Category Archives: Staples HS

“Sounds For A Starry Night” Set

“The arts” is a broad term. Westport embraces various forms — music, visual arts, poetry — in various ways.

On Friday, December 6, a variety of disciplines come together. A pair of internationally acclaimed musicians — both Westporters — join a visual artist and the town’s poet laureate. It’s a night of classical music, poetry and vocals — and a benefit for Staples High School students needing help with college costs.

“Sounds for a Starry Night” stars violinist Igor Pikayzen and his mother, pianist Tatyana Pikayzen.

Igor Pikayzen

Igor — a Russian native — made his concert debut with the Moscow Philharmonic at age 8. Now — a graduate of Staples High School, Juilliard and Yale — he has performed with major orchestras around the world, and won numerous competitions.

Igor received a Westport Arts Advisory Committee Horizon Award, as an outstanding Westport artist under age 30 with an international reputation. Critics note his astounding technical ability and majestically lush tone.

His mother — called “the Paganini of the keyboard” — has earned acclaim on 3 continents. A top prize winner at the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, she has soloed in the world’s most prestigious concert halls.

Cellist Michael Katz completes the distinguished chamber ensemble. Casey Rose Clark will perform a vocal interlude. Noted illustrator Miggs Burroughs and Westport poet laureate Diane Meyer Lowman will speak too.

All artists will be on hand for a post-concert reception.

It’s a benefit for the Westport Woman’s Club scholarship program. Grants are awarded, on a financial need basis, to graduating Staples High School seniors.

The salon-style concert and reception take place at the Westport Woman’s Club. Seating is limited. For tickets ($50 adults, $25 students), click here.

Pics Of The Day #952

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.

These dodgeball players are actually Players: Staples Players. Two days after closing “Mamma Mia,” they (and a graduated ringer) headed to the fieldhouse for the time of their lives.

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 4 years ago, age 49.

Some teams were coed. This one was loaded with Staples athletes.

Nearly 2 dozen teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

When Dana Seymour is not a referee, she is a Staples security guard.

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

Like athletes everywhere, there was some fidgeting during the national anthem …

… and then the games began. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Staples Field Hockey 4-Peats As State Champs

Can you say “dynasty”?

The Staples High School field hockey team won their 4th straight state class L (large schools) championship yesterday.

And there was no doubt about it.

The Wreckers downed Darien 4-2, at Wethersfield High School. The win comes on top of a 2-0 victory over Cheshire last year, 1-0 against Darien in 2017, and a co-championship with Darien in 2016, the 2nd year of coach Ian Tapsall’s tenure.

Darien is a worthy rival. The Blue Wave won 3-1 in September, in the 2nd game of the regular season. The 2 teams tied 0-0 earlier this month, to share the FCIAC crown.

Yesterday’s victory was decisive. Sportswriter Rich DiPreta writes: “At times, it seemed like Staples had 20 players on the field against Darien’s 11.”

Congratulations, Wreckers. We look forward to the drive for 5!

(For a full story from the Ruden Report, click here.)

The Staples High School field hockey team celebrates, earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of Matt Dewkett for the Ruden Report)

50 Years Later, Staples Grads Give Back

Debbie Hooper Fisher is a proud Staples graduate.

And she’s part of a family of fellow alums.

Her mother, Rita Hooper, graduated in 1942. Her brothers Jeff and Mike were in the classes of 1968 and ’76, respectively. Debbie’s daughter Kimberly Fisher was in the Class of ’96. Her son Raymond Warren — Debbie’s grandson — is in the Class of 2022.

Not every classmate from Debbie’s year — 1969 — has that pedigree. But many still feel strong ties to their alma mater.

Nearly 100 members made it back recently for the 50th reunion. Wherever they live now, they loved being back in their home town.

Yet amid all the reminiscing, partying and dancing — hey, it was the ’60s — the class went about the serious business of giving something back.

When Debbie’s daughter graduated, she received a Staples Tuition Grants scholarship. That helped her attend Columbia University. She went on to the Executive MBA program, and now serves on Verizon’s corporate strategy team.

