Category Archives: Sports

Olympic Swimmer Hits The Y

Chad le Clos is a swimmer.

But not just any swimmer. The South African is an Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion. He’s ranked 1st in the world in the 50, 100 and 200 meter butterfly — and is the current world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meter butterfly

He heads soon to Windsor, Ontario for the FINA World Swimming Championships.

If he wins, he’s got the Westport Weston Family Y to thank.

For the past few days, he’s been training there. He has a connection with a Water Rat family, so the Wilton Road facility seemed a great fit.

Chad le Clos (in the water) with Westport Y Water Rat swimmers.

Chad le Clos (in the water) with Westport Y Water Rat swimmers.

This evening, he raced an exhibition 100 yard butterfly there.

Chad le Clos, on the Westport Y starting block.

Chad le Clos, on the Westport Y starting block.

Plenty of Water Rat swimmers, parents and alumni showed up to cheer him on.

Stop the presses: He won.

I'm no swim racing expert. But I'm sure that's a very, very good time.

I’m no swim racing expert. But I’m sure that’s a very, very good time.

Staples Crosses Country For National Title

Slowly, methodically, the Staples High School boys cross country team has won increasingly important championships.

Okay, not slowly. Very, very quickly.

First came the FCIAC (league) title. Then the state LL (extra large schools) crown. After that: the state open, New Englands, and a close 2nd place finish at the Northeast regionals.

Tomorrow the squad chases the biggest prize of all. The Wreckers are in Portland, Oregon, where they will run in the Nike Cross Nationals. The event brings together the top 2 teams from every region in the US.

Cross country is not a huge spectator sport. But it’s a great one.

If you’ve got time tomorrow (Saturday, December 3, 2:35 p.m.), you can enjoy a live webcast of the race. Just click here.

And don’t worry about spending a lot of time watching. The Staples cross country team will cover the course — as usual — very, very quickly.

Staples cross country captain and star runner Zak Ahmad wins another race.

Staples cross country captain and star Zak Ahmad wins another race.

Kids Dodge Cops At Staples

Across America, tensions are high between police and the communities they serve.

In Westport, cops and teenagers squared off tonight.

It was all in good fun — and for a good cause.

Westport Youth Commission member Colin Corneck sports a "Collaborative" t-shirt.

Westport Youth Commission member Colin Corneck sports a “Police and Youth Collaborative” t-shirt.

Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, Youth Commission, PAL and Westport Police Department sponsored the 5th annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament, in the high school fieldhouse.

A few hundred kids and a few dozen cops played dodgeball against — and with — each other. There had to be at least 1 officer on each team.

Cops and kids listen to instructions, before the massive tournament began.

Cops and kids listen to instructions, before the massive tournament began.

It was a great, bonding event. The money raised — from entry fees and food sales — went to the Chris Lemone Fund, in honor of the Staples outreach counselor who died last year.

It was a night to show off Westport’s finest.

And by that I mean: everyone who was there.

Police chief Foti Koskinas is flanked by dodgeball players Det. Sgt. Sereneti Dobson and Lt. Jillian Cabara. The referee (front) is Det. Sharon Russo.

Police chief Foti Koskinas is flanked by dodgeball players Det. Sgt. Sereneti Dobson and Lt. Jillian Cabara. The referee (front) is Det. Sharon Russo.

Stephen Rowland, Reid Rizack, Spencer Daniels and Max Zimmerman get ready to rumble.

Stephen Rowland, Reid Rizack, Spencer Daniels and Max Zimmerman get ready to rumble.

Dodgeball is not just for guys and cops!

Dodgeball is not just for guys and cops!

Police officers and everyone else: Watch out for Kenny Brill!

Police officers and everyone else: Watch out for Kenny Brill!

Everyone wants to know who's in the lead.

Youth Commission and TAG members keep score.

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Dylan’s Touchdown [UPDATE: Video Added]

Dylan Curran is a Staples High School freshman. Like many teenagers, he loves sports.

