Category Archives: Sports

Pic Of The Day #605

Longshore’s Westport PAL rink is open — and skaters are flooding in (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Sami Triumphs With Her Team

Sami is 22 years old. Nonverbal and developmentally delayed, she lives with her family in Westport.

Her mom, Lori Leskin, heard about myTeamTriumph. That’s the program for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who otherwise could not participate in endurance events like triathlons and road races. Volunteers “ride along,” helping them compete in — and enjoy — those endeavors.

Last May, “06880” featured MTT in a story on STAR’s 5K Walk, Run & Stroll at Sherwood Island.

Lori wasn’t sure if Sami would like being in a race. But she gave it a try.

From the first moment, Sami loved it. She now gets very excited when she arrives at an event, and sees MTT’s red tents and racing chairs.

Sami Leskin, racing with myTeamTriumph in the Westport Triathlon …

“She loves hearing her name yelled out when she’s on the course, and then coming across the finish line,” notes Curtis Lueker, a Westporter and myTeamTriumph’s Connecticut chapter founder.

“She loves feeling included in the community. That’s what MTT is all about.”

Recently, Sami competed in the Westport Tri — her first triathlon. MyTeamTriumph pulled her in an inflatable boat, then pulled and pushed her through the bike/run.

… and finishing the water portion.

“It was an amazing day,” Curtis says. The highlight came when the team pushed her chair through the Compo Beach sand, crossing the finish line together.

Sami has become a celebrity around town. People know — and admire — her accomplishments, thanks in part to Facebook.

It’s a win-win-win: for Sami, her MTT team, and everyone cheering any race.

(To learn more about myTeamTriumph — including how to volunteer — click here.)

JJ Skutnik: A “Rising” Star

You may have seen the short film. People dance together behind a screen; their X-ray silhouettes are projected on it. When they emerge from behind, the audience sees who they really are.

The skeletons turn into human beings. Each group is unique. There are 2 women; 2 men with a baby; 2 little girls, one with Down syndrome; a Muslim and a Jew.

The video — first posted in 2015 — went viral. It’s been seen nearly 170 million times.

You may know that the film is part of a broader “Love Has No Labels” campaign. Another project includes “We Are America.” Professional wrestler/rapper/actor John Cena offers fascinating statistics about our country. Describing our numbers — by gender, race, religion, physical ability, age and sexual orientation — he notes, “Labels don’t devalue us. They help define us.”

That video has been viewed nearly 100 million times.

You may have seen last year’s video. Filmed at football’s Pro Bowl in Orlando, it turns the usual stadium Kiss Cam — focusing mostly on young, straight, white couples — on its head.

This Kiss Cam zeroes in on older couples of all ages. On same-sex couples. On a young kid with a developmental disability kissing his friend.

You may even know that all these videos are sponsored — pro bono — by the Ad Council. The goal is to fight “implicit bias” — the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our thoughts, actions and decisions, often subconsciously.

But what you probably don’t know is that a Staples graduate has been working with the Ad Council on these projects.

And that he played a huge role in the newest launch: a very impressive long-form video that asks, why does it take disaster to bring us all together?

JJ Skutnik

The Westport native is JJ Skutnik. A state champion volleyball player, he graduated in 2005. At James Madison University he majored in corporate communications (and played volleyball). He focused on the design aspect of marketing and film, and turned an internship at Story Worldwide in South Norwalk into a full-time job.

He moved on to R/GA, the international ad agency that produces the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” campaign.

Skutnik is particularly excited about “Rising.” Far longer than the other videos — nearly 10 minutes — and directed by David Nutter (“Game of Thrones”), it dramatically and emotionally shows that in times of great stress, labels don’t matter.

Skutnik’s role was lead producer. He worked with the high-end crew — all of whom donated their time — on the Warner Brothers’ Burbank, California set. He also helped with post-production, music scoring (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic), the website and launch.

The video launched earlier this month. Showtime features it on demand, and throughout the day. Clear Channel is promoting it with billboards; Google and Facebook have donated ad space. It too has gone viral.

“Rising” shows how people pull together during a flood. But, Skutnik notes, the same thing happens during other crises — like the current wildfires.

“We don’t need to drop our biases only during disasters,” he says. “We should do it all the time.”

Thanks to JJ Skutnik, R/GA and the Ad Council’s efforts, maybe we will.

Kids Dodge Cops

Over 100 Staples High School students spent 3 hours last night dodging the police.

It was hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the cops.

This group of dodgeball players was going for the win — and the Best Costume award. (Photo/Lily Williams)

The event was the annual “Dodge a Cop” dodgeball tournament. Organized by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group and the Westport Youth Commission, in collaboration with Westport’s Police Department — and held in the dodgeball-friendly fieldhouse — it raises scholarship funds for Chris Lemone’s children. The founder of TAG died 3 years ago, age 49.

Police chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) joined in the fun. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Twenty-four teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

Staples’ popular resource officer Ed Wooldridge (far left) also joined a team. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Despite an evening of hurling balls at each other, no arrests were reported.

