Category Archives: Sports

Anne Faber Rows For Her Life

In 1996 — on her son’s 13th birthday — Anne Faber’s husband was killed by a drunk driver.

In one moment, her life changed forever.

She left her job as a Wall Street analyst. She moved to Westport, for its strong school system.

Yet not until Ginger Katz — a fellow member of her Norwalk Hospital bereavement support group — mentioned rowing did Anne find a reason to get up in the morning, and really do something.

Anne knew nothing about the sport. But Ginger took her to the old Saugatuck club. The very first time Anne picked up an oar was in a race.

She was hooked.

“I’d been a dancer,” Anne — now 70 years old — recalls. “Rowing seemed very rhythmic.” She discovered a talent for tempo. Today, she says proudly, “I’m known as the metronome.”

Ginger Katz (front) and Anne Faber, years ago on the Schuylkill River.

Ginger Katz (front) and Anne Faber, years ago on the Schuylkill River.

She joined Norwalk’s Maritime Rowing Club. She became certified as a coach. A trustee of the Berkshire Rowing and Sculling Society, she heads up to Pittsfield every Monday, coaching adults and giving back to her sport.

Anne is much more than a rower, of course — a committed knitter, she makes healing shawls for chemo patients through the Westport Senior Center’s Knit One, Nibble One program, and she has trained to be a pharmacy technician, learned to be a baker and chef, and earned certification as a paralegal — but it is on the water that she feels most fulfilled.

Last month, at the USRowing Masters National Championships in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Anne won 5 medals. There were over 2,000 entries from 143 clubs, and no one is believed to have earned more.

The races were 1000-meter sprints. Anne’s stash includes golds in lightweight singles and (with fellow Westporter, 72-year-old Peggy Bliss) lightweight doubles, plus a pair of silvers and a bronze. Some of those medals came rowing with 50-something women.

Anne Faber with her medals.

Anne Faber with her medals.

Her victories mean “I’ve arrived at a level of competency that makes my boat move,” Anne says. “I train all year long, so there’s some self-satisfaction too.”

But rowing has given her more than medals.

“It’s allowed me to find myself again,” Anne explains. “It’s made me someone else. I’ve seen a different part of life. I regained my feeling of rhythm and motion.”

She loves being on the river, with fish and birds. Rowing — as difficult as it is — is quiet and peaceful.

And, Anne notes, “when the boat moves quickly and efficiently, just skimming the waterline, it’s an incredible, exhilarating feeling. It’s like a Zen period in time.”

Last fall, Anne won an Over-70 race at the prestigious Head of the Charles. She hopes to return this year.

Beyond that?

“I’m still trying to figure out what to do in the next stage of my life,” Anne says. “Whatever it is, I like exploring new things and meeting new people.”

Who knows? That may lead to more self-discovery, as wonderful as the day nearly 20 years ago when Anne Faber first dipped her toes in the rowing water.

(Hat tip: Diane Lowman)

David Lloyd: At The Center Of ESPN

WWPT-FM — Staples High School’s Wrecker Radio station — has launched the careers of many grads.

David Lloyd, Staples High School Class of 1979.

David Lloyd, Staples High School Class of 1979.

David Lloyd is not one of them. Before graduating in 1979, he was a wrestler. He was good enough to co-captain the team and place 2nd in the state tournament — so he was the subject of sports coverage, not the reporter.

After graduating from Colgate University (majoring in international relations), he worked as a wholesale distributor of flowers, then in an ad agency.

But he didn’t like offices. A buddy working in TV knew Lloyd loved sports, and helped him snag an internship with WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia.

He worked there — without pay — for a year. “They were great, generous people, and I learned a lot,” Lloyd recalls.

He moved on to news reporting in Savannah. But sports beckoned, and after just a few weeks he got an offer in that department from WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina.

After 7 years — and stops in Sacramento and San Diego — Lloyd and his wife talked about returning east. It was time to think about ESPN.

Tapes are not enough for that sports behemoth. Every job applicant must audition, by writing a show. It was a daunting task, but Lloyd was eager to join what he calls “maybe the greatest media network of all time.”

He was hired as an ESPNEWS anchor in 1997. Now one of the longest-tenured anchors, he’s just signed a new contract extension. Lloyd currently hosts the 1-3 p.m. weekday SportsCenter, with Linda Cohn.

David Lloyd today, hosting ESPN's SportsCenter.

David Lloyd today, hosting ESPN’s SportsCenter.

He vividly recalls his initial SportsCenter broadcast, several years ago.

Each month, a new schedule comes out. When Lloyd saw he’d been assigned to that plum (and very popular) show, he was elated.

When he first sat at the desk and heard the SportsCenter theme song, “it was like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t even recognize my own voice.”

He loves the job — and the time slot.

