Category Archives: Sports

Pic Of The Day #309

Winter break skating at the Longshore PAL rink. (Photo/Michael Winser)

Julia Marino Goes For Gold

First there was wind.

Then came the flu.

But after fighting off a disappointing fall in the slopestyle competition, and illness last week, Julia Marino is close to her longtime dream: an Olympic medal.

The Westport snowboarder was 2nd after her first big air run yesterday, then finished 9th overall in qualifying competition. That earned her one of 12 spots in Thursday’s final.

Julia’s jumps — shown around the world — were preceded a day earlier by a special NBC report on her long friendship with Chaihyun Kim. Their journey together began at Long Lots Elementary School, and ended in South Korea.

Click here to see that heartwarming report.

A screengrab from the NBC report shows Julia Marino and Chai Kim reuniting at the Seoul airport.

(Hat tip: Sharon and John Miller)

Julia Marino’s NBC Airings

Last month, “06880” described the heartwarming friendship between Julia Marino and Chaihyun Kim.

They met in Long Lots Elementary School kindergarten, and for the next 3 years were inseparable.

They went their separate ways later, as kids do. But — as Julia became a US Olympic team snowboarder, and Chai a pre-med student at Yale University — their friendship endured.

Chai and Julia, age 6.

As Julia got ready to head to PyeongChang for the Winter Games, Chai and her family used their South Korean contacts to help Julia’s family find lodging and tickets.

It’s exactly the type of story NBC loves. Many Olympic viewers are casual — or even non — sports fans. By showcasing athletes’ back stories, the network hopes those viewers will be drawn into the drama of sports.

Area residents can tune in at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, February 17, WNBC-TV Channel 4) for Julia and Chai’s story on “The Olympic Zone.” NBC stations around the country will also air the show; check local listings for time.

That segment should whet viewers’ appetites for Julia’s big air competition. It begins Monday (Sunday, US time).

(Hat tips: Sharon and John Miller)

Julia Marino

Julia Marino: She’s Always Done It Her Way

Westport is justly proud of Julia Marino. Now — thanks to NBC Sports — the rest of the country knows why.

The network has given a shout-out to the Olympic snowboarder — and her family — in a widely viewed video.

She was interviewed, along with her parents John and Elaine, and sister Cece. Though her hometown was never mentioned, NBC showed clips of her riding her bike, trampolining, and at the beach.

The theme of the video was that Julia’s parents gave her a chance to take risks, dare and dream — in a “relatively safe environment.” For example, she was allowed to ride her scooter in the house (though other parents could not believe that was okay).

“She’s always done it her way,” Elaine says.

This weekend, Julia fell on her first slopestyle run. She was not alone: 41 of 50 athletes did the same. A controversy ensued over the wisdom of allowing the event to be held in high winds.

She finished 6th overall.

Next up: the big air event, next Sunday.

(Click here to see the full NBC Sports video. Hat tip: Kathie Bennewitz)

How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm? ALS Pepper Challenge Spreads To WTF

The Haberstroh family’s #ALSPepperChallenge has spread all over the country.

But right here in Westport, it’s bearing particular fruit.

The latest group to raise money for research into the devastating disease — in honor of Department of Human Services program specialist Patty Haberstroh — is Wakeman Town Farm.

Challenged by Parks & Rec — whose commission chairman is Patty’s husband, Charlie — Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo decided to be creative.

Taking her cue from “Rapper’s Delight,” Christy wrote lyrics. Corey Thomas — WTF’s talented steward — showed his versatility as the rapper.

The video was filmed yesterday at the farm, after their annual team retreat. It’s already been viewed over 450 times on Instagram, and 400 times on Facebook.

Wakeman Town Farm was not the only organization in town taking the hot pepper challenge yesterday. Staples High School’s boys basketball team did the same — and were inspired by a visit from both Patty and Steve Haberstroh, a former Wrecker hoops star (and Patty and Charlie’s son).

Haberstroh noted that Jon Walker — a 1988 Staples grad, and another famed Wrecker basketball player — died last year of ALS.

Coach Colin Devine (far left) and members of the Staples High School boys basketball team take the #ALSPepperChallenge yesterday.

The Haberstrohs’ challenge has raised nearly $220,000 so far. That includes a $100,000 anonymous donation. Another $250,000 anonymous pledge is expected this week.

