Crew coxswain goes from Jersey Shore to Washington to London

Posted: June 17, 2010

It didn't take much for Tracy Labrum to know that her son Seamus had found what he was looking for in the Pacific Northwest.

"Seamus has gone on several college visits and, each time, as soon as he arrived and then a couple of times during the visit, he checked in," said Labrum, of Cape May Court House, N.J. "The University of Washington was his last visit and we didn't hear from him. I knew the longer it went until we heard from him, the more he had fallen in love with the school and that's where he was going to go."

Seamus Labrum did choose Washington and the Huskies freshman has had one heck of an inaugural season with the nationally ranked crew program. Labrum was the coxswain when the Freshman 8 - nicknamed the Grunties - took the prestigious IRA Championship held June 5 on the 2,000-meter Cooper River course. The win, which completed a perfect season for the freshmen, opened the door for another life-changing event: getting invited to the Henley Regatta.

"It really came as a great surprise," Labrum said of the invitation to participate on London's famed Thames River.

The freshman boat will compete for the Temple Cup on June 30 and then return, hopefully, a few days later.

"I was getting ready to go home when I found out," Labrum said. "I won't get home until after the Fourth of July but this is worth it."

"The guys are fired up to go there," freshman coach Luke McGee said. "I think they're all incredibly excited. It's a big accomplishment for us.

"We try to do things like this that make a student-athlete's experience over 4 years enjoyable."

Enjoyable is an understatement if you ask Labrum.

As a junior at Holy Spirit in Absecon, the 5-7 Labrum took to rowing with a passion and set out to find a suitable college.

Through an endless Internet search, he came upon Washington and he put the same focus on becoming a Huskie that he had in winning countless races as an ideal coxswain.

"I have a ton of responsibility in the boat," Labrum said. "No. 1, I'm in charge of safety. That can be understated. No. 2, obviously I have to steer and keep the boat straight and, No. 3, I'm the coach in the boat.

"Before each race, I go over our strategy with coach [McGee]. All the rowers have a good idea of what we want to do but it's my job to execute our plan. There is a lot of pressure, but I enjoy the challenge."

Still, Washington isn't the most easily accessible destination for a kid from the Jersey Shore. Labrum certainly did his due diligence when looking for the right fit, and when McGee promptly returned a letter of inquiry it certainly put the Huskies front and center for good.

"I wanted to go far enough away from home that it wouldn't be easy for me to just pick up and quit," said Labrum, who is contemplating majoring in business after posting a 3.5 GPA as an undecided. "I knew if I went to Washington or some place further from home, I would take that temptation out of the equation. This way, I knew I had no choice but to focus on school."

The deciding factor, however, may have come from a little closer to home.

"He has a great crew to work with," Tracy Labrum said. "And I can't say enough great things about Sam Ojserkis. Sam was Seamus' host and he is a wonderful young man and a great influence."

Ojserkis also happens to be from South Jersey. That's right; the sophomore went to Mainland and is currently the coxswain on the 2V8 boat that also won at the recent regatta on the Cooper River.

"We are constantly looking to build our program," head coach Michael Callahan said moments after the IRA Championships ended. "We have talented individuals throughout our program and it's important for us to seek out the best fits for our program no matter where they come from."

As for Labrum, the focus right now is on the River Thames and the trip to London. Even more exciting, he won't be alone.

"The one thing that was really upsetting about [the IRA] was we weren't able to take him home, which was just an hour away," Tracy Labrum said. "He had to fly back to Washington. Luckily, we're all getting to go to London. I may be 85 before I pay it all off, but it will be worth it." *

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