Category Archives: Sports

The World’s Greatest Snow Day Announcement. Ever.

Nearly every school district in Fairfield County is closed today, because of an impending snow and ice storm.

Most of them announced it last night, the old-fashioned way: via Twitter.

Greens Farms Academy took it one — okay, many — steps further.

Bob Whelan — the popular, fun-loving and very involved head of school — posted a video.

But not just any video. This one stars himself — and Westport’s own Mike Greenberg, host of ESPN’s “Get Up!” morning show.

Plus famous athletes Domonique Foxworth, Marcus Spears and Jalen Rose.

Trust me: This is the most entertaining 3 minutes you’ll see all day week month year.

Sure, it costs a lot of money to go to Greens Farms Academy.

But this video is priceless.

(Hat tips: Michelle Levi, Tom and Stacey Henske)

Cedar Point Sails To National Honors

What do 8 regattas, a bagpiper, live bands, a lip-sync competition, cornhole tournament, blender party and lobster clambake have in common?

They were all part of last year’s Cedar Point Yacht Club festivities.

And all helped earn the Saugatuck Shores organization the 2018 National One-Design Award from US Sailing. The sport’s national governing body honored CPYC in Jacksonville, Florida last month for advancing sailing in this area — thanks in part to efforts like those.

Bob Karpel — commodore of the 132-year-old club — accepted the award.

Cedar Point Yacht Club sunset. (Photo/William Adler)

US Sailing cited specifically Cedar Point’s success in growing its fleet, and  hosting regattas that draw sailors from around the nation. Last year those included a multi-class one-design race with 560 sailors, the 66-boat Thistle Nationals, and Connecticut Olympics.

The club also supports youth sailing, with events like the 142-boat JSA of Long Island Sound Race  Week, and a 78-boat Opti area championship.

This summer, CPYC will host the Atlantic National Championships. In 2020: the Flying Scot Nationals.

Congrats to all. May the wind be always at your back!

Action from last year’s Cedar Point Yacht Club races.

 

Staples Squashes Foes; Wins US Title

Squash is Staples High’s newest interscholastic sport.

It’s also the school’s newest national champion.

The Wreckers — seeded #2 — beat three teams this weekend, to capture the Division 8 HEAD US High School Team Squash Championship. The event drew 207 boys and girls teams from around the nation to Connecticut. There were 8 boys divisions, in what US Squash calls the biggest event in the country.

The Westporters defeated Calvert Hall 6-1 and St. Joseph’s 7-0 to reach the finals, at Trinity College in Hartford. The championship match against Loyola was tight — but the blue-and-whites prevailed, 4-3.

During the winter season, Staples competes in the Fairwest league — the largest public school league in the US. The Wreckers qualified for nationals by going unbeaten in the league’s Division II. They defeated New Canaan, Briarcliff, Greenwich, Fairfield, Bronxville and Darien.

Staples’ home court is Intensity in Norwalk. The coaches are Eddie O’Rourke and Zac Alexander.

The future looks bright. All 7 players on the national championship squad return next year. Congratulations to juniors Tyler Edwards (captain) and Spencer Carey, sophomores Quinn McMahon and Patrick Looby, and freshmen Isaac Bunan, Eli Shorrock and Devon Saunders.

Henry Wynne Won!

On Friday, “06880” previewed Henry Wynne’s attempt to break the world 4×1 mile relay. The former Staples High School and University of Virginia track star now runs for the  professional Brooks Beast track club.

The race was yesterday, in New York. Many Westporters were on hand to watch Wynne and his teammates not only beat, but absolutely demolish, the world mark. Peter Gambaccini — also a former Wrecker runner, now a noted track journalist — reports:

Westporter Henry Wynne and 3 Brooks Beast track club teammates traveled 3,000 miles and fulfilled their mission by shattering the world record for the 4×1 mile relay by almost 9 seconds on Saturday, clocking a 16:03.68 at the Dr. Norbert Sander Invitational at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York. The quartet broke the old record of 16:12.81 set 2 years ago by the Hoka One One NJ/NY Track Club.

“Winning this race and not getting the record wouldn’t have meant nearly as much,” said Wynne, who established a Connecticut high school mark of 4:05.04 for the mile while at Staples, and has since gotten down to 3:55.23 as a pro with the Seattle-based Brooks team. Wynne ran a 4:02 for the second leg of the relay and gave the Beasts a slight lead in what remained a tight race with the Hoka foursome, before anchorman Izaic Yorks pulled away to give his team a victory by more than 12 seconds.