(Click here for the Haberstrohs’ hot pepper challenge donation page.)

Jack Caldwell Covers The Super Bowl

WWPT-FM — Staples High School’s award-winning radio station — produces great sports broadcasters as regularly as the New England Patriots used to win Super Bowls.

Jack Caldwell is the latest in that long and storied line. He’s smooth and steady. He prepares well. He knows his stuff. He’s good.

In addition to play-by-play, he does music and news. This year’s, he’s WWPT’s executive director. In his spare time, he’s broadcast director for the student newspaper Inklings.

His sports cred comes naturally. He comes from a long line of baseball fans. His grandmother told stories of listening to Vin Scully call Brooklyn Dodgers games; together, Jack and she discussed their favorite (and least favorite) announcers.

His father Chris is in sports marketing. He’s worked at every Super Bowl since XXXIV (that was in 2000, for you non-sports fans). So Jack and his dad have never had a chance to watch the big game together.

This year — as an early graduation present — Chris took Jack to Minnesota. He tried to get 2 tickets, but wasn’t sure if he could. They decided they’d watch Super Bowl LII together — even if that meant doing it at the hotel.

Sunday morning, Jack’s dad surprised him with 2 tickets.

Jack Caldwell and his dad at the Super Bowl.

Before the game on Sunday morning, Jack attended an event with broadcast personalities Trey Wingo, Tony Romo and Cris Carter. After, he chatted with them. When he said he was an aspiring broadcaster, Romo and Carter posed for this photo with him.

You’ll notice Jack’s wearing his WWPT logowear. Fans were allowed to do “mock” broadcasts on a set at US Bank Stadium. This was Jack’s first broadcast ever with his father.

I’m not a betting guy, but I bet Jack’s broadcast was better than any other fan who stepped into that booth.

It was a working weekend for Jack. He watched and learned as much as he could.

WNBC reporter Bruce Beck — an avid WWPT-FM supporter and mentor — allowed Jack to shadow him as he worked.

On Saturday — despite 6 inches of snow — he explored many media sites, and visited the ESPN set. The Lombardi Trophy was there. Well, an ice sculpture replica of it, anyway.

As for the game: Jack’s a Jets fan; his dad likes the Lions. Going in, they were “reluctantly” rooting for the Eagles. But when the training scene from “Rocky II” was shown as Philadelphia’s hype video, they were won over for the night.

It was a fantastic weekend. There’s nothing like sharing the Super Bowl with your dad.

Especially when you can take a photo like this, moments after the final whistle.

BONUS STORY ON JACK CALDWELLAs a sophomore, knee surgery forced Jack into a wheelchair for 6  months.

His favorite sport to call is ice hockey. When the Wreckers made the state semifinals — at the “Yale Whale” arena — he worried he could not get to the press box.

WWPT friends and family helped him up, then helped him set up equipment. He called the game — an overtime Staples win.

That support meant a lot to Jack. It meant even more when that broadcast earned him a 2nd-place award in the national John Drury radio competition.

Last year, Jack and the station won honors in every Drury category they entered.

WWPT-FM faculty advisor Geno Heiter (left) and student broadcasters jump for joy after earning 12 John Drury Awards.

The Super Bowl — seeing media row and shadowing Bruce Beck — was a fantastic experience. Jack learned a lot about “real world media,” and looks forward to sharing that knowledge with everyone involved in media at Staples.

For his senior internship at May, he’ll work on the “Anna & Raven Show” on Star 99.9 FM. He hopes to study broadcast journalism in college (he will hear from schools in March).

After that — well, like other WWPT sportscasters, the sky’s the limit.

The Super Bowl was an important weekend, Jack says.

“I got to have a real fan experience,” he notes. “So if I begin to cover events for real in broadcasting, now they won’t seem as daunting.”

Sunday Funday Brunch Crunch

It’s the perfect Sunday.

First you do a tough boot camp workout.

Then you have a refueling brunch.

Finally, you cap it off with a relaxing 15-minute mini-facial.

Breno Donatti — the community-minded owner of Winfield Street Italian Deli — has organized a “Brunch Crunch” for this coming Sunday (February 11).

