Tag Archives: Staples High School girls swim and dive team

Staples Senior Seeks Identity Beyond Sports

Ella Alpert is broadcast director of Inklings, Staples High School’s newspaper/magazine.

She is also president of the Young Democrats Club, and one of the presidents of the Staples chapter of TEAM Westport.

For far longer, she’s been a competitive swimmer. After many years in the sport, Ella was named captain of last fall’s Staples swim and dive team.

It was quite a season — but not always in ways she expected. This month, Ella — who heads to Scripps College next year, to major in political science, American studies, or writing and rhetoric — wrote about her experience for Inklings. 

Her words are insightful; her message, important. With her permission, I’m reprinting them here:

Throughout my childhood, I’ve missed birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates, you name it. Instead, I was staring at the black line on the bottom of a pool. Six days a week, 3 hours a day and around 48 weeks a year. This routine lasted for my 10 years as a competitive swimmer.

I finished my senior season as captain of the Staples swim and dive team this past fall. Then I took my cap and goggles off for the last time and quit. Even after starting the college recruitment process, I was no longer willing to keep up with the commitment and pressure of it all. I can now see how pressure and toxic competition hurt my relationship with the sport that I loved and limited my ability to pursue other passions.

Ella Alpert: on the pool deck …

I joined my first club swim team in 2ndgrade, and fell in love. Something always clicked in the pool. I loved the excitement of racing, the feeling of diving into the water, nailing the turns, pushing your body to the limit and the pride of hard work paying off.

However, I was adamant that I made time for my other interests. I liked my balance of orchestra practice, dance lessons, Girl Scout meetings and swimming. But I watched as my teammates improved greatly by making swimming their priority. And I was receiving the same advice from coaches: “You have great potential but need to be more committed if you want to improve.”

They told me double practices before and after school, 6:30 a.m. Saturday workouts and hours of daily exercise outside of the pool would be what it takes to become a serious, successful swimmer.

As a competitive person, I wanted to succeed, so I became fully committed to the sport and began to see results.

For many years, my love for swimming outweighed my desire for a normal childhood. But after years of serious commitment, my love began to fade and I resented swimming for taking it all away. Yet I wouldn’t let myself think about quitting. Swimming had become my whole life, identity, purpose. The child in me who vowed she wouldn’t let swimming consume her entire life was gone — whisked away by the pressure.

… and in the water.

I was lucky that my parents never added to the pressure that I received from coaches and teammates, but many of my teammates weren’t as fortunate. My best friend’s parents pressured her to workout at home in addition to swim workouts and hired outside coaches for private lessons. They put so much pressure on her success that she pitted herself against her closest friends, damaging friendships.

Even as early as middle school, some parents were under the impression that swimming was going to get their child to college, and they needed to stay on the path to get there.

That being said, I don’t hate swimming or even regret my years in the sport. I love swimming and despite the pressure felt a deep yearning for success just like all competitive athletes. The sport introduced me to some of my best friends and taught me invaluable life lessons. However, I do wish I could have explored my other interests without the immense guilt that came with missing practice.

Now that I’m done with swimming, I have the time and flexibility to enjoy the rest of my senior year with friends, explore new hobbies and dedicate more time to the other extracurriculars that I enjoy. I’m excited to enter my college years without 6 am practices limiting my social life.

Swimming was such a huge part of my identity and for a while I didn’t know who I would be or what I would do without it. But I am excited to find out.

Roundup: Viet Vets, Swimming, Sports …

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It may have been lost in the run-up to Thanksgiving.

It shouldn’t be.

Earlier this week, John Brandt moderated a fascinating discussion with 4 Vietnam War veterans. Part of the Westport Library’s Oral History Project, it delved deep into the experiences of the quartet — all Westporters — and what it all means today.

Panelists included retired Army veterans Capt. Jay Dirnberger, Sgt. Preston Koster, Sgt. Bud Siegel, and retired Navy Lt. JG Tucker Mays. Click below to watch.

Missed it? No problem. Click below to watch.

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The broken record of Staples High School swim and dive team broken records continues.

The girls finished their season in style last weekend, with 4 state open record- breaking performances.

Freshman Annam Olasewere once again dominated the 50 and 100 yard freestyle events, with state open record times of 22.58 and 50.21. The 200 free relay team of Jessica Qi, Ella Alpert, Ayaan Olasewere and Annam Olasewere recorded a record 1:35.94. In addition, their record-breaking 3:27.46 in the 400 free relay qualifies them for All-American status.