An extremely animated Wynne bounced up and down on the track, shouting and gesticulating with his arms as he exhorted his last two teammates through  the efforts that gave Brooks the triumph and a world best time. At the end, there were plenty of hugs. Brooks Beast coach Danny Mackey’s observation that “Henry’s a team guy” seemed like an understatement.

Henry Wynne and his father, after the race. (Photo/Jeff Mitchel)

“This is just a starting point for what we want to accomplish,” said Wynne. Indeed, he and his 3 relay partners have all broken 4:00 for the mile, and Mackey had declared before the race that the foursome might go under 16:00. With the confidence Saturday’s race brings, that could well be achieved if the team returns to the Armory in 2020.

Wynne, who had a sizable and demonstrative personal cheering section on Saturday, attended the University of Virginia after his Staples years and was the NCAA Indoor mile champion in 2016. In his senior year, his athletic life was undone by a bout of pneumonia and knee surgery.

Mackey couldn’t really know what Wynne’s post-surgery prognosis would be, but was drawn to his personality and believed he’d be “a good fit” for the Brooks Beasts. “He gets the details. Right away, he bought into everyone on the team.”

In 2018, Wynne set career bests for 800 and 5000 meters and the mile. “I owe him a debt of gratitude,” he said of Mackey. “He believed in me when a lot of others didn’t.”

Healthy and again making progress, Henry Wynne can continue paying that debt with his next race: an individual mile at the University of Washington in Seattle in 2 weeks.

Will Henry Wynne?

Henry Wynne is at it again.

The 2013 Staples High graduate — the greatest male runner in school history, who set a state scholastic record in the mile (4:05.04), then starred at the University of Virginia, and has since roared to a personal best 3:55.23 — aims for a world record tomorrow.

Wynne is now based in Seattle. He runs professionally for Brooks Beasts. He and 3 teammates will compete in the Dr. Norbert Sander Invitational at the New York Armory. Their goal: beating the 16:12.81 time for the 4 x 1 mile relay.

Henry Wynne (Photo/Paul Merca)

That record was set 2 years ago by the Hoka One One NJ/NY Track Club. They’ll run at the Armory too.

All 4 of the Beasts have sub-4 minute mile times.

Tomorrow’s race begins at 1:46 p.m. It will be televised on NBC Gold.

(Hat tip: Peter Gambaccini)

Special Resources, For Special Kids

For many Westport parents, kids’ activities — sports, arts, organizations, lessons, you name it — are easy to access. And there are gazillions of them.

For parents with special needs children, it’s not as easy. There are many excellent programs, but they can be hard to find.

And even though the PTAs’ SpED (Special Education) committee spreads the word through an info-filled weekly email — including options outside of school, and resources for parents too — plenty of Westporters don’t even know they can join that list.

Some of the programs — here and in nearby towns — are inclusive. Others are adapted, making them attainable to those who did not think they could participate.

So how can parents learn what’s out there?

Westporter Johanna Kiev has compiled a massive database of material. She’s shared it with “06880” — which is honored to offer it to our readers.

(Johanna has also developed a Facebook resource page — click here to see it).

Thanks, Johanna. And everyone: Feel free to forward this far and wide!

About the Westport SpED Committee

Westport SpED PTA committee representatives work closely with each school’s administration, and the district’s assistant superintendent of pupil services. They meet monthly. Co-chairs are Julie McMahon and Kate Grijns.

Members are parents of children who receive special education services. The committee hosts social events and shares information, such as:

  • Sip ’N Chat – informal parent coffees held monthly at Panera Bread
  • Community Fun Day each November
  • Teen Nights at the Westport Weston Family Y
  • Parent education seminars on topics like “Navigating Your IEP” and “Assistive Technology”
  • Weekly emails with information about local events and activities, plus summer opportunities and post-high school transition options

The committee also works with local agencies like the Parks & Recreation Department and Westport Library, for advocacy and programming.

To be added to the PTA SpED mailing list — or if you would like to add information about a program not listed below, or are a business that can help — email westportspedpta@gmail.com.

Programming Options for Children with Special Needs:

The Westport Weston Family Y sponsors:

Swim Team: The program includes participation in Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $100 (September-June)

Basketball: Junior Team (8 -12 years): Saturdays 8:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Senior Team (13+ years): Saturdays 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
This program includes participation in the CT Unified Sports tournament. Fee: $65 (September-February)

Track & Field: This program includes participation in the Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $45 (March-June)

Floor Hockey: This began for the first time last month. Fee: $45 (December-March)

Smiles all around on the Y’s Special Olympics swim team.