At the beginning of the school year — through the encouragement of quarterback Jake Thaw and his family — the special education student was invited to be the team’s assistant manager. He helped carry the med kit and water, and aided the coaches and team in countless ways.

Dylan had a wonderful time. He attended practices and games, wearing street clothes and a borrowed jersey.

Last night was different.

In the locker room before game time, the team helped Dylan get dressed in full football gear: pads, cleats, and of course a helmet.

Coach Drew Smith and Dylan Curran.

Coach Drew Smith and Dylan Curran.

He was thrilled. But there was more to come.

Dylan Curran (#29) and his teammates, before the game. (Photo/Greershotz.com)

Dylan Curran (#29) and his teammates, before the game. (Photo/Chris Greer)

Coach Drew Smith, fellow Staples freshman coaches Jared Smith, Ty Guarante and Chris Jerome — and their Greenwich High counterparts — arranged a special play.

On the Staples field — under the lights — Dylan scored a touchdown!

Dylan scores! (Photos/Greershotz.com)

Dylan scores! (Photo/Chris Greer)

The Wreckers ran over. They high-fived, hugged him, and chanted “Dylan! Dylan! Dylan!”

(Photo/Greershotz.com)

(Photo/Chris Greer)

Staples lost the football game, 34-13.

But they sure won the game of life.

Staples Wins Prestigious Athletic Cup

Most high schools across the country pay attention to some combination of academics, arts, athletics and activities. It’s tough to do all 4 well.

Staples High School is not “most high schools.”

All 4 of those “A’s” get equal attention, from administrators, staff, parents and (of course) students.

“06880” often highlights Staples’ academics, arts and activities. To the surprise of many, I steer clear of (most) athletics. There’s a good reason: sports gets plenty of newspaper and online coverage elsewhere.*

(Though here’s a plug for my boys soccer team. If you see them, congratulate them on a fantastic run during the state tournament. Those boys became men, and I am intensely proud of them.)

The Staples High School boys soccer team celebrates a state tournament victory in South Windsor. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)

The Staples High School boys soccer team celebrates a state tournament victory in South Windsor. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)

But here’s great news about Staples’ entire athletic program. For the 20th time since 1988, the school has received the Michaels Cup. It’s awarded by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for outstanding achievement in 7 areas: sportsmanship, participation, scholarship, personnel, equity, chemical-free initiatives and athletic success.

Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick — who compiled data upon which the Michaels Cup was awarded — says it highlights “not only our coaching staff, but the character education they develop with kids, win, lose or draw.”

block-s-officialHe cites the community service undertaken by many Staples teams. The football squad leads a school-wide breast cancer awareness campaign, for example; the boys soccer team works with the Farmers’ Market to shop, cook and serve meals at the Gillespie Center.

Lisevick also does leadership training with captains, including a conference at NYU.

“Our kids are successful athletically,” Lisevick notes. “But they’re also successful academically. They go above and beyond wins and losses. We try to develop people who will be successful later in whatever they do.”

Staples was honored last night, at a banquet in Southington.

This morning it’s back to work: on the athletic fields, in the classroom, and in all the activities that make up a full, well-rounded life.

One exception: Check out yesterday’s story on the Staples field hockey team. Go Wreckers!

Staples Field Hockey Goes For Gold

The Staples High School soccer and football teams get more publicity. More fans too.

But the Wrecker field hockey team is doing something on Saturday that those other squads are not this fall: playing for a state championship.

The 2016 Staples field hockey team.

The 2016 Staples field hockey team.

Quietly — but steadily, and with great talent and poise — coach Ian Tapsall’s girls have rolled to a phenomenal record. They’re undefeated (18-0-2-1) in regulation play. They’re confident, strong, tough, fit. And very, very good.

They put it all on the line against Darien on Saturday (10 a.m.) at Wethersfield High School. Sure, it’s a long way to go for 2 teams in near-neighboring towns.

