Category Archives: Sports

Chad: Challenger Baseball’s Shining Knight

Chad Knight has a sparkling resume.

Last week the Staples High School senior captained his baseball team to their 2nd state championship in 3 years. In 2013 Chad starred on the Westport squad that reached the finals of the Little League World Series.

He’s been drafted by the New York Yankees — but he’s heading first to Duke University. He’s also an excellent piano player.

Yet one of his many other recent honors — Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year — led to an especially fine moment.

As part of Gatorade’s Play It Forward Fund, Chad was given $1,000 to pass on to any national or local youth sports organization of his choice.

He chose Westport Little League’s Challenger Division. That’s the very successful program for boys and girls with disabilities.

Chad Knight (rear, center, white shirt) and Challenger commissioner Beth Cody (front, blue shirt) join Challenger players, buddies, and Staples baseball players today.

Chad’s generosity came from the heart. Throughout the years he has served as a “buddy” to the players. He always found time to help out. He loved the youngsters, and they adored him.

In appreciation of Chad’s gift, commissioner Beth Cody announced that Gatorade is the official drink of the Westport Winners challenger team. Today at Meyer Field, she presented Chad with a bottle with his name, number and the Westport Winners name.

Starting this fall, every Challenger player will get one too.

It was a quick, fun ceremony, before Westport took on Norwalk in their final game of the season.

Then Chad headed off to his next celebration: his own graduation party.

In 2014, Chad Knight (right) was a Challenger buddy with Dylan Curran. Dylan is now manager of the state champion Staples baseball team, and still plays with the Westport Winners.

Failure To Launch

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith loves many things about Westport. Kayaking is near the top of his list.

However, all is not ducky on the water. Read on…

Why is there a 3-year wait for a permit to store a kayak for the summer near a launch ramp in Westport?

That question came to mind when I stopped by the Parks & Rec office at Longshore to renew my annual handpass and beach sticker. They’re the tickets to many summer pleasures, and a big reason why Westport is such a great place to live.

I love getting out onto, and into, the water along our beaches, tidal creeks and river banks. For years I kept a small motor boat at Longshore.

Then I downshifted to a kayak, schlepping the big yellow sit-on atop my SUV to various ramps around town: Compo Beach, Longshore, the state launch on the Saugatuck under the I-95 bridge, and the Mill Pond, where I took the scenic route past the oyster shack, through the tunnel under the Sherwood Island Connector, and along the tidal creek to Burying Hill Beach.

The tidal creek at Burying Hill Beach. Scott Smith launched kayaks from here.

The past few seasons, following a car change and increasing age and laziness, I’ve been fortunate to keep my kayak for the summer at Longshore’s E.B. Strait Marina, courtesy of a neighbor’s slot, who liked taking his young daughter out on my old 2-seater.

It’s an easy put-in for a saunter up Gray’s Creek, a jaunt out to Cockenoe, or a venture around Longshore Sailing School to the Saugatuck River. For years I’ve harvested golf balls shanked from the practice range, free for the picking at slack tide.

Fun fact: There are nearly as many enthusiasts of paddle sports – kayaks, canoes, paddleboards – as golfers (around 25 million in the US, depending on which trade group does the counting). Tennis trails both pursuits by quite a bit.

There’s no lack of supply for Westport’s golfers or tennis players. That’s great, and I’m among them. But 3 years to wait for a spot to stash your kayak for the summer?

A kayaker at sunset, between Compo Beach and Owenoke. (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

I’d like to know why the town has not figured out how to accommodate such an expressed demand for an increasingly popular, and very low impact, recreational pastime. Believe me, I’m still kicking myself for telling my neighbor I’d try to get the permit in my name this year.

I can see how adding parking spots for the train station lots, or boat slips at the marina piers, could come up against hard logistical limits. But how difficult would it be to add a few more wooden trestles to the existing lots at Compo Beach or Longshore?

Better yet, I suggest the town consider adding storage spaces and launch sites around town, for residents to use and help fund. I can think of several spots, including Compo Beach marina near the boat ramp and facilities, and Burying Hill Beach, which also has facilities and ample parking along New Creek (and which is chronically overlooked as a town asset).

Compo Beach has kayak racks near South Beach. Scott Smith would like more. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

A great new place to launch from would be the lower parking lot at Longshore, which occupies precious frontage on the Saugatuck River and is now mostly used to accommodate wedding-goers at the Inn. Pilings from an old pier remain along the shore; it wouldn’t take much to repurpose a part of the lot as a put-in for paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks, with some seasonal storage.

