Category Archives: Sports

Saugatuck Girls Win Groundbreaking Gold

We see them on the river — at dawn, after dusk and in all kinds of weather. The women, men, girls and boys of the Saugatuck Rowing Club are some of Westport’s most accomplished — and unheralded — athletes.

Last weekend, SRC rowers competed at the youth national championships in Sarasota, Florida. One boat earned a groundbreaking gold. Here’s proud mom Debbie McGinley’s report:

Parents and athletes landed at JFK near midnight Sunday after an adrenaline-filled finish to the USRowing Youth Nationals. Earlier in the hot day — as spectators cheered and coaches biked madly along the course — the Saugatuck Rowing Club women’s youth 8+ crew surged ahead of the field to win a club history 3rd straight national title.

The SRC women pulled even with the crew from Marin, California at 500 meters, took the lead at 1000 meters and powered ahead to finish in front by 3 seconds.

Saugatuck Rowing Club’s championship boat, in action.

Sunday’s win capped a 3-year undefeated run, during which it 3-peated youth rowing’s triple crown: the Head of the Charles Regatta, San Diego Crew Classic and Youth National Championships.

A June rowing event in Florida brings weather-related challenges. Thunderstorms caused practice times and races to be postponed, sending the SRC rowers scrambling to a local gym for an impromptu spinning workout.

Sunday’s finals were condensed so crews could pack up their boats, load their trailers and clear the course before more thunderstorms arrived.

SRC’s experienced rowers had seen it all before. The group includes 2 USRowing women’s junior national team members; one who medaled at the World Junior Rowing Championships in August, and USRowing Fan’s Choice Junior Athlete of the Year.

The 6 seniors on the winning boat include 3 from Staples High School. This fall they head to great colleges: Grace McGinley (Stanford), Imogen Ratcliffe (Cal-Berkeley) and Willemijn ten Cate (Princeton).

Two other Staples students joined them: junior Kelsey McGinley and sophomore Noelle Amlicke.

SRC’s women’s youth 8+ crew celebrates its 3rd staight national championship. Staples students include Noelle Amlicke, (2nd from left); Grace McGinley (3rd from left); Willemijn ten Cate (right of coxswain); Imogen Ratcliffe (3rd from right) and Kelsey McGinley (2nd from right).

In addition to the winners, SRC — under junior head coaches Sharon Kriz and Gordon Getsinger — had 4 other Top 10 finishers.

All were inspired by texts from younger rowers back home.

On Monday morning — after just 4 hours of sleep — the rowers headed back to school to prepare for finals, or to their senior internships. Today — after a marathon drive by their coaches pulling trailers back from Florida — the rowers return to the club.

They’ll unload and rig their boats, then hit the water again.

After all, there are many more races to win.

The SRC women’s 8+ winning race begins below at 2:31:30.

 

 

 

Staples Baseball Earns State Championship — And A Spot In History

Over the past 4 years, Amity High School achieved legendary status in Connecticut high school baseball. The Woodbridge school won 4 consecutive state championships — including an 8-1 drubbing of Staples in the 2015 title game.

That squad included several players from Westport’s storied 2013 Little League all-star team.

It took them 2 years, but today the Wreckers wreaked revenge.

A 2-run home run by Chad Knight — the Staples pitcher, and a mainstay of that Little League squad — staked the 11th-ranked Westporters to a 5-1 victory.

The game — at Middletown’s Parker Field — snapped the 1st-seeded Spartans’ spectacular streak of 24 straight state tournament wins. In denying Amity a 5th straight crown, Staples won their own 1st baseball state title since 2001.

(Graphic courtesy of @StaplesSports Instagram and Twitter)

Knight — just a sophomore — has already committed to Duke University. Senior Ben Casparius has had his own tremendous year. The University of North Carolina commit was named Gatorade Connecticut Baseball Player of the Year.

Congratulations to head coach Jack McFarland, his staff, and especially all the state champion Wreckers.

This season has truly been a ball.

Pic Of The Day #51

Rowers underneath the William Cribari (Bridge Street) bridge. (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Did You Miss The Regatta?

This weekend, Cedar Point Yacht Club hosted a OneDesign Regatta — the largest on Long Island Sound. More than 400 sailors on 67 boats competed in 6 classes.