Lefty Pendarakis (center) gathers his team (including a police officer, right) for pre-game strategy. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Hey, girls play dodgeball too! (Photo/Lily Williams)

It wasn’t easy dodging these cops. But it sure was fun. (Photo/Westport Police Department)

Remembering Brian Gordon

Brian Gordon — a beloved 1987 graduate of Staples High School, and since 2017 the 2nd selectman of Weston — died Sunday morning. His family was at his side.

After moving to Westport in 1983, Brian starred on the Staples basketball team. He was co-captain his senior year — while also serving as president of his senior class.

Brian majored in political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Once again, he was elected class president.

Brian Gordon

After graduating in 1991, Brian returned to his home town of Cincinnati to work in brand management at Procter & Gamble.

In 1994 he caught the entrepreneurial bug. Brian left the corporate world to co-found Beyond the Wall. The new media company provided access to hard-to-reach teen and college markets through iconic advertising, in the form of posters.

In 1999, BTW was acquired by Youthstream Media Networks.

The next year, Brian joined Markitecture as a partner. He worked with a variety of clients, developing and launching new products.

In 2005, Brian and 1986 Staples grad Patrick Moore started Soundview Research, a marketing consulting firm. Brian launched several new ventures including eBeanstalk, an e-commerce site providing developmental and learning toys.

Most recently, Brian helped launch EZ Massager, the next generation in topical pain relief.

In 2016, Brian was asked to run for 2nd selectman in Weston. A Democrat, he convinced Republican voters that he offered non-partisan, common sense solutions to town challenges. Brian firmly believed he could bring all constituents together for a common goal.

He was also active in Weston as a coach of his daughters’ basketball and soccer teams.

Last year in Weston, Brian Gordon (center), posed with his Penn classmate (and former Tennessee congressman) Harold Ford Jr. (right) and Brian’s former Staples High School basketball teammate Dave Sweedler.

Brian is survived by his wife Kristy, daughters Molly and Drew, sister Elizabeth of Rye, New York, and parents Ronald and Claire of Westport.

A memorial service for Brian will be held tomorrow (Wednesday, November 21, 12 noon) at Temple Israel in Westport.

They Are The Champions!

It’s very tough to win a high school state championship.

It’s even tougher to repeat.

But the Staples field hockey team did just that this afternoon. Coach Ian Tapsall’s girls decisively shut out Cheshire 2-0, to capture their 2nd consecutive class “L” (largest schools) crown. It’s the 3rd in the program’s history, following a co-championship in 2016.

State champs — again! The Staples High School field hockey team.

A couple of hours later, coach Barry Beattie’s girls soccer team fell 1-0 to Ridgefield, in the title match. It was the 2nd straight year that the 2 FCIAC schools met in the “LL” (largest schools) final — and the 2nd straight win for the Tigers.

Congratulations to both teams, for great runs.

And, of course, kudos to coach Laddie Lawrence’s boys cross country squad. Earlier this year they captured the “LL” title — their 3rd in a row. In 2015 and ’16, they were also state open champions.

Field Hockey, Soccer State Finals Moved To Sunday

The Staples field hockey and girls soccer teams have one more day to prepare for their state championship games.

Snow pushed the 2 finals back to Sunday.

The field hockey title contest versus Cheshire is now set for November 18, 12:30 p.m. at Wethersfield High School.

The girls soccer match is also Sunday, 3 p.m. at West Haven High School.

One thing hasn’t changed: Westport’s excitement and support as these 2 great teams go for the gold.

The Staples girls soccer team celebrates after beating Glastonbury in the state tournament semifinals.

The Staples High School field hockey team.

Remembering Dale Wehmhoff

The Town of Westport lost a hard worker, and the sports world lost an avid competitor, when Dale Wehmhoff died last week.

The 1979 Staples High School graduate was 57.

Dale’s family moved to Westport when he was 6 years old. He played basketball, baseball and ice hockey.

Dale Wehmhoff

The ice was his particular passion. He became an assistant coach at Staples at age 18. A few years later as head coach, he took Norwalk High to the state final. He later coached again at Staples, as well as with youth and junior teams.

Dale was an avid softball player too. He played on local teams, and traveled around the country to tournaments.

Dale spent 31 years with Westport’s Department of Public Works. He also managed his own landscaping business, employing many friends and high school students.

Dale’s father Ralph was well known in Westport. After his death, Dale took over his popular role as “Santa” in the holiday season. He spread warmth and happiness to less fortunate area residents.

Dale was especially proud of his children’s success. His daughter Kelcie is head cheerleading coach at Brien McMahon High School, and in youth sports. His son Kyle is assistant hockey coach for the Connecticut Junior Whalers.

In addition to his children, Dale is survived by his wife Cheryl Anderson; his mother Marlene of Westport; his sister Marilyn Gula of Delray Beach, Florida; his brother Wayne of Westport, and several nieces and nephews.

Calling hours are this Sunday (November 18, 2 to 6 p.m., Harding Funeral Home, Westport). Services take place on Monday (November 19, 11 a.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church).