It may require coordination with the state, but as the striving crews of the Saugatuck Rowing Club and the enterprising folks at Downunder can attest, the river is prime territory for today’s waterborne pursuits (at least when the tide’s right).

The town should bolster access to the Saugatuck for recreational fun. I’m pleased to see that the small park on Riverside Avenue near the VFW has been spruced up, though parking remains an issue. That pocket park could, with the Town’s support, be another fun new spot from which to explore a pretty stretch of the river.

Scott Smith suggests the small park on Riverside Avenue as another kayak launch site.

Excuse the rant. But once you’ve enjoyed the views and sport of Westport from the water’s edge, you want more.

And I don’t see why taxpaying town residents should have to wait 3 years to have reasonable access to it.

I asked Westport’s Parks and Recreation Department for a comment. They replied:

As the kayak facility is a popular and relatively inexpensive activity, demand exceeds supply. Therefore, there’s a wait list. It ranges between 1 and 3 years, depending on activity and turnover rate. Last year, 57 kayak positions turned over.

Short of building more racks (which we did about 8 years ago), the trend will continue with a 1 to 3-year wait. We currently have 58 on the wait list for the 192 kayak positions at Compo and 30 at Longshore.

Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh added:

We are putting together a site plan for Longshore, and will look to add kayak spaces there. We can also see if there is a more efficient way to design and stack kayaks at Compo.

I believe that we understand the problem. Unfortunately there is not a solution for this summer. In a way it is a good problem: more demand than supply. We will get on it.

(Has Scott Smith’s story got you intrigued about kayaks? You can rent them at Longshore Sailing School, and Downunder on Riverside Avenue.)

We Are The Champions. And The Champions, Champions, Champions, Champions, Champions, Champions.

I don’t normally post “lineup” photos: people in a row, smiling at the camera.

And I hate running pictures where the heads are so small you can hardly see who’s who.

But it’s not every day a school has 7 state championship teams in one year.

So — in honor of today’s Town Hall reception for Staples High School’s field hockey, boys cross country, boys squash, boys tennis, girls tennis, boys volleyball, and baseball teams: Here you go!

(Photo/Chris Greer)

Sorry — I did not get left-to-right IDs for everyone.

Westport Women SurviveOARS

The Saugatuck Rowing Club is justifiably proud of its championship teams.

Boats of all ages and with both genders have won countless medals, and earned national renown. Just the other day, the varsity girls 8+ captured an unprecedented 5th national title.

The Saugatuck SurviveOARS may never be US champions. But they are most definitely, absolutely positively, winners.

You can’t call women battling breast cancer — who get up early in the morning, train on the erg machine and the water, then go about their daily lives (including grueling treatment) — anything but champions.

The story began in January 2018. Mary Heery, a specialist at Norwalk Hospital’s Smilow Family Breast Health Center, is a huge advocate of fitness and exercise to help women deal physically and emotionally with the disease.

Knowing of Saugatuck Rowing’s many programs and community dedication. she called then-director of rowing Sharon Kriz.

“We pride ourselves on being able to teach anyone to row,” says Diana Kuen, who among many other professional and volunteer jobs is an SRC coach.

Club owner Howard Winklevoss was all in. Kriz asked Kuen to run the program.

Word spread quickly. But when 15 or so women walked through the door the next month, no one — not club officials or the novice rowers themselves — knew what to expect.

“Their bodies had been through a lot,” Kuen notes. “So we started on the erg (rowing) machine indoors. We wanted to build their confidence before they went on the water.”

They worked out on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. More women joined. They added Saturday sessions.

The breast cancer survivors formed very tight bonds.

One day in the boathouse, master rower Kit Huber noticed them. She offered to help. At the next practice, world-class rower Susan Schmidt joined in. Dawn Watson joined them. Soon, a strong corps of experienced club members was involved.

“That made the program even more special,” says Kuen. “All of those people were giving back, sharing their wisdom.”

Saugatuck Rowing club is “always a happy plays,” Kuen adds. “This program made it even happier.”

By mid-May, the women were ready for the water. They felt empowered and strong.

Diana Kuen watches her rowers with pride. (Photo/John Mongeau for CT NBC)

The 6:30 a.m. start did not bother them. They were no longer breast cancer patients. They were rowers!