A squall blew in Saturday, just to make things even more interesting.

If you couldn’t be on the Sound for all the action, check out the videos here:

Though competitors came from all over the country, several current and former Westporters made their hometown proud.

Scott Reichhelm — part of a longtime CPYC family — skippered an Atlantic-class sailboat to win his class. He did it with a Westport crew too: Tim Dexter, Julia Knowlton and Robert Wylie.

Ron Marsilio finished 4th in that class. In the 1950s — when Cedar Point was based at Compo Basin — Atlantics were the largest fleet in the club.

Jon Friedwald — Staples Class of 2001 — was mainsail trimmer on Whirlwind. It sails out of City Island in the Bronx, and won the 36.7 class.

Westproters George and Alex Wilbanks placed 2nd in the J105 class.

Team Victure of Westport came in 3rd in the J70s, while Josh Goldman took 12th.

Staples High School grad and former Westporter Greg Imbruce finished 10th in the J109 class.

A crew member scrambles in high winds. (Photo/T2PTV)

“Nevermore,” a speedy J88, in rough seas Saturday afternoon at the Cedar Point Yacht Club OneDesign Regatta. (Photo/ Richard Gordon)

(Hat tips: William Adler and Jeff Manchester)

Mission Accomplished

We’ve all seen the “CT Challenge” lawn signs and car magnets.

Many of us know what that “challenge” is: bike rides of 10, 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles, starting and finishing at the Fairfield County Hunt Club, undertaken every July by thousands of riders. It is a major fundraiser to provide services for cancer survivors.

But most of us — even those who live or work nearby — don’t know that the CT Challenge has spawned an actual survivorship center. It’s a fitness training, educational and meeting space just over the Westport line in Southport, where people of all ages who have faced down cancer reclaim their lives.

There may not be any place like it in the United States.

You may not know all this, because the CT Challenge is in the early phases of a rebrand. The “Challenge” name now refers to the bike rides only (this year’s event is July 28-29 — click here for details).

The rebrand’s mission is to create an identity — separate from the ride — for the equally amazing center.

And that’s the new name for the facility: Mission.

It’s filled every day with men, women — and kids — with missions. Each has a story.

One is a 26-year-old 8-time survivor. Another is an endurance athlete.

Someone who survived both cancer and 9/11 recalls: “I watched the first responders walk up as we walked down. They never looked back.”

That attitude pervades Mission. And it’s encompassed in its (ahem) mission statement: “We exist to inspire everyone who has stared down cancer to live a fuller life, with newfound strength and purpose. There are no limits.”

Cancer survivors begin at Mission with a 30-day free trial. They take unlimited classes in yoga, Pilates, indoor cycling, TRX, meditation and strength conditioning. They have unlimited use of state-of-the-art cardio equipment.

There are 3 half-hour training sessions with a certified cancer exercise trainer. And they can hang out in Mission’s meditation and healing garden.

After that — for just $35 a month — members enjoy all those classes and equipment, plus personal training and nutritional counseling at reduced rates. Financial assistance is available.

Working out in Mission’s wellness center.

But Mission’s mission extends to those who have not had to battle the disease too. Because 1/3 of all cancers are associated with inactivity and poor nutrition, “prevention memberships” are available for $85 a month. You can take a free 5-day trial too.

Mission is life-affirming — and life-changing. A 14-year-old with a cancer diagnosis recently said, “I just want to be normal.” Riding a bike — there are 4 available for outdoor use — is as normal as it gets.

Mission differs from many cancer organizations because the focus is not on treatment, but survivorship.

“They want to be pushed,” says wellness director Victoria Fairchild. “Instructors say that the people here — many of them are women, some in their 40s, 50s, even 60s — ask for a lot more pushing than in other gyms.”

Among the most inspiring parts of Mission is its website. “Survivor Stories” links to astonishing tales of triathletes, mountain climbers, dancers, nurses and entrepreneurs who, after surviving cancer, found the strength to make amazing lives.

In fact, stop reading this post right now!  Check out those stories here.

Some of the links to Survivor Stories on the website.