But it will be worth it.

This is the Wreckers’ 1st field hockey state final since 1974. Back then, the coach was the legendary Jinny Parker.

Staples plays its home matches at Virginia Parker Field. And these girls know their history.

Before every game they look up, wave thank you and pay tribute to Parker — the founder of their program.

The Staples team waves to their founder, Jinny Parker.

The Staples team waves to their founder, Jinny Parker.

On Saturday — against the Darien Blue Wave — Jinny Parker may well be “waving” back.

Jinny Parker, during the 1974 season.

Jinny Parker, during the 1974 season.

 

A Veterans Day Football Celebration

Tonight, before Staples High School’s last home game of the season, the Wreckers will honor the 1975 state championship football team. It’s the only undefeated squad in the program’s history.

More than a dozen former players from that legendary team will return, from far and wide. They’ve done plenty since then, in a variety of places and ways.

But today is Veterans Day. So it’s an appropriate time to note the accomplishments of one team member.

Jeff Hill

Jeff Hill

Jeff Hill will be there in spirit only. He’s got a veterans’ event in Texas. As regional vice president of the USO, that’s his priority.

His military record is impressive. After graduating from Staples in 1978, Jeff served the Navy as a Special Operations deep-sea diver. He traveled the world as commanding officer of the USS Grasp.

With the USO, he designed and built over 50 USO locations around the country. He’s a co-creator of Warrior Games — the annual Paralympic event hosted for wounded, ill and injured warriors.

He also created Warrior Week/Patriotic Festival. It provides outdoor recreational activities for 600 wounded, ill and injured veterans, and major entertainment for over 100,000 civilians.

After Hurricane Katrina, he helped establish a USO mobile canteen program.

So it’s fitting that — in addition to honoring the ’75 champs tonight — the football community is collecting donations for the USO.

Staples’ opponent tonight is Darien. The Blue Wave is undefeated.

Inspired by the 1975 team, the Staples Wreckers will no doubt fight like warriors.

A classic photo of the 1975 football team, from the Staples yearbook.

A classic photo of the 1975 football team, from the Staples yearbook.

Fall Fisherman

Today was a day for your favorite fall pursuit.

Westporters went apple picking, hiking and biking. We raked leaves, carved pumpkins, cheered on the soccer sidelines and played touch football.

One guy went fishing, at Sherwood Mill Pond. Nico Eisenberger was there, to capture one small but wonderful slice of autumn.

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

Remembering Ernie Gazdik

Alert “06880” reader John Karrel writes:

“Ernie G”‘s eldest daughter, Michele Convertito, says, “He could always make you laugh.”

Until October 3, when he died at age 65. The Fairfield native was a truck driver for over 30 years.

I serve a monthly lunch at the Gillespie Center. No person there could brighten my day like Ernie G. After his family — notably his daughters Michele, Melissa and Maria — no passion was more important for him than his Yankees.

Ernest Gazdik

Ernest Gazdik

For years, he and I traded barbs about his Yanks and my Red Sox. Neither of us would win. There was always a twinkle in his eye.

Last time I saw him, some weeks ago, we had both mellowed. We complimented each other on our teams: my Sox headed for the post-seasons, his Yankees seeing a bright future with a host of young players.

Some day, when the 2 teams meet in the playoffs and Gary Sanchez’s walk-off home run propels the Yanks into the World Series, I will be sad. Then I’ll think of Ernie G’s beaming face, and I’ll smile.

And if his beloved Yanks do lose, Ernie G will still have been “one of the greatest men I have ever known,” in daughter Michele’s words.

That’s not bad.

(For Ernie Gazdik’s full obituary, click here. Donations in his name may be made to the Gillespie Center, 45 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.)

Surf’s Up!

The wind picked up today — and windsurfers kiteboarders headed to Compo.

Just another October 20 in Westport!

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