Special Needs Swim Lessons: The Y offers private and semi-private swim lessons at a greatly reduced rate for children with special needs. Lessons can be booked at any time, but because the pool can get noisy and distracting, instructors are also available during quieter hours (evenings, Fridays, early Saturday and Sunday morning). Rates: Private 30-minute lesson, $25; 2-person 30-minute lesson, $15 each.

Long Distance Running: This program is for children who are interested in completing a 5k (combination of walking and running). Practice times: Tuesdays, 4-4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.

SPED Teen Fun Nights: Offered on various dates.

For more information or to register for any Westport Weston YMCA special needs activity, click here or call 203-226-8981

Earthplace

Earthplace provides necessary resources to allow children to access and enjoy all programming. For more information or to register, click here or call 203-557-4400.

MusicWorks! Individual Music Therapy Sessions for Children with Special Needs

MusicWorks! (Westport School of Music, 18 Woods Grove Road) sessions employ structured and improvised musical activities including singing, instrument playing, rhythm and movement, songwriting, listening, imaging and relaxation to meet individual needs. Activities are specifically designed for cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical and social concerns. They are facilitated by board-certified music therapist Patricia Ashford, who encourages children and adults to express themselves without judgment and to grow in creativity and self-confidence.

For more information or to register, call director Sarah Miller: 203-227-4931.

Music Works! is specially designed for children with special needs.

“Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen”: 

Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen” builds the communication skills of people with special needs through the motivating element of food. Each participant in the cooking class prepares a new recipe each week. The fall/winter program includes pumpkin muffins, apple berry salsa with cinnamon chips, garlic and lemon butternut squash noodles, and apple stir fry with whipped cream. Dietary needs can be accommodated.

Classes are taught by licensed speech and language pathologist Shari Goldstein, and Penney Parkes, a food technologist and mom of a special needs young adult.

Classes are held in Fairfield on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They can be held at home kitchens if parents form a group of youngsters to cook together. There are classes for elementary, middle and high school students. A preschool class could be organized too.

For more information or to sign up, email Shari@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com or Penney@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com

The Drew Friedman Foundation: New Arts Program for Kids

The Foundation introduces a pilot youth arts program for children with special needs this month in Westport. The hands-on program, conducted by local artists, includes 10 to 15 children around ages 8 to 16 to work on a mosaic-type project.

For more information, email michellevitulich@gmail.com or call 203-349-0455.

Inclusive Ice Skating : Ages 5 – 13

Saturdays, 11am to 11:45am (through February 9) at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore.

Individual and group instruction in basic skills is offered at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore. Parents are encouraged to skate with their children. The program runs Saturdays through February 9 (11 to 11:45 a.m.). To register, click here.

Little League Baseball – Challenger Program

This program pairs young volunteers with children with special needs. Details on the spring season will be available soon; click here.

Hillary Lipper shares a laugh with Coach Scott, during the 2013 Challenger season.

Circle of Friends

Norwalk-based Circle of Friends includes many Westporters. The organization matches special needs children with teenage volunteers for play dates. The group also organizes monthly gatherings for youngsters with special needs. For more information, click here.

The Jewish Community Center of Stamford

The JCC  offers winter programs designed to improve children’s social skills and build positive peer interactions:

  • Music, Movement & Yoga – fun and interactive for all ability levels.
  • Music Mania – provides opportunities for children to explore their creativity, using music to improve skills.
  • Zumba Kids Jr – kid-friendly routines based on original Zumba choreography.
  • Ready, Set, Move – enables children to engage their muscles by moving through an obstacle course and yoga positions.

(Have we missed any programs? Click “Comments” below!)

Pic Of The Day #643

Longshore skating rink changing area (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Unsung Heroes #83

The Westport PAL Rink at Longshore doesn’t get a lot of press.

But every winter for over 20 years — quietly, efficiently, and very, very joyfully — the outdoor skating center just a few feet from Long Island Sound has provided thousands of kids and adults of all abilities (and none) with hours of good fun, and a lifetime of memories.

It’s not easy keeping an ice rink going — especially one without a roof. There’s ice to groom (and remove snow from). There’s the weather — sometimes too cold, sometimes too warm.

There are schedules to make (and adhere to), lessons to give, parties to help out with, reckless teenagers and worried parents to tend to.