Okay, you’re back! Now go back to the website. Click on other links, about diet, posture, exercise and other important resources.

Mission also sponsors an “Adventure Project.” The free coaching program helps 300,000 young survivors access online support to achieve their goals.

It matches users anywhere in the world with experienced trainers, who devise and supervise personalized 12-week training programs.

The very first applicant was a 20-year-old Westport with Ewing’s sarcoma of the spine. She’s endured 14 surgeries — and wanted help setting up a training regimen to ride in the CT Challenge.

She’ll do the Century ride. That’s the longest and toughest: 100 miles.

Those are the types of people who are part of Mission.

The folks who run it are passionate about their work. Many are cancer survivors themselves. Others have friends and family affected by the disease. All are motivated to work even harder by the people who come through their doors.

But funding doesn’t drop from the sky. It comes from one source on the ground: that CT Challenge bike ride.

If all you know about it are the road signs and seeing riders pass by, read on.

It’s one of the best annual events in the state. There’s live music (Blues Traveler played!), DJs at all 8 rest areas, and tremendous energy from the Hunt Club start and finish all the way through.

CT Challenge organizers are always looking for riders (individuals and teams, including businesses), sponsors (ditto) and volunteers. To learn more, click here.

To learn more about Mission, click hereOr head to 250 Pequot Avenue in Southport. It’s just past the Horseshoe — an easy drive.

Or bike ride.

July 3!

Last year, some hard-to-please Westporters bitched and moaned because the 4th of July fireworks were held on June 30th.

Folks have complained about July 1 and 2 dates too.

There are several reasons why we can’t do fireworks on July 4. But this year we’ve got the next best thing.

The 2017 show — produced by Westport PAL, sponsored by Melissa & Doug, with fireworks from the great Gruccis — are scheduled for Monday, July 3.

Tickets for the 61st annual event go on sale tomorrow (Thursday, June 1). They’re available — first-come, first-serve — at the Police Department (50 Jesup Road) and the Parks and Rec  office (Longshore, across from the 1st tee).

Westporters also sometimes bitch and moan that the cost is $35 per car. Well, proceeds fund a ton of PAL programs. And the entire evening is unrivaled for fun, and a community feeling.

Oh, yeah: The rain date is Wednesday, July 5.

We’ve got the 4th surrounded.

Westport’s fireworks, as seen from Hillspoint Road.

 

The Jocks Of Wall Street

Lance Lonergan was a Staples football legend.

After starring on the Wrecker gridiron in the early 1980s, he went to Penn State — and won a national championship under coach Joe Paterno.

Lonergan stayed at Happy Valley, earned an MBA, then leveraged both his brains and his football background into a career on Wall Street. After 15 years with Citigroup, he’s now CEO of Weeden & Company.

After all, everyone knows that former college athletes make great hires. They’re experienced risk takers, work well in teams, are flexible, adeptly handle ups and downs, and have the physical stamina for the rough-and-tumble world of finance.

At least, that’s what Wall Street used to think.

Lance Lonergan

The other day, the Wall Street Journal ran a story headlined “Wall Street’s Endangered Species: The College Jock.” The paper said that the hot hires now are quants — recent grads with math or computer programming skills.

And one of the examples cited was Lance Lonergan.

Yet the former athlete tells college athletes there’s still a spot on Wall Street for them.

“The core attributes of athletes are well-suited for the trading floor,” he tells the paper.

Lonergan — who married former Staples and college athlete Anne LoCurto — moved back to Westport soon after college. They’ve raised 4 children here.

All are excellent athletes.

A few years from now, they’ll be looking for jobs.

No word yet on where.

(To read the full Wall Street Journal story, click here. Hat tip: Chris Pardon)

 

Remembering Frank Deford

Frank Deford — one of the most famous (and elegant) sportswriters of all time — has died. He was 78, and lived in Key West and New York.

But for many years, Deford was a Westporter. It was here that he wrote many of his 20 books, and some of the most important pieces in his 50-year career at Sports Illustrated. He spent 37 years as an NPR “Morning Edition” commentator, and recorded most of those stories just up the road, at WSHU’s Bridgeport studio.

It was in Westport too that his daughter Alex was raised, went to Greens Farms Elementary School and died, of cystic fibrosis. She was just 8.