You start at Upper Deck Fitness, next to the ‘Port restaurant. There are 2 time slots — 9 and 9:45 a.m. – to work out in a strength-based group class (all levels welcome).

Happy — and hungry — you’ll be ready for an amazing spread of food across the street, courtesy of Winfield Street Deli. They’ll debut a new brunch and coffee menu. Participants can select anything from the revamped menu.

Stop 2 of a 3-stop Sunday fun day.

The event finishes with that much-needed facial at Organachs beauty boutique, right next to Winfield

It’s $30 a person for the workout and brunch — first come, first served. To register, email info@upperdeckfitness.com, or call 203-329-6231.

It’s another $15 for the mini-facial. Pre-registration is required — email info@organachsfarmtoskin.com.

Just tell ’em Breno sent you.

Justin Paul Makes US Olympics

Justin Paul was a Staples Player. As in, the acting troupe.

He was not an ice hockey player. Nor did he play any other sport.

But the 2003 graduate will be everywhere at this month’s Winter Olympics.

As millions of viewers of last night’s Super Bowl noticed, “This Is Me” — a song composed by Paul and songwriting partner Benj Pasek — was the background for a dramatic, compelling NBC Sports ad.

The song — sung by The Bearded Lady (Keala Ssettle) in “The Greatest Showman,” an anthem of diversity and acceptance — fits well with the network’s goal of personalizing Olympic athletes, celebrating their many paths to success and achievement.

The ad will air frequently during the PyeongChang games. They begin Thursday.

“This Is Me” is having a run that Bode Miller would envy. It won a Golden Globe, and has been nominated for an Oscar. The soundtrack reached the top of the charts internationally, and was #1 on iTunes in over 65 countries.

So tune in this month for the athletes. And enjoy Westport’s own amazing artist — Justin Paul — too.

BONUS FUN FACTWestport resident John Miller is chief marketing officer for NBC’s Olympics coverage.

(Hat tip: Mary Palmieri Gai)

Whether You’re Rooting For The Patriots Or Eagles: Keep An Eye On Zach Ertz

Westport is not exactly a breeding ground for NFL players. That’s why we’re still talking about Skip Lane’s 1987 season with the Washington Redskins.

As a “replacement player” during the players’ strike, the defensive back — and former Staples High School quarterback — helped the team win 3 games. That’s credited with getting them into the playoffs. They went on to win the Super Bowl. Thirty years later, Lane will — finally — get his ring.

But that’s not what this story is about.

“06880” scoured the world for a Westport connection to Super Bowl LII. Thanks to Staples Class of 1981 graduate Suzanne Sherman Propp, we’ve found one:

Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz is the son of Propp’s classmate, Lisa Adams.

Lisa Ertz, with a football helmet she endorses. (Photo courtesy of David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer)

On Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on Ertz and his mother. (The hook was a concussion that Ertz — a 6-5, 250-pound Pro Bowl player, and the Eagles’ leading receiver this year — received in December. One of his brothers gave up football after multiple concussions in high school. Lisa is now president of a foundation that promotes safer football equipment.)

The Inquirer story credits Lisa with inspiring her son to play football. In 7th grade, she signed him up so he could lose weight. He hated it.

When he was a high school freshman in California, she encouraged him to play to make friends.

That was the ticket. He starred, and got college scholarship offers.

Zach Ertz

When he was choosing between UCLA and Stanford, Lisa pushed him to become a Cardinal.

She was thinking about the post-college opportunities Stanford offers. She told the Inquirer:

I was very adamant and I actually said to him, “Well, it’s not like you’re going to play pro football.” Go get a great degree, have a wonderful experience, and the rest of your life, you can say you went to Stanford.

Zach got his degree — in management science and engineering.

And now Westport — and the world — get a chance to watch as he tries to earn a Super Bowl ring.

BONUS FUN FACTZach Ertz is married to Julie Johnston, a midfielder on the US women’s national soccer team.

(Click here for the entire Philadelphia Inquirer story.)

Stop (Or Start) The Presses: Staples Swimmers Sink Greenwich!

The Staples High School boys swim team is making quite a splash this winter.

But — at least in the local media — they haven’t even caused a ripple.

What a shame.

Last week, the Wreckers beat Greenwich.

