Category Archives: Sports

Glenn Hightower Memorial Set For Saturday

The life of Glenn Hightower — educator, civic volunteer and coach — will be celebrated this Saturday (January 21, 2 p.m.) at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

The longtime Westport resident died New Year’s Day, age 76. Throughout his life he was devoted to his wife Beverly, and his daughters Holly, Julie and Heather.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Glenn graduated from Mangum High School as valedictorian and class president. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, his master’s degree at Kansas State University and his Ph.D from the University of Iowa.

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn and Beverly moved to Westport in 1969. He spent over 30 years as principal of Bedford Middle and Junior Schools, serving briefly as interim assistant superintendent.

He led through times of both consolidation and expansion, including working on the design of the new Bedford school on North Avenue.

During 8 years as principal of Westport Continuing Education, he expanded programming and grew enrollment. Glenn was committed to music, the arts and technology. He created compassionate learning environments that valued students and enabled them to excel.

Glenn was an avid sportsman. In junior high and high school he captained varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. He played handball competitively, served on the Bridgeport YMCA Board of Directors, and enjoyed playing in recreational basketball leagues around Fairfield County.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn was often seen running throughout town. He competed in Westport Road Races, and completed 16 New York City marathons and 10 ultra marathons. Glenn was a competitor, but most of all he cherished lifelong friendships created along the way.

Actively involved in the Westport YMCA board of directors and Water Rats swim team, as well as the Staples High swim team, Glenn and Bev spent many days by the pool.

When his daughters played team sports, Glenn coached rec basketball. He helped grow Westport Little League softball, coaching for over 10 years. He later returned to a sport he loved, football, to coach middle school PAL football players.

Glenn served in the Rotary Club, and over many years dedicated himself to the United Methodist Church as a Sunday School teacher, lay leader and chair of the Administrative Council, among other activities.

Glenn was known for his warmth, kindness, generous spirit and devotion to his family. He held an unwavering belief in the power of public education and the importance of helping others. Glenn encouraged people to do their best, whether with their family, school, work, faith or on the ball field.

Glenn was predeceased by his wife Beverly. In addition to his daughters he is survived by 4 grandsons, and brothers Richard and Phillip and their families.

In honor of Glenn, the Hightower family encourages everyone to take time to talk with and truly listen to their children, look for the good in those around us, and strive to make a positive impact on our communities.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the United Methodist Church of Westport/Weston, 49 Weston Road, Westport, CT 06880; Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881, or Magnum High School Alumni Association (c/o Mary Jane Scott, 414 South Robinson Avenue, Mangum OK 73554).

Remembering Glenn Hightower

Glenn Hightower — a longtime Westport Public Schools administrator and community volunteer — died over New Year’s weekend. He was 76.

Glenn Hightower

Glenn Hightower

Hightower came from Oklahoma, as principal of Bedford Junior High School. In his several decades in the district, he also served as director of continuing education.

He spent an enormous amount of time in activities ranging from Little League softball to the United Methodist Church.

He and his wife Beverly — who died in 2015, at 72 — raised 3 daughters here: Holly, Julie and Heather.

A full obituary, and information on services, will follow soon.

A True Pro Leaves Longshore

It was a tiny moment. But it changed John Cooper’s life.

When he was 11 years old, dragged to a tag sale, he spotted some golf clubs, and a pot of used balls.

He bought them. But he had no idea how to play, so he got an instructional book.

Instantly, Cooper was hooked.

He hit 800 golf balls a day. He went out before school and after, to the Burr Farms Elementary School field (conveniently located behind his Blackberry Lane house). When it was dark or the weather was bad, he hit balls into a net in his parents’ garage.

A year later on Long Island, Cooper won his first tournament.

At 13 he attended Arnold Palmer’s golf camp — and met his idol. Cooper’s passion for the sport grew even stronger.

Though barely a teenager, he had 2 jobs. He washed dishes at the Inn at Longshore, and caddied on the adjacent golf course. Dave Reynolds — who lived in an old house next to the 2nd tee — helped Cooper learn the game.

The Longshore golf course -- where John Coopepr learned the game. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

The Longshore golf course — where John Coopepr learned to play. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

He became a 2-year captain of the Staples High School golf team — and an All-American. As a junior in 1975, he helped coach Joe Folino’s squad win the state championship.