“There’s a lot of breaking news that time of day,” he says. “I get in about 4 hours before the show, and start writing. But if something big happens, we throw it all out.”

Deflategate — the Tom Brady football scandal — broke just before airtime. “It’s such a rush of adrenaline,” Lloyd says. “We bring people in to talk. We’re not even sure what we’re going to ask. We just go with it.”

Sports Center

 

Lloyd has also done specialty shows, and the highly acclaimed “Outside the Lines” series.

Though he never joined WWPT, he knows his alma mater’s station’s reputation. He’s also seen Staples students — including the very talented D.J. Sixsmith — come to ESPN for internships.

For those Westporters, a possible career in the big leagues begins in Bristol, Connecticut. For David Lloyd, it all began in Macon, Georgia.

Hey, every star has to start somewhere.

 

 

Ethan Zorfas Helps Lead Ted Cruz Crusade

When 10 candidates squared off in the 1st GOP debate earlier this month, plenty of Westporters watched closely.

Republicans searched for the best leader. Democrats anticipated a train wreck.

Ethan Zorfas wanted to see how well his boss would do.

The 2003 Staples High  School graduate is one of Ted Cruz’s senior advisors, concentrating on the Northeast. So when New Hampshire holds its 1st-in-the-nation primary 6 months from now, Zorfas’ work may well determine whether the Texan is on a path to the White House — or back to the Senate.

Ethan Zorfas' job is to help Senator Ted Cruz (3rd from right) break out of the GOP pack. Besides these 10, 7 other Republicans are running for president.

Ethan Zorfas’ job is to help Senator Ted Cruz (3rd from right) break out of the GOP pack. Besides these 10, 7 other Republicans are running for president.

It’s a job Zorfas would never have expected a dozen years ago. His main passion entering Staples was basketball. He played it well — and earned Academic All-State honors.

But in his first few days of junior year, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Lis Comm’s English class spent days talking about how the world suddenly changed.

“I woke up to the outside world,” Zorfas recalls. “For the first time, I realized that policy matters.”

Social studies teacher Justin Cosell opened his eyes to politics. In class, Zorfas learned how to write a bill.

“He was a huge liberal. I was more conservative,” Zorfas says, of the instructor who happens to be Howard Cosell’s grandson.

But a friendship grew. Today, they still talk often about politics.

After graduating, Zorfas headed to Clark University in Worcester. “That’s another liberal school,” he laughs.

Ethan Zorfas

Ethan Zorfas

He joined with a few non-liberals to reactivate a dormant Republican  Club. And he earned $100 a day knocking on doors in New Hampshire during President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.

After earning a master’s in public administration from Clark, Zorfas worked on a handful of campaigns. He joined the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2008 — “a tough cycle,” Zorfas admits — and stayed on to organize fundraising for congressmen Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. He then branched out into political consulting for others.

In 2010 he was hired as chief of staff by New Hampshire congressman Frank Guinta. At 25, Zorfas may have been the youngest chief of staff on Capitol Hill.

When Guinta was defeated in 2012, Zorfas restarted his small firm, MarblePort Consulting. (The name combines Marblehead — where he lived as a child — and Westport.)

Zorfas’ New Hampshire ties made him a hot commodity in GOP circles. After the 2014 election cycle, he examined the wide swath of presidential candidates to find the best fit.

Cruz rose to the top of Zorfas’ list.

“If you really want to change Washington and how things work, he’s the only one in the field who can do that,” the consultant explains.

Zorfas had breakfast with the senator in New Hampshire, then flew to Texas.

“I’d only seen him on TV,” Zorfas recalls. “But I was impressed that he’d been solicitor general of Texas, and a clerk for (Supreme Court Chief Justice William) Rehnquist. His constitutional knowledge blew me away.”

They talked about how Zorfas could help Cruz be competitive in New Hampshire. Then, wham: The 30-year-old signed on as a key advisor.

Senator Ted Cruz (Photo/NH Journal)

Senator Ted Cruz (Photo/NH Journal)

His job now is to develop and implement strategies for Cruz to succeed in the Northeast. Zorfas is helping build the campaign infrastructure, and provides perspective to other Cruz advisors.

He speaks frequently with the candidate. “He’s taking New Hampshire very seriously,” Zorfas says.

Zorfas has worked on local, congressional and Senate races. Yet a presidential campaign is orders of magnitude different. Half a year before the first primary votes are cast, he already feels exponentially more energy and enthusiasm.

This month’s Fox News debate marked a major moment, Zorfas says. He sat with 200 supporters at the carefully chosen Texas Roadhouse in Nashua. Like a true professional, Zorfas says, “The feedback is that the senator spoke well, and had a clear message.”