Other outstanding swims came from Jessica Qi (4th in the 100 free, 8th in the 200 free). Divers Kate Whittaker and Mia Guster finished 13th and 17th respectively. Freshman Ayaan Olasewere was 12th in the 50 free and 13th in the 100 free, while senior captain Ella Alpert placed 10th in the 100 fly.

From left: Annam Olasewere, Jessica Qi, Ella Alpertm Ayaan Olasewere.

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Speaking of sports: A new tradition began on Thanksgiving Day.

A bunch of fathers — all relatively new to Westport — reserved PJ Romano Field behind Saugatuck Elementary School for the first-ever “Westport Dadz Turkey Bowl.”

Cones were set, football flags arranged, and teams picked. A good time was had by all. Even a few hamstring pulls could not keep these guys from smiling, and enjoying the rest of their holiday weekend.

(Photo/Josh Stern)

Meanwhile, a much older tradition — the Staples boys soccer Turkey Bowl — took place at Wakeman Field.

Over 60 current and past players worked up an appetite. There were alumni from as far as California and Texas, and as far back as Staples’ Class of 1975. Guys who just finished their college season showed their stuff. So did everyone else.

There were plenty of alumni spectators too. And the weather was perfect too.

The 2021 Staples soccer Turkey Bowl. (Photo/Barry Guiduli)

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Longtime Westporter Vermelle Miro died recently, at 88. Her funeral is set for today (Saturday, November 27, 11 a.m., St. Luke Church).

The Greenwich native had a variety of hobbies, interests and careers. She worked at Vogue magazine before opening the Westport Country Day Preschool in the 1970s.

“Mel” became a realtor in Westport in the 1980s, and enjoyed a successful career until she retired close to 40 years later.

She was a member of the Westport Young Woman’s League and Westport Rotary Club, along with many other civic groups.

Mel traveled around the world, learning about different cultures and viewing famous pieces of art. She was a talented artist as well.

Her family says, “Mel had a unique ability to connect with people on a deep level, providing a safe haven for her community of friends and acquaintances. She was a magnet to others, always willing to lend an ear to those who needed it. But er greatest joy came from her children and grandchildren.”

Mel is survived by her children, Donald (Kim Healy); son-in-law Chris Healy; grandchildren Ryan, Tyler and Brittany Healy, and grandson-in-law Steve Geiges. She was predeceased by her husband Donald Miro and her long-time partner, Patrick Mitchell.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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On this holiday weekend — when all of us are stuffed — photographer Lou Weinberg says of this “Westport … Naturally” photo from Lansdowne Condominiums: “Hey, everybody’s gotta eat.”

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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And finally … Stephen Sondheim died yesterday, in Litchfield County. The legendary Broadway composer was 91.

The New York Times calls him an “intellectually rigorous artist who perpetually sought new creative paths … the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century, if not its most popular.” Click here for Sondheim’s full obituary.

Roundup: Homemade Pies, Swim Records, Will Haskell …

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The Westport Young Woman’s League’s newest holiday fundraiser may be its sweetest one yet.

They’re selling Lyman Orchards homemade pies and cookies. Each purchase supports the WYWL grants program that funds local non-profit organizations.

Orders may be placed through Tuesday (November 23) with WYWL for a variety of pies and cookie dough, frozen fresh for delivery. They can be kept fresh in the freezer until ready to bake and serve.

Orders can be picked up at the Westport VFW (465 Riverside Avenue) on Friday and Saturday, December 17-18. 

WYWL members also offer holiday gift wrapping, for a recommended donation of $5 per gift. Items can be dropped off at the VFW on those same  days (December 17-18).

Click here to place pie and cookie orders.

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It sounds like a broken record: The Staples High School girls swim tam broke 4 records again.

Wednesday night’s eye-popping performances came at the class LL (extra large schools) state finals at Southern Connecticut State University. Freshman Annam Olasewere rewrote the state and LL record books in 2 freestyle races. The freshman wowed the crowd with a time of 22.67 in the 50 free, breaking the 2016 record of 23.02. She also took the 100 free in record time, with a blistering 50.14.