Every team needs a name, of course. Someone came up with the perfect one: Saugatuck SurviveOARS. That says it all.

“Cancer took something away from them,” Kuen says with admiration. “We gave something back.”

She notes, “Breast cancer can show up anywhere. Any woman is one mammogram away. If it hits me, I pray I have a community like this to support me.”

The SurviveOARS are a very tight-knit group. (Photo/Greg Cork)

The SurviveOARS program empowered Asante Robinson to push her “physical and cerebral limits in a way no other sport has. The 3-year triple negative survivor is extremely grateful for both the opportunity to row, and the bonds she’s built.

Another woman joined as a survivor, then was re-diagnosed with breast cancer while rowing. Fortunately, Kuen says, she had the SRC community for support — and exercise to help her through.

The program continued this year, with a new goal: to compete in a regatta.

In early June, they did. Row for the Cure sponsors fundraisers around the country for the Susan G. Komen fund. This one was in Poughkeepsie.

Many of the racers are friends and relatives of women who had breast cancer. Some just want to help.

The SurviveOARS were the only boat filled — stem to stern — with survivors.

The SurviveOARS are all smiles in Poughkeepsie. (Photo/Michael Bauer)

The large crowd was appreciative. As word spread, a cheer went up: “SurviveOARS!”

Other rowing clubs love the idea. Kuen and her colleagues are glad to help start similar programs elsewhere.

As for the Saugatuck SurviveOARS: There’s more to come. They’re being incorporated as a 501(c)(3).

And Kuen wants to buy the women their own boat.

A pink one.

(Kuen gives kudos to the master rower volunteers: Patrice Foudy, Kit Huber, Chris Howard, Camilla Klein, Barbara Nash, Caryn Purcell, Carol Randel, Allison Reilly, Karen Salsarula, Dan Schley, Susan Schmidt, Page Seyfried, Tonya Steiner, Liz Turner, Dawn Watson and Kari Williams.)

Bonus photo: The Saugatuck Rowing Club national champion varsity girls 8+ team.

Staples Grad Turns Chess Rookies Into Kings And Queens

Earlier this year, Marian Edmonds — a teacher at Price Middle School in Atlanta — won a district-wide award. Her prize: She could attend any educational conference she wanted.

Instead, she used her prize money to bring 5 students to the US Chess Federation’s National Junior High Championship in Grapevine, Texas.

They’d been playing less than 2 years. But that was enough time for Edmonds — the former Marian Warshafsky, a 1978 Staples High School graduate — to introduce them to the game.

And to inspire, motivate, and coach them well enough to compete at a national level.

Marian Edmonds, and her Price Middle School chess team.

It all began in the fall of 2017. Edmonds — on cafeteria duty — had a chessboard. Several kids seemed interested. She taught them the basics.

They told their friends. Soon, Price had a chess team.

Chess offers many benefits, Edmonds says, like critical thinking skills, improved confidence and concentration, and the life lesson that every move you make has consequences.

“Chess makes us all equal,” Edmonds told the Atlanta public schools’ website. “All you need is the opportunity and the motivation.”

She sure gave them that. This past April, her team placed 6th in the state tournament.

Marian Edmonds with one proud Price chess player …

Then came Texas. The selection process for the 5 players included writing an essay about the game’s impact on their lives.

Chess “made me a better person,” Cierra Patton wrote. She said she now feels “like I’m a knight.”

The national tournament was the big leagues. Most of the Price kids’ competitors had been playing for years — some with professional coaches.

“Our students had to learn how to simply play a board game: how to compete, take turns, manage frustration, lose gracefully, and persist through losses,” Edmonds said.

“Yet here we were, at the same competition, facing those same chessboards.”

Like any great coach, Edmonds inspired her team.

“That kid wouldn’t last a single day at Price Middle School,” she’d say. “You’ve GOT this!”

They sure did. Her team finished 16th overall — and Aquantis Clemmons took 5th place individually.

One of Marian Edmonds’ chess players exudes confidence at the national tournament. (Photos courtesy of Purpose Built Schools Atlanta)

That was exciting. Unfortunately, the team was not at the awards ceremony. Their flight home had been booked for the same time.

No matter. Tournament officials were so thrilled at the Price youngsters’ performance, they delivered the trophies to them at the gate.

“Victoriously, the Price chess team boarded their plane with trophies in hand,” the Atlanta schools’ website reported.