The Westport Rink at Longshore. (Photo/Michael Winser)

I can’t imagine how the PAL Rink staff does it. But they do — and they do it in a way that makes it all seem easy. They smile often, extend helping hands when needed, and create a warm environment on even the coldest nights.

So to longtime manager Tony Lantier and his loyal, hard-working and often-overlooked crew: Thank you! You are our deeply appreciated yet Unsung Heroes of the week.

Manager Tony Lantier, at his rink.

New England Patriots Make Sara Deren A Winner

Whether you love the New England Patriots or loathe them, you gotta like this story.

Last Sunday, during halftime of the regular season finale versus the New York Jets, the team honored volunteers who make a difference in the world.

During every home game this year, they recognized a “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week.” On Sunday, each received a $5,000 grant to support the nonprofits for which they volunteer.

And guess who got a special $20,000 grant — sort of a Super Bowl championship for all Difference Makers?

Sara Deren of Westport.

Jon and Sara Deren, and their children, at the Gillette Stadium halftime ceremony last Sunday.

She and her husband Jon founded Experience Camps. Headquartered right here in town, the organization runs summer camps for children grieving the death of a parent or sibling.

In just 10 years Experience Camps has grown from one site and 27 youngsters, to a network of 5 camps nationwide. Last summer, 200 volunteers served 600 boys and girls ages 8 to 18.

Doing all the typical camp activities — and, guided by clinicians, remembering the loved one who died while developing the tools they need to work through grief — Experience Camp campers enjoy life-affirming, life-changing opportunities.

The New England Patriots Foundation receives hundreds of nominations for Difference Makers each year.

When the Foundation — along with Pats chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett — honored Sara on Sunday, it was a moment when, for once, Patriots and Jets fans could stand and cheer together.

Sara Deren is definitely a winner.

PS: So were the Patriots. They beat the Jets 38-3.

Cyclocross: Unique Sport Attracts Tough Competitors

Cyclocross is one of those under-the-radar sports.

Combining the endurance of cross country running and the explosive speed and intensity of sprinting, with the finesse and bike-handling skills of mountain biking and road cycling — and done in heat, snow, rain and mud on grass, sand, rocks, pavement and dirt — it is not for everyone.

Okay, it’s probably not for most people.

But it’s a sport that has enthralled Eneas Freyre, Caden Freyre and Alex St. Andre.

Alex St. Andre (left) and Caden Freyre, at the dry start of a cyclocross race.

The trio — owner of TTEndurance on the Post Road, his son and a Bedford Middle School 7th grader respectively — recently returned from Louisville, Kentucky.

They competed in the US Cyclocross National Championship. It was rough, tough — and hugely fulfilling.

There — as in other events — crossers rode, pushed and carried their bikes up and down steep hills, over barriers and other obstacles, in grueling 30- to 60-minute races.

In Louisville, over 2,000 athletes, ages 9 (!) to 85 (!!) vied in age-class and elite/pro level races. Eneas Freyre competed in the Masters 40-44 group; his son Caden in 11-12, and Alex St. Andre in the 13-14-year-old class.

It rained — hard. In fact, it was the muddiest and most difficult course Alex ever raced on. Still, he says, “I had a blast! It was a fantastic experience, a fun race and a great trip.”

The muddy course made it tough for Alex St. Andre (blue) to ride …

As difficult as it was — and as great as these athletes are — the national championships did not get much attention.

In Europe, pro cyclocross races draw tens of thousands of fans, and massive TV coverage.

The cyclocross community is “incredibly supportive,” says Alex’s father, Jim St. Andre. The young Westporter has found a home there.

Alex has participated in many sports. But, Jim says, he has never been pushed harder — physically and mentally. And he’s never felt more fulfillment than through cyclocross.

Freyre helped immensely. His TTEndurance offers specialized training for cycling, running, triathlons and strength. He is a great role model: In addition to cyclocross, Freyre holds the record (with Westporter Park Pattinson) for the 2-man bicycle Race Across America, and has won several Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimbs.

Freyre introduced the St. Andres to cyclocross 3 years ago. They’ve been all in ever since.

… and even tougher to haul his bike up a hill. (Photos/Jim St. Andre)

TTEndurance supports youth and adult teams. They practice indoors at the studio above the old Great Cakes, and outdoors at Sherwood Island and other spots.

Freyre provides bikes and helmets for first-timers. “All it took was one practice for Alex to get hooked,” Jim St. Andre says.

Cyclocross is definitely not for everyone. But you’ll never know until you try.