Debbie knows the importance of STG. So do her classmates. It was easy to convince them to run a fundraiser for the organization, which since 1943 — the year after Debbie’s mother earned her diploma — has helped seniors and graduates with college expenses.

This was not even the first time the class helped out. Ten years ago, they donated $1,969 (get it?) to STG.

This time, they held a raffle. Prizes included a Woodstock poster (remember, they’re the Class of 1969).

Tickets were $20. Many members gave more. (They deliberately chose an inexpensive venue — Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach — to keep up-front expenses down.)

The other day, the class presented STG with a check for $2,500.

Staples Tuition Grants board members, Class of 1969 representatives, and the traditional oversized check. From left: Alex Shook, Ed Hulina (STG), Jeff Allen, Tom Krygier, Debbie Hooper Fisher, Mark Bunger, Peter Krieg, Iain Bruce (STG).

They challenge other reunion classes to give back too, to the group that for 76 years has helped so many Staples students go to college.

They want you to at least match their gift. And if other classes exceed it, they’ll be delighted.

Hey, it’s the Class of ’69.

Peace.

(For more information on Staples Tuition Grants — or to contribute — click here.)

Hail To The Wreckers: The Sequel

Yesterday — in a post about Staples High School’s sports mascot — I said I was pretty positive there’s no other team in the country with our nickname: the Wreckers.

No one disagreed.

But Pete Aitkin knows of one school that — many years ago — was also the Wreckers.

Key West High.

The owner of the Black Duck is also a noted speedboat racer. He’s been to Key West many times.

Their original “Wreckers” nickname came, he says, from the long-ago practice of stringing fake lights, to lure unsuspecting cargo ships onto reefs. Locals would then swarm the wrecks, and loot them.

A while ago though, they changed their name. Key West High — which sounds like a pretty chill place — is now the home of the Conchs.

The name — and the mascot — do not instill “nearly as much fear in opponents as the mean-looking Wrecker,” Aitkin notes.

The reason for yesterday’s post was the antiquated — but still occasional – use of “Lady Wreckers” when referring to girls teams.

Several commenters wrote that once upon a time, the term was “Wreckerettes.”

Down in Key West, the cheerleaders are still called the “Conchettes.”

That’s not a great sports name. Perhaps, though, Jimmy Buffett could use it for his backup singers.

Hail To The Wreckers

Once again, Staples High School’s sports teams had a banner fall.

Field hockey — with another FCIAC championship trophy in hand — shoots for a remarkable 4th straight championship this Saturday. They face archrival Darien at Wethersfield High School, at 2 p.m.

Julia DiConza, Staples field hockey player. (Photo courtesy of John Nash for The Ruden Report)

Girls soccer — straight off its own FCIAC title — lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Glastonbury on Tuesday, in the state semifinals. It was the only defeat of the year for the Wreckers, and only the 8th goal scored on them all year.

Boys cross country capped off its astonishing dual meet season — they’re now at 110 consecutive victories — with their 4th straight FCIAC crown. The runners then placed 2nd at the state LL (extra large schools) meet, 5th in the state open, and 6th at the New England championship.

Boys soccer stunned Glastonbury — top-ranked, two-time defending Connecticut champs, unscored on in state tournament play since 2016 — with 2 goals in the final 7 minutes to win 3-2, then tied Trumbull in the last 6 minutes before falling on penalty kicks in the state quarterfinals.

The girls swim and dive team placed 3rd in the state LL tournament.

Girls cross country and volleyball, and boys water polo, all had successful seasons too. Football battled adversity all year long, and looks to finish strongly on Thanksgiving Day against Greenwich.

Congratulations to all the Wrecker teams.

That’s right: They’re Wreckers.

Not Wreckers and “Lady Wreckers.”

That antiquated name still hangs around, even in 2019.

Despite 47 years of Title IX.

And even though it makes no sense.

What is a “Lady Wrecker”? We don’t call the boys teams “Gentleman Wreckers.”

“Lady Wreckers” is condescending. It’s demeaning. It’s wrong.

Most media outlets realize how strong and powerful female athletes are. They know girls train and compete as hard as boys. They’ve gotten rid of “Lady” Wreckers, just as the athletic world has tossed out hoop skirts for basketball players, and added girls to rosters in sports like football and wrestling.

