St. Mary Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Maryland, is searching for a new leader for its renowned sailing program following the retirement of Deacon Joe Vavrus, the long-standing head sailing coach.

Vavrus, a prominent figure in the school and local community, retired at the close of the 2022-2023 school year after serving thirteen years as the sailing program leader. The Midwest-raised Vavrus had dedicated his life to teaching and serving the community in St. Mary’s County, where he has resided for over ten years, and as a Permanent Deacon in the Archdiocese of Washington. His notable career also includes a twenty-three-year stint in the U.S. Army, where he was an instructor and trainer.

Vavrus’s passion for sailing and teaching extended to St. Mary Ryken Catholic High School. “On May 16, 2023, St. Mary Ryken honored Coach Vavrus and named the Ryken sailing boat house after him, ‘The Deacon Joe Vavrus Sailing Center’,” said Grace Wilcox, an incoming Sophomore and Junior Varsity sailor at the school.

During his tenure at the independent Catholic college preparatory school, Vavrus significantly impacted the sailing program, coaching between twenty and thirty student-athletes each year. His leadership helped maintain the school’s reputation for its high school sailing team and summer camp, a platform that allowed any student to try sailing without prior experience. The school’s junior and varsity teams participate in over six multi-race weekend sailing regattas annually across the Chesapeake Bay region.

Furthermore, Vavrus secured the school’s current fleet of F-J sailing boats, purchasing from the Sailing Center of the Chesapeake (SCC), further cementing his lasting legacy at St. Mary’s Ryken High School.

“The fact that sailing requires a combination of physical and mental capabilities keeps me on my toes and engaged. Coach Vavrus taught me there’s always something to learn out on the water,” Wilcox remarked, paying tribute to Vavrus’s teaching prowess. To contribute to the program’s future, Wilcox started the St. Mary Ryken sailing team’s Instagram account, in large part, to help recruit a new coach.

St. Mary Ryken High School’s sailing program operates in two primary seasons – spring and fall, with after-school practices and regatta participation. As the search for a new coach commences, the school aims to find someone who will honor the legacy of sailing in Southern Maryland and uphold the team’s competitive spirit. The ultimate goal is for the team to continue its history of winning regattas under a new leadership that cherishes the same values as Vavrus.

For qualifications and to apply for the positions:

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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