Dave Foulis and his friends of five decades look back at their world championship crew team as a group of rebels.
“When we were rowing, we were not a recognized club; we were renegades,” Foulis said. “We had never won a varsity race before the season, we didn’t know how good we were until we started winning races and went all the way towards the world championship.”
In 1968, Foulis’ J.E.B. Stuart High School crew team made national headlines by going to England as the national champions and winning the world title at the Princess Elizabeth Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. It was the team’s first year with an official boat and a full crew of eight rowers. This past Saturday at Lake Barcroft, six members of the squad returned to be honored by the J.E.B. Stuart boosters with many alumni, current rowers, rowing aficionados and families present. This week, eight members of the 1968 team will travel to England to be honored in a commemorative row.
“This is one of the oldest teams in this area of the country, so you know when you leave, you’re part of a team,” Linda Manning, outgoing booster president, said in her keynote speech. “Thank you 1968 for letting us glom onto your glory for this event.”
After Foulis addressed the crowd, Stuart alum and one-time University of Virginia athlete Marissa Shand (‘16) asked ’68 crew team member Mike DeBois about how he remains active in the sport later into his adult life.
“We have a big banner in our gymnasium that says World Champions 1968 and it’s pretty cool that there’s something that says World Championships,” said recent Stuart graduate Noah Taylor. “We are in a world where other sports are prioritized like football, but having something that says world championships and having something that says that about your team makes your team much bigger.”
Foulis was in attendance with fellow rowers Tom Lang, Eric Rudrud and Mike Hacskaylo from the original squad that won the championship, as well as alternate DeBois and 1968 team president Don Hardy.
The team has managed to stay in touch surprisingly well. Of the boat’s nine original members, six are flying to England and two who aren’t able to make the trip, Hacskaylor and Rudrud, flew in to attend this event. Coxswain Dave Hafner is consumed with an emergency in Hawaii involving recent natural disasters.
Additionally, two other members of the team who didn’t row — DeBois and Tom Buchanan — will also be joining.
When asked how the group managed to stay in close touch, Foulis replied, “because something great happened that turned our lives around 50 years ago.”
Rudrud flew in from Minnesota for the event as well as to connect with family. He never was able to remain in touch with many of his high school friends because he went to college out west and he’s grateful for the connection.
“Dave tracked me down when I was living in Denver once and they’ve had other reunions and because of timing, I couldn’t make it,” he said. “I’ve never been to the high school reunions but this is just this crazy group of people that gets together.”
In addition to the party at Lake Barcroft, members of the current crew team, alumni and the 1968 squad went on a commemorative row on the Occoquan on Saturday morning.
“[The coaches] told us to row at 60 percent but I just couldn’t do that. When I row, I just go 100 percent,” said Foulis.
One of the themes of Saturday’s speeches was the crucial role of alumni support as Fairfax County high schools did not directly fund the crew team in 1968 and still relegates the crew team to a club sport today. It was only through extensive fundraising that they were able to extend their season past its normal expiration date and into the summer when they were able to row at Henley.
A lot was credited to Mary Ann Lecos, the Mason District representative of the school board at the time, who helped secure $3,000 in funding towards their minimal goal of $1,200. Lecos, 85, was present Saturday and was gifted with a picture of the original race by the 1968 team.
The original title-winning boat, the “Miss Fairfax,” was on display at Saturday’s event and will now be displayed at the Sandy Run Boat house on the Occoquan River. Robert Finley, a Stuart alumnus from the same era as the team and one of five past Booster presidents in attendance, worked on restoring the boat.
For more information on contributing to Stuart’s Crew Team, visit www.jebstuartcrew.org/fundraising.