“Their fellow passengers cheered them on. Aquantis, Keylon, Corey, Montayo and Cierra beamed from ear to ear.”

(For the full story on Edmonds and her chess team, click here. Hat tip: Laurie Woog.)

Strike Up Another State Title For Staples!

The state baseball title is back in Westport.

For the 2nd time in 3 years, Staples won the class LL (extra large schools) title. The Wreckers shut out Southington today 3-0, in Middletown.

Staples pitcher Chad Knight — already drafted by the New York Yankees — was his usual commanding self. He struck out 10 Blue Devils, and gave up just 3 hits, in a commanding, complete game performance.

Pitcher Chad Knight celebrates the final out … (Photo copyright by Chris Greer)

Knight and 3 teammates — Harry Azadian, Drew Rogers and Charlie Roof — are no strangers to success. In 2013 they were part of the Westport team that reached the finals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Two years ago — as sophomores — they starred on the Wreckers’ state champion team.

… and is quickly joined by his teammates. (Photo copyright by Chris Greer)

Today was the last time the longtime friends played together. How wonderful for them — and their teammates, head coach Jack McFarland and his staff, and the town of Westport — that they went out on top.

And — as they’ve done for the past 6 years — they did it again today with class, poise, and plenty of smiles.

The state champion Staples baseball team. The scoreboard behind them tells the story. (Photo copyright by Chris Greer)

Hail To The (State) Champions!

It’s tough to win a state championship.

It’s even tougher to repeat.

After going 26-0, and winning both the FCIAC and state class L (large schools) boys volleyball championship last spring, everyone was gunning to take down Staples.

Their route to back-to-back titles was complicated when head coach Dan Cho — who lived and worked far upstate — resigned.

Of course — this being high school sports — the Wreckers also had to replace graduating seniors. There were 9.

But new coach John Sedlock — and the new squad was up to the task.

Last night at Shelton High School, the Wreckers faced longtime rival Darien. The Blue Wave had beaten them twice this year — including the FCIAC finals.

This time, the Westporters got revenge. It took them 5 long, nail-biting sets. But — once again — Staples is state champs.

Staples’ state champion boys volleyball team … (Photo/Gayle Gabor and Tom Carstens)

That’s not all.

Coach Paco Fabian’s girls tennis team completed a perfect 24-0 season with a 5-2 win over Wilton, to earn the class L state title. Alyssa DiMaio went on to become the first Staples girls player to win the state open singles  crown.

The Wreckers are a very young squad, so the future looks bright indeed.

… and the state champion girls tennis team …

That’s not all.

Coach Kris Hrisovulos’ boys tennis team won the state championship too — for a remarkable 4th consecutive year. Robbie Daus and Tighe Brunetti then captured the state open doubles title.

… and boys tennis, also state champs.

That’s not all.

Senior Chet Ellis set a boys outdoor track state open meet record with a phenomenal high jump: 7 feet, 1/2 inch. Obviously, that’s a Wrecker record too.

That’s not all.

There’s a chance for one more state championship this spring at Staples. Tomorrow (Saturday, June 8, 12 p.m., Palmer Field, Middletown), the Wreckers plays Southington for the LL (extra large schools) baseball crown.

Chad Knight, meanwhile, was just picked — by the New York Yankees — in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. You won’t see him in pinstripes any time soon, though: The Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year will continue his baseball career this fall at Duke University.

Congratulations, guys and girls! There’s only one thing left to say:

Remembering Dan Long

Dan Long — noted artist, beloved diving coach, civic volunteer and longtime Westporter — died last month, while on vacation in Italy with his wife Priscilla.

They celebrated their 45th anniversary last summer. Dan would have been 71 years old on June 10. His daughter Kerry, and son-in-law David Roth, are co-directors of Staples Players.

Dan and Priscilla Long (Photo/Kerry Long)

Priscilla shares these remembrances of Dan, with his many friends and fans.

Dan Long was a good Midwestern guy. He was born on June 10, 1948, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Son of a talented well-known regional landscape and portrait artist, Dan was exposed to art early in life. He also spent much time in the woods with his dad and brother Steve, learning to use their rifles and hunt food for dinner. It was a typical 1950’s way of life in Michigan.

Dan was a great swimmer. He took advantage of his small physique and started diving for his high school swim team. He was an amazing, fearless diver who was elected to the all-state team during his senior year at Ottawa Hills High School. He was the undefeated city diving champion. Dan loved Coach Collins.

