Category Archives: Sports

While You And I Slept This Morning…

…Kelly Konstanty, Morgan Mermagen and Mike Grant were on the run.

The trio ran through Westport, in Stage 315 of the One Run for Boston. The charity event — for One Fund Boston, which supports victims of last year’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing — began March 16 in Los Angeles. It ends tomorrow in Massachusetts, a week before the Marathon.

So far, over $410,000 has been raised, by 1,990 runners.

Morgan Mermagen, Mike Grant and Kelly Konstanty, after finishing their Westport to Bridgeport run.

Morgan Mermagen, Mike Grant and Kelly Konstanty, after finishing their Westport to Bridgeport run.

The trio received the baton downtown, around 4:30 a.m., from a group that started in Darien. Kelly, Morgan and Mike ran to Bridgeport, arriving there around 6:05.

Kelly has run the Boston Marathon before, but can’t this year. This is her way of showing support for “Boston Strong.” 

Grant adds, “If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target. We run for those who can’t.”

The runners thanked the Westport Police for their escort, and their supporters who cheered them on.

Congratulations, Kelly, Morgan and Mike. You did more before dawn today than many of us will achieve all weekend!

Wise Words, From Bob And Judy Rosenkranz

Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”

They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.

Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.

Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.

Not the "wise men" Judy and Bob met. These guys don't play tennis.

Not the “wise men” Judy and Bob met. These guys don’t play tennis.

Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.

Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.

Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.

Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.

Then things really started to happen.

Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.

Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.

These are the "Y's Men." They are a very active group. The only thing they don't do is ride camels.

These are the real “Y’s Men.” They are a very active group. The only thing they don’t do is ride camels.

“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”

He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.

Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.

She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”

As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”

They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).

I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.

“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”

But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.

Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.

Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)

But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.

“We love it here,” they keep saying.

Almost as much as we love having them here.

 

Fore!

When the Longshore golf course closed for the winter, it was not in good shape.

The next few months were not exactly kind.

But as spring takes its first, tentative — and very late — steps, an air of excitement hovers over all 18 holes.

Parks and Recreation director Stuart McCarthy sent an email yesterday to golfers. Acknowledging that course conditions over the past 2 seasons have “not met your expectations,” he outlined many steps being taken to “restoring the greens to championship condition.”

Perhaps the most important is outsourcing maintenance to ValleyCrest. The company — which services over 75 courses nationwide — introduces itself Monday, April 21 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) in a public meeting.

New superintendent Ryan Segrue will be there. By that time, the Stanwich Club and Lake Isle Country Club veteran will already have performed a deep tine aeration of the greens.

A view of the Longshore course, courtesy of Golf Digest. ValleyCrest is working hard to get the links looking like this again.

A view of the Longshore course, courtesy of Golf Digest. ValleyCrest is working hard to get the links looking like this again.

The course is anticipated to open on or around Friday, April 18. In celebration, for every 18-hole round played through May 23, the golfer will receive a voucher for a free round good any time during the 2014 season.

The nearby practice range at Hendricks Point is temporarily closed. Hurricane Sandy exposed the landfill, and — after finally getting DEP permits — restabilization work is underway.

Finally, Longshore pro John Cooper has unveiled a new and improved website.  www.LongshoreGolf.com includes the latest course information (frost delays, conditions, etc.), a calendar of events, a Twitter feed, tips from the pros and more.

It’s been a rough patch for Longshore golfers — and the staff that serves them. 2014 will be far more than par for the course.

 

Staples Students Dodge Cops; Everyone Happy

Cops and kids battled it out for a couple of hours last night at Staples.

They threw stuff at each other, across a line no one dared cross.

Then they all fist-bumped, had pizza, and drove home safely.

The event was “Dodge-a-Cop” — a massive dodgeball tournament — sponsored by the Westport Police/Youth Collaborative and Youth Commission.

Over a dozen high school teams participated, with at least one Westport Police officer on each team.

Students paid to participate. All funds raised go to Homes With Hope.

That’s a big 10-4.

Officer Ned Batlin, Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Sam Arciola are all smiles -- before the dodgeballs start flying.