But the term still pops up, from time to time. It’s even on a mural in the hallway near the girls’ locker room. It’s time to retire it, forever.

The “Lady Wreckers” mural, in the hallway outside the girls’ locker room.

Meanwhile, I hear you asking: What exactly is a “Wrecker”?

The nickname dates to the 1930s. In the last game of the year, the team played undefeated Norwalk High. Staples won — “wrecking” their season.

Some people don’t like it.

I do. There’s only one other Staples High School in America — it’s actually called Staples-Motley, and it’s in north-central Minnesota* — but I’m pretty positive there is no other team in the world named the Wreckers.

The problem comes with a mascot. What is a Wrecker? A tow truck? How un-Westport-y

Instead, decades ago, Tom Wall– a Staples grad who was coaching part-time — created a fierce-looking guy, in a hard hat. In later versions he carried a crowbar and hammer.

The mascot was painted on the gym floor, plastered on walls and decals, and even showed up as a foam rubber mask worn by a student at football games. (He left out in the rain one day, and it turned into a gloppy mess.)

The Staples Wrecker, by the door to the fitness center.

Recently, Inklings — the Staples newspaper — ran a pair of opinion pieces. The topic: “Should the Wreckers’ Mascot Be Gender-Neutral?”

Rachel Suggs argued yes. A male mascot excludes females, she wrote. She noted that professional sports teams like the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves are modifying their branding to be more inclusive, adding that only 6 other FCIAC teams have mascots with a male image.

No, countered Remy Teltser. The mascot is our tradition — and a caricature — she said. As a female athlete, she never perceived the Wrecker negatively. In fact, she added, some girls teams embrace the term “Lady Wreckers.”

If you think Remy’s opinion is an outlier in this era of equal rights, think again. 450 students responded to an Inklings survey about changing to a gender-neutral logo.

18% voted to switch. 82% said to keep it.

This is not the first time the question has come up. Every so often, someone suggests going back to the informal nickname of the team, one used before “Wreckers” and occasionally since then.

In a nod to our town symbol and historic past, Staples could be called the Minutemen.

Or, if you prefer, Minutepeople.

*The Staples-Motley teams are the Cardinals. Bor-ing.

Liz Fry: Westport’s New Guinness World Record Holder

Last Thursday was Guinness World Record Day.

If you’re like me, you probably celebrated by being blissfully unaware.

If you’re Liz Fry though, it was a big deal. She was honored for 2 Guinness world records — and, for her amazing achievements, was featured on the book’s website.

The 1976 Staples High School graduate — who is as low-key as she is accomplished, so I would never have heard about this from her — was cited as both the oldest female to swim the Ocean Seven, and the oldest person of any gender to do it.

The Ocean Seven is no walk in the park. It’s a stupefying long-distance swim challenge, in some of the most difficult bodies of water in the world: the North Channel, Cook Strait, Molokai Channel, English Channel, Catalina Channel,  Tsugaru Channel and Strait of Gibraltar.

Liz is 60 years old. In 5 years she can collect Social Security. But the checks will have to be delivered by boat.

According to the Guinness website:

Accomplishing one channel is no easy feat – aside from predators in the open ocean and varying water temperatures, one who tackles all seven channels must be prepared to swim for up to 12 hours or more at a time…. It’s as dangerous as it is courageous.

Plenty of planning goes into marathon swimming. There’s training, travel, a support crew, and understanding currents and sea creatures. Jellyfish can be as dangerous as sharks.

Liz’s sister Peggy — a 1975 Staples grad now living in Seattle — often serves as crew captain (and confidante). She makes sure Liz has everything she needs: feeding pack, medication, you name it.

Liz Fry (right) and her sister Peggy, a 1975 Staples High School graduate, at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Their father — a Brit who inspired her originally, with his tales of swimming the English Channel — was there when Liz climbed ashore, after that very brutal swim.

Liz — who is not a professional swimmer (with an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s from Fordham, whe works with global markets on tax initiatives) — hopes that her Guinness record book honors will push other swimmers to achieve their own titles.

Record are made to be broken, of course. But Liz might go on breaking them too.