Zorfas knows that a pro-life, gun-rights, anti-same-sex-marriage, climate-change denying Texan is not the first choice of most Westporters. Especially those Westporters who graduated with Zorfas in 2003.

“I had a great group of friends,” he says with pride. “We still talk on a daily basis. Most of them are probably Democrats. But I think they’re very proud of me and my accomplishments, as I am of them. They think it’s great that I can grow my career like this.”

And, he says, “we always have great debates.”

So if Senator Cruz becomes President Cruz, what job would Zorfas want?

“It’s way too early to think about that,” he says with the ease of a practiced politician. “Right now we’re all just focused on winning a 17-person race.”

He has no desire to run for office himself. “Seeing candidates go through what they do, I’m happy where I am,” Zorfas noted. “I love what I do.”

And Ted Cruz loves having this Connecticut-raised, New Hampshire-tested advisor on his very senior national staff.

Lindsay Runkel’s Journey Forward

Lindsay Runkel’s family moved to Westport in 1993. She attended the Nature Center nursery school, then moved step by step through the school system.

Lindsay was a free spirit — a bit alternative but sweet, beautiful and very smart.

She attended college in Arizona, then moved back senior year to finish her degree in nursing at the University of Connecticut-Stamford.

Lindsay worked hard throughout high school and college to help pay her way. Burgers seemed to be a theme: She was hired by both Five Guys and Shake Shack.

Always physically active, Lindsay grew passionate about mountain biking. Through a shop in Ridgefield, she went on weekend biking excursions.

Last October 5, Lindsay and a group were riding in New Hampshire. Near the end of the day, Lindsay landed the wrong way on a jump. Her spine was severed.

She spent several weeks at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. Just before Thanksgiving, she came home to Westport. A carpenter friend turned a downstairs office into a wheelchair-accessible bedroom and bathroom, and outfitted the main floor with ramps.

Lindsay Runkel

Lindsay Runkel

Lindsay did rehab at Burke Hospital in White Plains for as long as her insurance lasted.

She also learned of Journey Forward. The rehab facility combines exercise and neuromuscular stimulation in the belief that if muscles do not atrophy, a person may regain feeling and some movement. Lindsay’s parents drive her to Journey Forward twice a week for sessions. She is doing amazingly well for someone in her condition.

Lindsay also goes a few times each week to TTEndurance in Westport, to pedal an adaptive bike with her hands.

Her family is coping as best they can, though times for them are tough too. Meanwhile, Lindsay talks of returning to college, driving and living a full life.

To help with her Journey Forward costs, friends and relatives have organized a fundraiser. It’s set for SoulCycle on Saturday, September 12 (check-in 1:30 p.m., ride 2-2:45 p.m.). The suggested donation is $50 per ride.

To register, click here. For more information, contact Casey Berg: 203-984-8914; caseyberg1@gmail.com.

 

Stephen Wilkes And MLB’s Cuban Connection

The thawing of relations with Cuba has led to many new opportunities, in that country and here.

Among them: a chance for a new generation of baseball players to make it to the Major Leagues.

Westport photographer Stephen Wilkes — who recently received a grant from the National Geographic Society to document national parks — decided to focus on the current crop of players. They defied tremendous odds to reach the big leagues.

Wilkes’ photo essay appears in today’s edition of the New York Times Magazine. Click here to read the story — and see the pros, through our neighbor’s eyes.

Cuba - Stephen Wilkes

(Hat tip: Russell Smith)

Anyone For Pickleball?

Very quietly — without any fanfare or even publicity — Westport added 2 pickleball courts right next to the Compo Beach skate park.

They’re in a previously unused area of the parking lot. Yesterday, they got plenty of action.

Pickleball

Meanwhile, around the corner by the cannons, life was a little slower:

Comp Beach - August 16, 2015 - 2

Compo Beach - August 16, 2015

 

Brad Tursi Kicks It In Nashville

When Brad Tursi was a Staples High School soccer star in the mid-1990s, he dreamed of playing before huge crowds in big stadiums.

He’ll do exactly that tomorrow, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

But he won’t be kicking a soccer ball. Instead, the 1997 Staples grad will kick it big-time with his band, Old Dominion. They open for Kenny Chesney, on the country megastar’s summer tour.

Brad Tursi

Brad Tursi

The road from Westport to Nashville is not well traveled. But Tursi is not the first Staples alum to make his name there.

Charlie Taylor graduated from Staples in 1961. After roaming from Greenwich Village to LA — with stops in between — Taylor spent the last 3 decades in Tennessee. He’s recorded with, written with and for, jammed with and learned from the likes of Gram Parsons, Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, Barbara Mandrell, Rick Nelson and Barry Tashian.