Officer Ned Batlin, Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Sam Arciola are all smiles — before the dodgeballs start flying.

Staples track stars (from left) Patrick Lindwall, Will McDonald, James Lewis, Peter Elkind and Jake Berman are fast enough to run from the cops. At the dodgeball tournament, they didn't have to.

Staples track stars (from left) Patrick Lindwall, Will McDonald, James Lewis, Peter Elkind and Jake Berman are fast enough to run from the cops. At the dodgeball tournament, they didn’t have to.

Click here if your browser does not link directly to YouTube.

 

Yaacov Mutnikas Puts Every Westporter To Shame

If you read the recent “06880″ story about David Friezo, the Westport man who will soon run a marathon — at the North Pole — and thought, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard”: Sit down.

Another Westporter — Yaacov Mutnikas — just rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.

He rowed across the Atlantic. From the Canary Islands to Barbados. He and 7 others rowed 2600 nautical miles. In 32 days, 22 hours, 31 minutes and 25 seconds.

Which — hey, why not? — puts them in the Guinness Book of World Records, for fastest 8-man transatlantic crossing ever.

And the 2nd-fastest crossing overall.

Please tell me no other Westporter has done anything crazier.

Yaacov Mutnikas (4th from right) with his record-setting fellow rowers.

Yaacov Mutnikas (4th from right) with his record-setting fellow rowers.

Mutnikas is 59 years old. 59! He has been getting AARP magazine for nearly a decade. 

He was the oldest man — by far — on the boat (the “Toby Wallace”). The youngest was 21. Most others were in their 20s. With age comes — what?

Well, experience.

Mutnikas began rowing when he was 15, in his native Lithuania. (Back when it was part of the Soviet Union.) He moved to Westport 3 years ago, and quickly joined the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

Gliding up and down our little river hardly prepares you to row across the Atlantic. So he added gym work to his usual rowing regimen, of up to 100,000 meters a week.

This is the boat that Yaacov Mutnikas rowed across the Atlantic.

This is the boat that Yaacov Mutnikas rowed across the Atlantic.

This was not Mutnikas’ 1st oceanic row. In January 2009, after 11 days at sea, he and his crew had to be pulled out of the water by a ship. Their boat had broken.

Two years ago, his boat capsized. They were just 100 miles from their goal.

“I don’t give up easy,” he says.

“This time, I did it because I failed last time. The 2nd time, I did it because I failed the 1st time.

“The 1st time, I didn’t know any better.”

The crew at work, in the middle of the Atlantic.

The crew at work, in the middle of the Atlantic.

Mutnikas knows what he did sounds incredible, almost beyond belief, to 99.9999% of the planet. But he is not one for great revelations.

“Once you start, there is no way back,” he says. “So you just keep going.”

The routine is numbing: 2 hours on, 2 hours off. 2 hours on, 2 hours off. Day after day after day.

You row. You rest. You row. You rest.

“It’s psychological warfare,” Mutnikas says. The mental part may be as tough as the physical. The mind has to push the body past everything: injuries. Hallucinations. Even boredom.

Occasionally, Mutnikas could relax: put his headphones on, and listen to classical music. Much more often though, he had to be on high alert. One mistake — especially in rough weather — could mean disaster for all.

And keep in mind: He was not just rowing. He was racing. The 8 men on the Toby Wallace were trying to set a world record.

Mutnikas laughs as he tells the next part: The boat was even racing against itself. Each 4-man crew tried to log more distance than the other.

It’s all part of the joy of transatlantic rowing.

Flares celebrate a triumphant arrival in Barbados.

Flares celebrate a triumphant arrival in Barbados.

Mutnikas got back to Westport last Thursday. He went to bed. Then he got up Friday morning, and went to work.

So what’s next? What do you do once you’ve set a Guinness world record for rowing across a friggin’ ocean?

“I have a couple of ideas,” Mutnikas says. “But I’m not saying. Once you tell, you’re committed.”

A few “06880″ readers might say Yaacov Mutnikas should be committed.

Others would say, simply, “Wow.”