Cooper earned a partial scholarship to the University of Tampa. He captained that team too, and roomed with Brian Claar. Cooper had convinced his fellow Stapleite to go there, instead of his original plan to ski at the University of Connecticut.

In 1986, Claar was named Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour.

Cooper turned pro in 1980. After 2 years on the mini-tour circuit — and the realization that he would not make a living as a player — he turned to his true golf passion: teaching.

He came back to Westport. From 1980-83 he served as assistant pro to the legendary George Buck. He then was an assistant at clubs elsewhere in Connecticut, and Florida.

Buck died in the summer of 1991. Cooper applied for the position, went through the interview process, was offered the job — but declined. He did not think he could make a living with the terms offered.

After negotiating a better contract, he signed. There were early glitches — he walked into a shell of a building with no golf carts and electrical problems — but the past 25 years have been wonderful.

Fore! John Cooper in action.

John Cooper in action.

Over 5,000 junior golfers have gone through Cooper’s program. One — Larry Tedesco — qualified for the US Open. Cooper gave Willard Scott a golf lesson at Longshore — televised live on “The Today Show.”

He was named the Northeast Teacher of the Year, and honored by the Sportsmen of Westport.

Along the way the pro has helped wounded soldiers learn golf, through Project HOPE. He’s also raised money for Folds of Honor (supporting families of injured and fallen soldiers), and the Bridgeport Rescue League. He also created a scholarship for Staples student-athletes on the boys and girls golf teams.

Cooper is very proud that just a few months ago he earned the PGA’s highest designation: Master Professional. The organization has asked him to mentor other teaching pros — including the head professional at TPC Sawgrass.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

But every course has its rough. While most of Cooper’s contracts were for 5 years, his most recent ran for only 2. This fall, the Parks and Recreation Department put out an RFP. Though he was notified on December 8 that the town wanted him to stay — and he very much wanted to — he felt there were “too many caveats” in the arrangement.

His rent runs to six figures. “I don’t think I could make a living, paying my 12 employees,” Cooper says.

For one thing, a bunker renovation project next spring will render a few holes unavailable until late June.

That — along with the fact that his income is always affected by weather and course conditions — caused him to reject the offer.

“I survived when the greens died a few years ago,” Cooper says. “I’m just getting out of debt now. I can’t risk taking that chance again.”

He’s leaving with nothing but fond feelings — and great memories — of his quarter century at Longshore.

The course closed December 11, so he could not thank golfers personally for all their support over the years. “I’ve made many close friends,” Cooper says. “I’ll truly miss everyone. I wouldn’t trade a thing for this 25-year journey.”

John Cooper and his sons.

John Cooper and his sons.

He also thanks his employees “who stood with me,” and the “wonderful people at the Parks and Rec Department. They were great to work with.”

But of all the fantastic things that happened at Longshore, the best was meeting his former wife. Together, they had 2 “wonderful” kids: Dobson, a Staples junior, and Shane, a freshman at Fairfield Country Day School.

Cooper looks forward to spending more time with them.

“Life is good,” Cooper says.

And how good is it that — several decades ago — he spotted that set of clubs and used golf balls at a tag sale that everyone else has long since forgotten?

 

 

Photo Challenge #103

No one slipped up on last week’s photo challenge.

It was an image of a huge pile of snow. We haven’t had a big snowstorm yet — but 16 alert “06880” readers knew it had been dumped nearby, by the Longshore PAL skating ring Zamboni.

Congratulations to Monika Lazaro, Michael Calise, Chris Swan, Marc Hartog, James Weisz, Tony Lantier (who better have known — he runs the rink!), Martin Gitlin, Shirlee Gordon, Leigh Gage, Marty Bell, Susan Schmidt, Andrew Colabella, Rich Stein, Carmine Picarello, Seth Braunstein, D. Jacobs and Linda Amos. (Click here for the photo and all comments.)

This week’s vaguely Christmas-y looking challenge comes courtesy of Mary Sikorski:

photo-challenge-december-18-2016

If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

PS: Happy Holidays, from the Photo Challenge!

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.