Deford turned that tragedy into a poignant book and movie, called “Alex: The Life of a Child.” He also served as national chair of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, from 1982 to 1999.

After Alex’s death, Deford and his wife Carol adopted a girl, Scarlet, from the Philippines. Their oldest child, Christian, graduated from Staples High School.

Deford won countless honors. He was most proud of the National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2013 by President Obama.

In 2013, President Obama awarded Frank Deford the National Humanities Medal. He was the 1st sportswriter to earn that honor.

But he was also a local presence. He spoke at the Westport Library, and was a reader — in that voice familiar to so many NPR listeners — at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Deford had a remarkable career. But though he hit plenty of grand slams, he wouldn’t be human if he never struck out.

In 1990, he was editor-in-chief of a new launch, The National: America’s 1st-ever daily sports newspaper.

It folded after 18 months. One of its many obstacles was distribution. Deford even had to cancel his own home delivery when not enough Greens Farms neighbors signed up.

But he had great fun trying to make a go of the National. (The final front-page headline: “We Had a Ball: The Fat Lady Sings Our Song.”)

Frank Deford

The paper — and he — covered every sport imaginable.

Including soccer. Which — as every NPR listener knew — he hated.

A few months after The National began, I asked him — only half-jokingly — why he got to cover the World Cup in Italy, instead of a true soccer aficionado like me.

Deford was very tall. He looked down at me, both physically and journalistically.

He gave me a semi-smile.

“When you run The National,” he said, “then you can cover the World Cup.”

Frank Deford covered it all, in a storied and story-filled life.

His many fans — and his former neighbors — will miss him greatly.

Graduation Ceremony, Summer Camp Help For Kids In Need

Westport is a town with plenty.

And a town that never hesitates to help those who don’t have as much.

Right now, our wonderful Department of Human Services is running two programs that touch lives we may not always see.

One is “Ceremonies and Celebrations.” For the 14th year, the fund helps students purchase special event clothing for graduations from middle and high school.

It doesn’t sound like much. But to a teenager, looking like everyone else on a big day means the world.

Last year, 34 youngsters smiled with pride, alongside all their friends.

Everyone wants to look as good as these girls did, after Staples’ 2013 graduation. The Department of Human Services helps those who need it.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault suggests that (tax-deductible) donations can be made in honor of a special teacher or person in a student’s life. A letter of acknowledgment will be sent to the honored individual.

Checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Ceremonies”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) to purchase clothes are also welcome.

For further information on this program, contact Patty Haberstroh (hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069).

The 2nd program is a fund to send children to summer camp. Like new clothes for a special occasion, this project is not frivolous. It’s a godsend for working parents — and a life-changer for kids.

Summer Camp has been part of growing up for decades. In 1953, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used Camp Mahackeno for this Saturday Evening Post cover.

Every year, thanks pour in. One woman noted the importance of swim lessons for her autistic daughter. Another said that her child “came home with a new story, friend or art project every day — and a huge smile.”

In addition to covering costs for ever-popular Camp Compo, the fund has helped a boy play American Legion baseball, and a girl participate in Staples Players’ summer program.

The other day, Westport PAL donated $1,200 to the Campership Fund. If you’d like to join them, checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Campership”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

To apply for campership help, click here.

“Catch A Lift” Catches Westport’s Spirit

“06880” is a little late to this story.

But it’s never too late to celebrate our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Or the people who help them.

Catch a Lift is a national non-profit dedicated to the physical and mental recovery of post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support.

Last weekend — thanks to the tireless efforts of Mental Grit Fitness owner/trainer Andy Berman; Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his entire department; Westporter and CAL board member Adam Vengrow, and the support of Joyride, Crossfit Revel and Achieve Fitness — 16 veterans came to town.

And then they went to town, with workouts, training and plenty of camaraderie.

A special shoutout goes to Daniel Slow. The Weston High School basketball player raised over $5,000 for Catch a Lift, thanks to pledges for every point he scored.

Photographer Matthew Paskert captured much of the action from last weekend’s “Westport for Warriors” weekend. If his images inspire you to learn more about Catch a Lift, click here.

(Photos/Matthew Paskert)