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Rowing: Hebda Cup hits major milestone PHOTO GALLERY/TOUT VIDEO
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Teams will be competing again in the WBC-sponsored event that started a half century ago as just an in-city competition between two schools and eventually grew into a premiere regatta.
In 1964, Ed Hebda was the coach at Roosevelt and his brother Ray Hebda headed up the rowing program at the now-closed Mount Carmel.
The brothers both wanted their squads to see some action before heading out to bigger events, so they created a head-to-head competition on the river, complete with a trophy for the winner, and named it after their parents.
“With Canada and out East being where the rowing was at, they basically wanted to set up something so they could get a race in before they traveled to these other regattas,” said Fred Mekolon, who has been the chairman of the Hebda Cup since 2001. Mekolon also serves as the chairman of the Wyandotte High Schools Regatta (Wy-Hi), which will be held next Saturday for the 43rd year.
As time went on, more teams were invited to join the Hebda Cup and female events were also added in 1991.
Over the years, crews from states such as West Virginia and Ohio and competitors from Michigan cities such as Grand Rapids, Bay City and Ann Arbor have all made the trip to Wyandotte for the Hebda Cup, which has traditionally been held on the last Saturday in April.
Most recently, Saline won the overall championship in 2013, while Riverview won the girls’ championship and Grosse Ile captured the boys’ championship. A year earlier, Riverview made history by winning all three.
With 2014 being a milestone year for the event, organizers have opted to take it back to its origins and have made it just a local competition for this season.
As a result, Saturday’s Hebda Cup will only feature the six teams that row out of the WBC, which are Roosevelt, Riverview, Grosse Ile, Gibraltar Carlson, Southgate Anderson and Dearborn Heights Crestwood.
“With it being the 50th, and talking to the coaches, we said ‘let’s bring it back in-house just for the 50th this year; go back to its roots,’” Mekolon said. “They said it would be a good opportunity to do an in-house, Downriver championship type regatta.”
Since the event started in 1964, three schools have accounted for nearly 40 of the championships that have been won.
Mount Carmel, which closed its doors after the 2011 school year, captured the Hebda Cup 18 times, which included a consecutive run from 1970 to 1981. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s has earned it 12 times and Roosevelt has won it eight times.
Roosevelt first established a rowing team in 1942, which makes it the oldest high school rowing program in the state, and Mount Carmel started its team just one year later.
While the Hebda Cup race course has moved throughout the years along the Detroit River, it’s currently located between the western shore of Grosse Ile and the Wyandotte shore.
The 1500-meter races start south of the park and travel north, against the current, finishing back at the park.
Mekolon said the current spot is ideal because it’s protected by Grosse Ile, which makes for calmer waters during the event. Also, the spacious BASF Park allows for a great viewing area of the day’s 22 total races.
To hold the Hebda Cup each year, Mekolon said that approximately 75 people come together and donate their time, helping out as race officials and in several other areas.
“It takes a small army of volunteers to put these regattas on,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people show up to volunteer their time. We wouldn’t be able to have it without the people volunteering their time.”
The Hebda Cup gets started at 8 a.m. Saturday with preliminary races first, followed by the finals.
Next Saturday, the 43rd annual Wy-Hi Regatta will kick off at 8 a.m. and will feature several more teams, including crews from Saline, Cranbrook and the Grand Rapids area, as well as out-of-state squads like Marietta, OH, Parkersburg, WV and Mercyhurst, PA.
Last Updated: 4/21/2014 11:53:37 PM EST