Dan couldn’t afford a 4-year university, so after graduation in 1966 he went to the local junior college. He transferred to the University of Michigan for the remainder of his college career, and graduated with a BS in design in 1972.

A few days after graduation, Dan packed up his 1965 Fiat and drove east to New Haven. An ad firm there had offered him a job, based on a class project Dan had completed for Olin Skis. So began his 30-year career as adman (creative director).

Dan Long (Photo/Kerry Long)

Dan’s work spanned many agencies including NW Ayer, BBDO, Backer and Spielvogel, Lintas and Grey. He traveled the world creating award-winning TV commercials for the US Army, Lowenbrau, Miller Beer, Dodge, GE, Diet Coke, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Campbell Soup, Starburst candy, Hasbro Toys and many others.

Although Dan was working and traveling during all those years, he still found time to draw and paint – often winning awards at the shows he entered.

This all ended abruptly in 2001 – and that is when Dan ‘s life really began.

He managed to create his own business and secure a lucrative account so that the bills could get paid and food was on the table. But he also took a giant leap of faith in 2003, when someone he met at a party in Fairfield learned he had been a diver, and said that Fairfield Ludlowe and Warde High Schools needed a coach.

Remembering how much he loved Coach Collins, as well as how much he loved flying through the air diving, he jumped in. He started coaching for Fairfield immediately, both girls and boys.

The following year he added the University of Bridgeport, plus a summer club or two. He was hooked. And what a coach he was!

A couple of years later, he added Staples High School to his plate. For many years he coached all 3 boys and girls  high school teams – even though they were competitors.

Dan Long, with 3 Staples High School divers.

It was his glory. He thrived, and the kids did as well. There is no question that coaching was what Dan was born to do. He cared about the whole kid: Not just their dives, but what was going on in their lives – their families, their hopes and dreams. He connected with kids on so many levels. It was wonderful to watch.

Aside from coaching and advertising, Dan dove headfirst into his art. He joined Rowayton Art Center, the Carriage Barn in New Canaan, and most recently the Artists’ Collective of Westport. He often won awards for his intricate drawings of old, gnarly trees (which he drew to come to terms with his own aging).

“Strangled Web,” by Dan Long

Dan also was an active member of Saugatuck Congregational Church. He served as a deacon for nearly 8 years. Most recently, he was vice moderator.

Dan was a good, kind Midwestern guy, with a great twinkle in his blue eyes. He loved beauty, nature, and most of all his family. His granddaughter Lucy was his heart.

(A memorial service for Dan Long is set for Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m. at Greens Farms Congregational Church. A reception will follow directly afterward, at Saugatuck Congregational Church. His art will be on display there.

(In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Saugatuck Congregational Church for Missions Work, 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880, or Staples Tuition Grants in memory of Dan Long, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)


Fellow Arts Collective member Miggs Burroughs adds:

I am proud to call myself one of Dan Long’s newest best friends. I met him only 7 or 8 years ago, but he had a great knack for making everyone he liked feel like family.

He created amazing pen and ink drawings of trees in crazy minute detail,  perhaps because he himself was a mighty oak of a man. Not necessarily a “towering” oak, (forgive me Dan), but a mighty one to be sure.

Sturdy and robust, he stood tall against so many of life’s challenges. Oak trees are not meant to disappear overnight. It is still so hard to believe that this man of such considerable talent, loyalty and kindness has left us.

His roots ran deep in the community, through his family, his church, the diving  team, and the Artists Collective of Westport, which cherished his dedication to the group (and his devilish sense of humor). We are all heartbroken.

Pics Of The Day #777

Cedar Point Yacht Club’s OneDesign Regattas have gotten so big, there are now 2 of them.

The first of Westport’s big summer sailboat races was held this past weekend. The second event — for smaller boats — is set for late September.

CPYC hosted 450 sailors. They were supported by 100 volunteers.

Cedar Point Yacht Club was organized 132 years ago, in 1887. In 2019, it’s still going strong. It was just named US Sailing’s OneDesign Club of the Year.

Here’s some of this past weekend’s action.

(Photo copyright Stephen R. Cloutier)

(Photo copyright Stephen R. Cloutier)

Aerial view of Cedar Point Yacht Club (Photo copyright Stephen R. Cloutier)

Pic Of The Day #771

After the Memorial Day parade, Little Leaguers own Main Street. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)