Twenty-five years of Yorktown High School Crew: A Grateful Parent’s Experience

My wife Dorothea and I learnt of Arlington scholastic rowing from neighbor, M. Sean Hall, who first rowed at Washington-Lee, later at Rutgers, and at the elite level including three Olympiads. We were introduced to Yorktown High School Crew by Clifford W. Greve, whom Dorothea chance-met at McDonald’s.  He was wearing a YHSC tee shirt and enthusiastically responded to her questions. Cliff’s daughter, Karen, went on to row at Harvard-Radcliffe, and his son, Andrew W. “ Drew” Greve at Boston College. Drew was Yorktown’s head coach in the late 90’s. Jessica Manlove, later a crew captain, early familiarized us and our two sons with Yorktown’s program as their sitter.

Our older son, Ned, (YHS’97) began rowing as a Williamsburg eighth grader in 1992.  His novice and freshman years coach was Cassandra Ward, a former coxswain.  Training began in a barge (two old eights linked together with a deck in between coaches and coxswains). That September there was a one-off novices’ regatta on the Anacostia.

Ned’s varsity coach Albert, “Al” Villaret, was program head for 17 years.  Al, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, U.S. Naval Academy 1953, rowed heavyweights there. He founded and coached programs throughout the local area. Al organized annual training visits to the Academy on practice afternoons. In recent years there have been January Saturday clinics there for novices. Two Yorktown Crew alumni are Midshipmen, and four more have been graduated and commissioned in the Navy or Marine Corps. Additionally, one alumnus is currently a United States Military Academy cadet. A West Point graduate has been commissioned in the Army as have two ROTC graduates of the University of Wisconsin. A Harvard graduate has been commissioned from the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Course, and a Virginia Tech graduate from Naval ROTC (Marine Option). Two alumni have enlisted in the Air Force.

Al organized a parents’ “octuple” during 1995 and 1997.  This was an eight, rigged as a single scull with two oars per rower, coxed by a recent graduate.  We mixed gender rowers practiced for three mornings a week throughout the summers and in 1997 competed in the Potomac Boat Club’s Scullers Head of the Potomac Regatta, our tee shirts read: “ASC” (Al’s Senior Citizens).

Robert, our younger son, (YHS’03) rowed four years.  Paul Wilkins, late Father Judge H.S. in Philadelphia and George Washington University, was his freshman coach. (Another Paul Wilkins, former Yorktown rower and coach, also USRowing referee, had been Robert’s and my coach for Thompson’s sculler’s course). Bobby Meeks a standout rower from Washington- Lee, and elite competition, also long time swimming and diving coach at Yorktown was Robert’s varsity coach.

Innovative coaches and parents have built Yorktown Crew as we know it today.  Boosters president David Jeffers established the fund raising row-a-thon, and Head Coach Craig Spraggins added its Habitat for Humanity dimension.  Craig also organized Camp Bob spring break training.  The Weakly family contributed the point system for tracking volunteer involvement, and six-year Coach Andy Bacas, another Washington-Lee alumnus instituted training visits to his college alma mater, Yale University where he had coached and, as a Naval aviation officer veteran, nurtured the Naval Academy connection. Steve Cauffman, Andy’s successor, exemplified Yorktown Crew as alumnus, head coach, parent of two alumni sons, and USRowing referee and competitive masters rower.

The following Yorktown Crew traditions reflect decades of hard work by all hands:

  • Athletes are students first. Together with coaches and parents/guardians they thankfully acknowledge Yorktown faculty and administrators’ vital support to rowing in so many areas.
  • Channels of communication are open. We’re a sport, not a cult. We turn out for the school’s Spring Sports recognition.  We value the good opinion of  Yorktown and H.B. Woodlawn students and student-athletes who do not happen to row, as well as that of our alumnae/i, wreath customers, Row for Humanity supporters, and erg regatta guests.
  • Experienced athletes are encouraging mentors of novices, higher boats, of others. Any suggestion of hazing is a “red line.”
  • Men and women athletes are mutually respectful in the best sense of supportive siblings. This is always very important, but especially so during spring racing season when boats may improve at differing rates.
  • We’ve avoided “club within a club” syndrome and cohesion-sapping distinctions between “nuclear” (several rowers in one family, gifted athletes) and seemingly “peripheral” (for a variety of good reasons) member families.
  • Our positive appreciation for the chance to row extends to appropriate conduct during practice and competition at a very public shared boathouse and on the water. Local passers-by mingle with American and international visitors to our nation’s capital whose only exposure to our sport may be what they see and hear at Thompson’s and on the Potomac.
  • Yorktown’ seniority, numbers, and competitive success are reflected in our leadership among Thompson Boat Center tenants, Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (VASRA) member schools, the local coaches’ community, and the volunteer corps of licensed USRowing    Thompson’s staff are supportive and responsive as are their higher-ups, contractor Guest Services International, and the U.S. National Park Service. We maintain professional relations with District of Columbia Police Department’s Harbor Patrol, which licenses water craft operators, registers our launches, and conducts safety training.

I am thankful to have been associated with special young people, parents, coaches and school staff.

Go Yorktown!

Ed Wells

About Ed Wells

  • Guest attendee at Boosters Board meetings, alumni parent, former board member and president, VASRA representative, and training committee head, and USRowing referee
  • Arlington representative to scholastic rowing community’s meeting with the Harbor Patrol after the 25 June 2004 tragic drowning death of coach John Steve Carbonell Catilo at Alexandria.
  • Advocate for binge drinking awareness/prevention among school and college young people. (see HAZE film, Gordie Center, Charlottesville VA)

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