Tashian is also a Staples grad. His route to Nashville began in Boston, where he fronted the legendary rock group The Remains. They opened for The Beatles on their final tour, appeared on Ed Sullivan and Hullabaloo, and were called by Jon Landau “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

Brad Tursi continues a small but strong Westport-to-Nashville connection.

Brad Tursi continues the Westport-to-Nashville connection.

After the group broke up, Tashian landed in Nashville. He’s been there ever since, playing with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmy Lou Harris, and carving out (with his wife, Staples classmate Holly Kimball) a rewarding performing, recording and songwriting career.

Tursi continues that small but strong Westport connection. He co-wrote “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” — a certified gold song that Tyler Farr took to #1 earlier this year — and “Save It For a Rainy Day” for Chesney.

Tursi’s band Old Dominion got a shout-out last month from Sony Music CEO Doug Morris.

In an interview in The Tennessean newspaper, Morris predicted that the band  would join Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks as providing “a new foundation for the company’s country music division.” The day after he heard Old Dominion’s EP, the 76-year-old CEO was singing their lyrics.

You probably are not headed to MetLife Stadium tomorrow, for the Kenny Chesney concert. But if you want to hear the opening band — Old Dominion — check out the video below.

Brad Tursi’s 2nd from the right, manning the oars.

(Hat tip: John Guadagno)

Farmers’ Market Needs Us!

It’s National Farmers’ Market Week (!).  So here’s your chance to vote for the Westport Farmers’ Market as the best in the area.

I usually don’t promote contests of this kind. But if we win — we’re currently 2nd, behind Black Rock but ahead of Norwalk/Rowayton, Old Greenwich and Ridgefield — our fantastic farmers (and bakers, meat purveyors, honey sellers, etc.) earn an important prize: They won’t have to pay their usual 4% fee on sales for one week.

Click here to vote for what we all know is the greatest farmers’ market around.

In other Westport Farmers’ Market news, members of the Staples High School boys soccer team were on hand today, shopping for goods.

Chef Luke Lampanelli (5th from left) joined Staples soccer players Chris Andrews, Max Hammer, Tyler Wright, Noah Schwaeber, Daniel Brill and Aidan Wisher, plus Westport Farmers' Market director Lori Cochran. Luke and the athletes are shopping for, and preparing, a meal for the Gillespie Center.

Chef Luke Lamparelli (5th from left) joins Staples soccer players Chris Andrews, Max Hammer, Tyler Wright, Noah Schwaeber, Daniel Brill and Aidan Wisher, plus Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran. Luke and the athletes are shopping for, and preparing, a meal for the Gillespie Center. (Missing: Andres Marmelo)

Community service is an important component of the boys soccer program, and the athletes were getting ready to cook a meal for the Gillespie Center.

Chef Luke Lamparelli is also volunteering his time and expertise. He’ll cook with the Wreckers tomorrow. That evening, they’ll serve fajitas, pasta, salad and dessert at Westport’s shelter.

Funds come from a previous effort this summer. Staples soccer players helped shoppers carry bags to cars, in exchange for voluntary contributions.

It’s a great team effort — just like the team voting effort that will make the Westport Farmers’ Market #1!

Farmers Market

Skate Park Utopia

Last fall, when the skate park was threatened during controversial plans for the Compo Beach renovation, dozens of sk8trs and their parents spoke eloquently for its survival. They described its importance for kids in passionate, athletic, community-building — even life-saving — terms.

It was spared the hook. This summer, I — and I’m sure many other Compo lovers — have looked at it with new, more appreciative eyes.

Recently, the skate park has sported a new look. Colorful, mural/graffiti-type painting has turned gray concrete into something much jazzier.

Skate park - Compo

But some Westporters wonder about the advertisement (top) for Utopia Skate Camp. It’s also visible from other angles. A bit out of place — and overly commercial — they say.

Time for an “06880” debate. What do you think about the new look of the Compo skate park? Have you had any personal experience with it? Who (or what) are these Utopia dudes? Click “Comments” — and please use your full, real name.

Tyler Hicks Is Waaaay Beyond Amazing

Westport is deservedly proud of Tyler Hicks.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate has won a Pulitzer Prize, survived a kidnapping, shared Anthony Shahid’s final moments, lived around the corner from (and captured stark images of) the Nairobi shopping mall terror attack … you name it, Tyler has seen it. Or done it.

Now he’s run a marathon.

But this was no easy-peasy road race like New York or Boston. Tyler just completed his 1st-ever 26-miler: the Maasai Marathon in Kenya.

The bush of Kenya.

Tyler Hicks (#9) celebrating after the Maasai Marathon. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Hicks)

Tyler Hicks (#9) celebrates after the Maasai Marathon. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Hicks)

But wait! There’s more!

Tyler ran the raise as a fundraiser for the Amazing Maasai Girls Project.

There are simply no words.