The last time that happened was 1979 — nearly 40 years ago. And the time before that — Staples’ only other swimming win over the Cardinals — came in 1970. That day, the water in the small Westport YMCA pool was so murky, no one could see the turns.

The 2018 Staples High School swimming and diving team. (All photos by Andy McNab)

How good is Greenwich? Under coach Terry Lowe, they’ve won 34 state open championships, and 24 class LL (extra large school) crowns. They’ve also won captured a mind-boggling 46 FCIAC titles, over the past 47 seasons.

They make the Yankees and Celtics of the 20th century — or, more recently, the Patriots — look like the early New York Mets.

Coach Jeff Bonaccorso

Yet last week, Staples out-swam the Cards. In fact, they drowned them. The final score was 110-76.

It was quite a victory for the Wreckers. And for first-year coach Jeff Bonaccorso.

That’s right. This is his rookie season with this high school team.

He took over after Frisk Driscoll moved to Fairfield University. Of course, Bonaccorso is hardly a fish out of water. He’s aquatics director at the Westport Weston Family Y — and in the fall, coaches the Ridgefield High girls squad.

The Staples/Westport Y connection is strong. Many Wreckers grew up in the Water Rats program, directed by the legendary Ellen Johnston. Most continue to compete on both teams — even during the high school season.

Scott Adler

That’s true for Staples 2 captains, Josiah Tarrant and Scott Adler. They began swimming almost before they could walk. Pool water courses through their veins — and they race through their lanes faster than everyone else.

Still, both were a bit apprehensive when Driscoll left.

“I never thought we’d see another coach like Frisk,” Adler says. “But Jeff exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

The two men have very different styles. Driscoll always had a set lineup. Bonaccorso makes changes based on whoever the other team puts in the water. Plus, Adler says, “he’s super-competitive and a great motivator.”

Entering the season, the captains had high hopes. They finished 3rd at last year’s FCIACs — and graduated only a few, non-scoring seniors.

Still, admits Adler, despite their confidence they were “not sure about Greenwich and Ridgefield.”

Two weeks before the Cardinal meet, Staples met the Tigers — a team with 5 great swimmers, including 2 Olympic trial hopefuls. What Adler calls “the most exciting and closest dual meet of my life” — with an “insanely loud” home crowd — came down to the final relay.

Ridgefield won. But by placing 2nd and 3rd, the Wreckers amassed enough points to eke out a 94-92 victory.

Josiah Tarrant in action. He swims the 50 free, 100 butterfly, and anchors the 200 medley and free relays.

Then came Greenwich.

Again at home — with more packed, roaring fans, including the girls’ team — Staples took down the state’s most legendary swimming power.

How did they do it?

“Hard work,” says Tarrant. “I know it’s a cliche. But we’re in the pool from 5:30 to 7 in the morning before school, a few days a week. Then we’re in again, from 3 to 5 every day.”

Their rigorous practice schedule — and all the coaching, from Johnston, Driscoll and Bonaccorso — are paying off.

Josiah Tarrant

“Everyone thinks swimming is an individual sport,” Tarrant notes. “At the club level, it is. But on the high school pool deck, there’s so much camaraderie.

“It’s not just about the fastest guy. The 5th guy gets a point, and every point matters.

“We constantly push each other in practice. We always cheer for each other. These are my brothers.”

“It’s nice to see a direct connection between hard work and the end result,” Adler adds. “You really see it come to fruition.

But Tarrant and Adler are not basking in the glow of their press clippings. (Whoops — sorry. There weren’t any.)

“This is only the beginning,” Tarrant notes. “The championships are what really matter.”

The FCIAC meet is February 27-March 1 — at Greenwich. Hey, why not?!

Then come the state LL and open championships.

Scott Adler gets ready for the start of his backstroke race.

It won’t be easy upending Greenwich in the post-season. The Cardinals have a ton of swimmers — they brought 2 busloads to the dual meet — and numbers count.

But one thing is certain. When the record board that hangs over the Staples pool is updated in March, nearly every event will now include a 2018 swimmer.

You may not read about the Wreckers’ accomplishments elsewhere.

But this year’s team has written a new chapter in the history books.

(For more on the Staples swim team, click here.)

The Staples girls swimming and diving team provided great support at the Greenwich meet.