In lieu of flowers, scholarship donations can be made to Kelcie or Kyle Wehmhoff, c/o Wells Fargo Advisors, 450 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.

 

Remembering Daryl Libow

Bruce Nemirow writes:

Staples High School lost one of its most prominent alums this week, with the passing of Daryl Libow (Class of 1977) at age 59 after a battle with cancer.

Daryl was captain of Staples’ tennis team. He was also a highly accomplished debater, which no doubt led to his success as a litigator. He headed the prestigious law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell’s Washington D.C. office, as managing partner.

After Staples, Daryl graduated from Harvard University, the London School of Economics, and Cornell Law School. .

Daryl Libow

Beyond the law and fighting for human rights wherever they were challenged, Daryl was an avid lover of jazz. He particularly appreciated its inspirational value for young people.

His love of jazz can be traced to Westport’s long-gone Players Tavern — where he saw his first live performances in the mid-1970s — along with constant visits to Sally’s Place with his dad, Sanford.

Daryl’s passion led to action. He served on the board of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and The Ellington Fund of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Daryl was a wonderful son, husband, father, brother, colleague and friend. He will be missed by all those whose lives he touched.

Remembering Jim Goodrich

Jim Goodrich was aptly named. He was one of Westport’s true good guys. And he led a rich, varied and very meaningful life.

Jim died last week, of cardiac arrest. He was being treated for acute myeloid leukemia, and had a bone marrow transplant from his daughter Lisa. He was 75 years old. 

Jim’s wife — native Westporter Luisa Francoeur — with his daughter Lisa Page and stepsons Ryley and Andrew McWilliams offer this loving remembrance.

Jim had a big heart which encompassed a wide variety of communities, and which embraced him in return. He is fondly remembered as someone who genuinely cared about others, and went out of his way to render assistance.  Sometimes this was to his detriment, as illustrated by an episode in Colorado when he enthusiastically helped push a stranger’s car out of the snow – only to tear loose his bicep and cut short his vacation.

After retiring from a career in business in and around New York City, Jim started a new career in the Westport schools. He began at Bedford Middle School. After several years he moved to Staples High School. For the next 15 years he was a beloved substitute teacher, mentor, coach, and sports super-fan.

One of the first communities he found for himself at Staples was as a volunteer coach of the wrestling team. He drew on his experience as a college wrestler at Ohio Wesleyan University (where he was never pinned until his last match!), and get down on the mat with students 50 years his junior.

Jim’s involvement in the Staples community was broad and deep. He served as coach of the sailing team, advisor to the Challenge Team and Barbecue Club, a firm but caring Advanced Placement test proctor, and organizer of fan buses and cheers for the boys’ soccer team.

Jim Goodrich loved the Staples boys soccer team — for which his 2 stepsons played. Long after they graduated, he was exhorting fans at Loeffler Field to cheer for the Wreckers.

Jim was born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating from OWU in 1965, and a stint in their admissions office, he served his country from 1966 to ‘69 as an Army lieutenant in the Canal Zone.

He rose from company commander (overseeing over 250 men) to operations and training, where he was responsible for 1,500 indirect reports at the battalion level. He executed his assignments with distinction, and was awarded the Army Commendation of Honor. Jim was a true officer and gentleman, and earned the love and respect of his troops.

His time in Panama opened Jim’s eyes to different ways of life in the world. He embraced the opportunity to spend time in Latin America and on the water, cementing lifelong passions for travel and boating.

Jim and Luisa took many trips together to locations near and far-flung. They sailed and powerboated, crisscrossing the Northeast with fellow Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club members. Jim’s love of sailing was so strong that as soon as he learned his daughter was pregnant with his first grandson, Jim bought a small catboat on which to teach him to sail.  In 7 years he’ll be big enough to enjoy it.

Jim’s love of life — and genuine joy in everyone he met — extended to one of his side gigs: marriage officiant for choice friends and loved ones. His preparation, insights and loving demeanor made the weddings he officiated special not only for the newlyweds, but all who attended.

Jim spent time every summer since 1951 on Cape Cod, in a cinderblock cottage built by his parents on land gifted to them by parishioners of his father’s church.  Every year his family made the trip north from New Jersey, passing through Westport. The views of the Saugatuck on that route called him to move here in 1975. Westport was his home ever since.

Jim Goodrich

In addition to his wife and stepsons, Jim is survived by his daughter Lisa Page and her husband William; grandson Nicolas, and Jim’s sister Beth Millikan.   Jim died after receiving a stem cell transplant from his daughter in a valiant effort to, as he put it, “extend a happy life.” Indeed it was, and will be so remembered.

A memorial service is set for the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport on December 1 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club, 6 Great Marsh Road.

Click here to leave condolences for the family. In lieu of flowers, donations in Jim’s memory may be made to Hudson River Community Sailing (P.O. Box 20677, New York, NY 10011; http://www.hudsonsailing.org); the Freedom of the Press Foundation (601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102; http://www.freedom.press), or Staples Tuition Grants (P.O. Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881; http://www.staplestuitiongrants.org).