SMCC student earns scholarship for sailing
By Blake Bachobbacho@monroenews.com
St. Mary Catholic Central senior Joe Lark says most of his classmates know nothing about his sport — sailing. He has earned a scholarship to sail for Salve Regina University in Rhode Island next year.
Joe Lark sometimes gets a deer-in-the-headlights look when discussing sailing with his classmates at St. Mary Catholic Central.
“We don’t have a high school sailing team,” Lark said. “I’ve had a few friends go through sail camp, but no one else is really into the sport… A few of them don’t really understand why sailing is a sport.”
It’s safe to say that Lark will have plenty more classmates who share his passion when he begins college next fall.
The 18-year-old Falcon signed a letter of intent last month to sail at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. Lark joins his older sister and SMCC graduate Madeline, who is finishing up her freshman season on the Seahawks’ sailing team.
“(My sister and I) know the East Coast college sailing series is probably the most competitive college sailing circuit in the country,” Lark explained. “We both found out about it, she decided to go there and just said it was really great. I thought I’ll give it a shot.
“I’m pretty excited.”
Lark has been racing since 2011. He’s been sailing in some form or another for most of his life, a passion fueled by his parents’ interests in the sport.
Lark currently races out of North Cape Yacht Club in LaSalle, a program that was once the training ground of Olympic gold medal winner Anna Tunnicliffe.
It was Lark’s accomplishments on the water with his North Cape team that drew the attention of Salve Regina sailing coach John Ingalls.
“He has a very respectable sailing resume,” Ingalls said of his new recruit. “I knew his family somewhat through his sister and then I met him and saw his personality, how he deals with people. I knew right away he was definitely a good fit for our team.”
Lark always planned on sailing through college, whether or not the university he attended had a program.
The sailing scholarship could help him achieve his goal of one day entering the dentistry profession.
“I knew I definitely wanted to sail in college, but I wasn’t going to make that weigh into my decision too much,” Lark said. “If I had the opportunity to go to a really great school that didn’t have a sailing team, I probably would have done that. But to get to go to a great school with a sailing program is a bonus.”
Another selling point for Lark’s new school is the campus and the surrounding town.
“Newport is an incredible city,” Lark said. “All the buildings are pretty much oceanfront. The admission building is one of the biggest mansions in Newport, a lot of the classrooms are in mansions that were donated. It’s a really nice area and a good school for education.”
Unlike the sports provided through high school, sailing is much more of an individual activity. Through his racing experiences, Lark — who is also on SMCC’s golf team — has learned independence in a way he couldn’t have just by participating in organized team sports.
That independence should serve him well as he adapts to a collegiate schedule next fall.
“With sports through school, everything is taken care of and all you really have to do is show up and participate,” Lark said. “With sailing, you have to take care of registering for the events, you’ve got to get the boat there by yourself, no one helps you rig and you’re pretty much on your own in the water.”
As a Seahawk, Lark will have plenty of teammates. Salve Regina currently has 26 sailors on its roster.
Where Lark fits in that group remains to be determined. But his new coach is already impressed with his talent level.
“He’s above average for the recruits I get,” Ingalls said. “He has more experience, and more ability. If he was playing golf, he shoots a couple strokes less than everybody else, just a little bit more accomplished and skills a little more refined. Still a long way to go, but he’s quite good.”
Lark has already begun the process of bonding with his new team. He has participated in several team practices already, and while initially intimidated the fit has already begun to feel natural.
“I got to know the people (on the team),” Lark said. “The sense of community is different than other sports, it’s a lot more laid back than really anything else.
“They’re like the team I’m a part of now, they all hang out together and all are really good friends. I felt like I fit in really well.”