’s, buoyed by a second place finish in the world in 1998, is the program with the most prestige in the area, but Cranbrook has been making strides in recent years. The Cranes started rowing in 1998 and elevated it to a varsity sport in 2009.

Opportunities to row at the next level, especially for those who are tall and athletic, abound as rowing requires a skill set that can be easily taught at any stage of life. Coaching certainly helps, but there isn’t the same kind of specialization required as some of the other popular sports many kids and parents hope could lead to scholarships.

“The cool thing about rowing is that, unlike a lot of other youth sports, you don’t have to have been doing this since you were three,” Czarnecki said. “You don’t have to have a pitching coach or a goalie coach. You just come over to the boat house and we show you what to do and you run with it.”

Ian Silveira, a 2008 St. Mary’s graduate, is a great example of how simple dedication to the sport can open doors. The 25-year-old followed up his prep career on scholarship at Princeton, earning a degree in 2008 and has plenty of experience rowing at various levels of the national team. He is currently training with hopes of becoming the second Eaglet to row on an Olympic team.

“(Rowing) gave me the opportunity to be on the under-19 national team when I was here in high school,” Silveira said. “I got the chance to travel to Europe and Asia to race. It opened up a lot of doors. It allowed me to go to a great school and see a lot of places.”

Last Updated: 5/7/2016 5:26:07 PM EST

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