“I might be 60 years old when I have completed the Ocean Seven marathon, but I feel like I’m swimming like a 40-year-old,” she says.

“It just shows how 60 really is the new 40, or there’s no reason you ever have to stop doing what you love.”

Liz Fry (farthest from the Zodiac) in New Zealand action..

Liz trains often at the Westport Weston Family Y — and in the summer, off Compo Beach. She may be remarkable, but there’s absolutely no reason to swim in Long Island Sound during the winter.

The next time you see her, tell her congratulations.

And if you happen to have a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records handy, ask Liz to autograph it.

(For the full story on the Guinness Book of World Records website, click here. Hat tip: Debbie McGinley)

Stars Shine For Staples Players

As remarkable as Staples Players is, they’re still a high school drama troupe. When they put on a show, the many “good luck” and “break a leg” wishes usually come from classmates, teachers, parents and other Westporters.

“Mamma Mia!” was not the usual show.

Before the curtain rose last Friday, the cast and crew enjoyed special well wishes.

Dozens of members of “Mamma Mia!”‘s Broadway and national tour starred in a pump-up video, produced solely for Staples Players.

The actors are all friends of Players choreographers Chris Myers and Rachel MacIsaac. Both were part of the national tour; Chris went on to the Broadway production as well.

The video — which the cast and crew saw right before opening night — is not some quickie, off-the-cuff job. It took tons of time to track down so many national tour and Broadway “Mamma Mia!” members.

They’re all over the globe now, doing all kinds of things. But all took time to tape themselves.

In the 14-minute video they tell stories, give advice and recount their own experiences. It’s clear they are all excited that Players is joining the “Mamma Mia!” family.

Watch the video here.

And if you want tickets to this weekend’s performances, there may be a few available at the door, 30 minutes before showtime.

(“Mamma Mia! runs this Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, November 23 at 3 p.m. For more information, click here.)

Curtain Call For “A Christmas Story”

“A Christmas Story: The Musical” plays at Curtain Call in Stamford, now through December 14.

But many ties to Westport make this a true hometown show.

The story starts with the Kweskin Theater, Curtain Call’s home. Al Pia was its founding artistic director — and for many years, the highly esteemed director of Staples Players as well.

One of Pia’s high school actors was Ben Frimmer. He’s now the director of “A Christmas Story” — and director of Coleytown Company, the well-regarded middle school troupe.

Justin Paul (Photo/Dan Woog)

A couple of decades ago, Justin Paul acted for Frimmer at Coleytown. After graduating from Staples in 2003, and then the University of Michigan, Paul and his songwriting partner, Benj Pasek, rocketed to stardom. They’ve won Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards for works like “Dear Evan Hansen” and “La La Land.”

Another work — “A Christmas Story: The Musical” — enjoyed a Broadway run. With great music and splashy production numbers, it quickly became a holiday classic.

And, in Stamford, a Westport holiday classic. Frimmer has cast several current and former students in the production: Matthew Bukzin, Cooper Gusick, Gavin Jamali, Julie Lloyd, Imogen Medoff, Sarah Peterson and Ari Sklar.

Westport youngsters in “A Christmas Story: The musical.” Front row (from left): Gavin Jamali, Cooper Gusick Ari Sklar. Rear: Matthew Bukzin, Imogen Medoff,.Jamali.

Frimmer’s own son Ari plays Ralphie Parker.

Ari Frimmer, as Ralphie.

Even Curtain Call executive director and producer for “A Christmas Story” has a local connection. Lou Ursone was mentored by Pia.

Plenty of Westporters will be heading to Stamford to see this production. But they’ll feel as if they never left home.

(“A Christmas Story: The Musical” is performed Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoons at 2. In addition, there are Thursday evening performances on December 5 and 12, and Saturday matinees on December 7 and 14. For tickets and more information, click here or call 203-461-6358, ext. 36.)

Pic Of The Day #943

Co-captain Sam Liles (orange armband) frames the Staples High School boys soccer team, at halftime of yesterday’s state tournament quarterfinal match. Down 1-0, the Wreckers scored with less than 6 minutes left to tie. After 2 overtimes, the teams headed to penalty kicks. Trumbull prevailed 5-4. (Photo/Dan Woog)