Most of us just have no words.

Brean Cunningham’s “Dogs On the Inside”

Brean Cunningham has been around movies all his life.

His uncle, Westport native Sean Cunningham, directed “Friday the 13th,” “Spring Break,” and “Manny’s Orphans” (the greatest soccer movie ever, starring a young Dan Woog as the referee).

After graduating from Georgetown University, Brean — who in his younger days played “every sport” at the Westport Y, and worked at Carvel — assisted his uncle when Cunningham produced the 2009 remake of “The Last House on the Left.” Brean later worked with Sean, on the development side of filmmaking.

But when Brean decided to do his own film, it wasn’t a thriller. It wasn’t a coming-of-age comedy. It wasn’t even the greatest soccer movie ever.

Brean wanted to make a difference.

Brean Cunningham

Brean Cunningham

In 2011 he co-founded Expect Miracles Productions, to “tell stories people can believe in.” He traveled to Africa for a web advocacy video about the positive effects of combating neglected tropical diseases in Ghana. He was a field producer on a documentary about Churchill, Manitoba (“The Polar Bear Capital of the World”), and the people who live there.

The 1st documentary he directed and produced, “Expect Miracles,” spotlighted the impact of volunteers in Appalachia.

Brean is very excited about his latest project. “Dogs on the Inside” explores the partnership between a Massachusetts prison and a dog shelter. Inmates train rescue dogs, who are then given to new families.

Brean Cunningham, at work in the Massachusetts prison.

Brean Cunningham, at work in the Massachusetts prison.

Both the dogs and inmates gain new leases on life. Both suffer from trust issues. As bonds deepen, prisoners — about to re-enter society — discover a new capacity for love and empathy.

It’s a powerful film. Like any documentary maker, Brean had to navigate a thicket of challenges, from obtaining permission to film, to making sure they had the right people and dogs to tell this compelling story.

Brean - Dogs posterBrean was allowed only 3 days inside the prison. He and his crew filmed the day the dogs arrived; a day in the middle of the program, and the day the dogs left with their new families. Everywhere Brean and the crew went, prison officials hovered over their shoulders.

Brean was impressed both by the prisoners’ warmth, and prison officials’ genuine desire that the inmates succeed. He was devastated, though, by what he saw in Mississippi, where the abused dogs came from.

Post-production took time. Nashville musician Sam Gay scored the film, and in late December it was done.

Brean and his co-director — Fairfield native Doug Seirup — have submitted it to festivals. It premieres at the Boston International Film Festival on April 14, with others to follow. Of course, Brean is looking for a local venue too.

Brean loves sports, so his next venture may be “a great sports story.”

Go for it. Though it will be hard to beat “Manny’s Orphans.”

If the trailer for “Dogs on the Inside” does not open in your browser, click here.

David Friezo Does Santa

In Westport, where competition for everything — from bigger houses and fancier cars to tougher fitness regimens and more money raised for charity — is a blood sport, the stakes just got a lot higher.

David Friezo is trying to raise $500,000 to defray expenses for families with children being treated for cancer.

He’s doing it by running a marathon.

At the North Pole.

That’s right. On April 9 the Westporter — who has a perfectly sensible day job as managing partner with the Lydian Advisory Group — will run 26.2 miles at the geographic North Pole.

Specifically, he and 50 or so other participants in the UVU North Pole Marathon will race on Arctic ice floes, just a few feet away from 12,000 feet of Arctic Ocean. Temperatures could reach 35 degrees below zero.

David Friezo, training recently. Running in Westport this winter was superb preparation for the North Pole.

David Friezo, training recently. Running in Westport this winter was superb preparation for the North Pole.

“I know what you’re thinking,” David says. “No, I am not crazy. I’m doing this for a cause that I’m extremely passionate about.”

That cause is the Friezo Family Support Fund at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.The fund has already donated $1 million to help families with costs like housing, transportation, prosthetic devices and prescription drugs while their children are being treated at MSKCC.

Lydian has agreed to match the first $100,000 of donations made by individuals to David’s I’m-not-crazy-but-on-the-other-hand-who-in-his-right-mind-runs-a-marathon-at-the-North-Pole venture.

“06880″ wants to help too. So, here’s our challenge: If readers can pledge $5,000 — just 1% of David’s goal — he’ll give us an exclusive story (with words and photos) when he gets back.

Not, as he jocularly (I hope) says, “If I get back.”

(For more information, and to pledge to David’s North Pole marathon, click here. In the line for “Donor Name,” please add “06880 Reader” after your name, so David can keep a tally. )

 

Remembering Ben Wilder

Ben Wilder died yesterday in Florida, from complications of cancer.

Ben Wilder and his son Eddie

Ben Wilder and his son Eddie

Ben was well known to many in Westport, where he raised 4 boys. His home was a haven to many of his sons’ friends, where they were always welcomed with food (Ben was a superb cook), sage advice (Ben was a surrogate father to many), and no-questions asked, but firm, love.

Ben was an avid supporter of his sons Rob and Tom’s WSA and Staples soccer careers, and of Eddie’s Staples Players productions.

He was one of the real good guys. And Christmas Eve has not been the same in Westport, since Ben moved away.

His son Eddie  sent along these memories:

My father was the man who raised 4 boys after my mom Joan passed when I was 13. He was the man who taught me everything about compassion, unconditional love, kindness, acceptance, generosity, how to drive stick shift, cook, clean, and what it means to be a decent human being.

He was a father to those who didn’t have one. His house was always open to all. He was the life of the party.

A young Ben Wilder.

A young Ben Wilder.

I talked to him every day, and he would answer the phone with a different name or accent.

He made me listen to the classics like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Henny Youngman, Mel Brooks, and he taught me what it meant to have a sense of humor. We could quote “Young Frankenstein” for hours.

He was the greatest supporter of the arts — the ultimate cast mom/dad. He never missed a show or Candlelight Concert. He always loved Staples Players.

He always said I was his best friend later in life. After raising 4 boys aptly named “Wilder,” may he truly rest in peace.

Remembering Michael Goodgame, In Photos

Michael Goodgame — the 2011 Staples grad who was killed Friday, in an icy automobile accident in Minnesota — was many things.

He was a Carleton College junior, majoring in political science and interested in lowering the vicious tempers in Washington. He was a talented writer for the school newspaper (he’d done his senior internship at Staples with Write Yourself Free).

He was a swimmer, an Ultimate Frisbee player (on his way to a tournament at Stanford when he died), an avid traveler, and a compassionate, caring, fun-loving good friend.

Michael Goodgame was 20 years old. He had a whole life yet to live.

Michael Goodgame, with a good Carleton College friend.

Michael Goodgame, with a good Carleton College friend.

Savoring Europe.

Savoring Europe.

Michael Goodgame (far right) with his brothers Sam and Clatyon, and an unidentified friend, on a family trip to Lake Como.

Michael Goodgame (far right) with his brothers Sam and Clayton, on a family trip to Lake Como.

Michael Goodgame, the Ultimate player.

Michael Goodgame, the Ultimate player.

Westport Mourns Michael Goodgame

Michael Goodgame — a 2011 Staples graduate, and a junior at Carleton College in Minnesota — was killed yesterday not far from the Northfield campus. He was one of 5 students in an SUV that spun out on an icy road, and was broadsided by a semitrailer. Two other students also died.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the accident occurred around 3 p.m. yesterday. All wore seat belts, and no alcohol was detected in the driver’s blood system.

The website says that Goodgame was a political science major, and a writer for the school newspaper. He was an Ultimate Frisbee player, as were other riders in the car. The Carleton team finished 3rd in the country last year. Goodgame was a former member of the swimming and diving team, a sport he excelled in at Staples.

A vigil will be held on the Carleton campus today. Details of services in Westport are not yet available.

Goodgame’s mother, Marcia Logan, is communications director for the Westport Library. His father, Dan Goodgame, is a writer and journalist. Goodgame is survived by 2 older brothers, Sam and Clayton.

Michael Goodgame

Michael Goodgame