Staples, which placed 4th overall, also saw 2 relay teams finish first in record times. The 200 freestyle foursome of Jessica Qi, Ella Alpert, Ayaan Olasewere and Annam Oleseree broke the 25-year-old state record, with a time of 1:35.75. Qi, Alpert, Ayaan and Annam Olasewere came back to win the 400 freestyle relay in yet another state record time: 3:28.54.

Up next: the state open meet tomorrow (Sunday) in West Hartford.

Congratulations to coaches Mike Anderson, Elaine Rankowitz and Kuku Fleming. — and of course to the girls! Can you imagine what they’ll accomplish as seniors?!

Staples’ record-setting 400 meter free relay team (from left): Ella Alpert, Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere, Jessica Qi.

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Speaking of swimming: Earlier this month, the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Water Rats swim team ran a food drive. They collected 880 pounds of food — nearly half a ton — for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Those donations will provide 735 Thanksgiving meals.

Team members also collected $205 in cash, good for 82 more meals.

The entire Water Rats team participated, from pre-competitive swimmers to seniors.

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Yesterday, driving around his old Drumlin Road neighborhood, Fred Cantor saw former neighbor Gordon Hall.

The longtime — and long-respected — Staples social studies teacher turns 94 today. Happy birthday, Mr. Hall!

Gordon Hall (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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Will Haskell is in his 2nd term as Westport’s state senator. When he was elected in 2018, he was the youngest legislator in the country.

He’s still not far removed from his Georgetown University days. He’s a proud alum — and his school is proud of him.

The other day, the school newspaper The Hoya interviewed Haskell. Click here to read his thoughts on government, politics, his college experience and more. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

State Senator Will Haskell

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The early bird gets the Westport Country Playhouse summer camp worm.

“Early bird pricing” is available now through December 5 for CampWCP, a social justice theater program for 20 middle school students (June 27 through July 23).

The camp “empowers young artists to activate their creative voice on issues that matter to them and turn it into something theatrical — so that they can ignite social change for their community and beyond.”

Campers explore the art of playwriting, and create and perform an original play. devise their own play. They learn acting techniques, and participate in workshops with Playhouse staff. For details and registration, click here.

CampWCP is open for registration.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image shows the Saugatuck River at sunset. This natural resource never gets old.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … music photographer Mick Rock died recently. He was 72.

Among his subjects: David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Queen, Syd Barrett, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Motley Crue, T. Rex, Blondie and Thin Lizzy. He shot the covers of albums like “Queen II,” Reed’s “Transformer” and “Coney Island Baby,” Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the Stooges’ Raw Power.

He also directed Bowie’s music videos for “I’m Only Dancing,” “Jean Genie,” “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars.”

Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

 

All campers are

Roundup: Rev. Patton, AAPI Westport, Staples Sports …

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Saugatuck Congregational Church has been awarded a $50,000 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program grant. Funds allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Rev. Alison Patton will begin her 3-month sabbatical in June. She will volunteer with a marine conservation program in the Maldives, and spend time with her family on a regenerative farm in Costa Rica.

Patton says, “I used to think I wanted to be a marine biologist. I now know I’m not a scientist; I am an admirer of the natural world in all its rich biodiversity. In the face of a worsening climate crisis and multiplying threats to biodiversity, I believe we are called to help craft a sustainable future for our planet. I am excited to use this time to take a deep dive into 2 biodiverse environments, to witness the impact of climate change, explore what’s being done to combat it and share some of that adventure with my family.”

Kim Mathias — moderator of Saugatuck’s Church Council — says the congregation will also benefit from this time of rest and renewal.

“Spending time outdoors during the pandemic and working on this grant application have fueled SCC’s interest in environmental issues,” she notes. “While Patton is away, the congregation will deepen its connection with our local ecosystem, exploring the beautiful coastal community of Westport and surrounding towns and digging deeper into the issues surrounding climate change. They look forward to renewing relationships with one another while learning how to better protect our coastal environment.”

Rev. Alison Patton

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AAPI Westport was created in March 2021, following a rise in violence and racism against the Asian community. The mission of the group — which stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — is to foster a sense of belonging within the community, while increasing AAPI visibility and awareness throughout Westport and beyond.

The organizers — all mothers — hope to create an environment where their children feel proud of their heritage.

Today they launched a website. Their Instagram is @aapiwestport.

Anyone interested in helping further their mission, through financial support or volunteering time, should email aapiwestport@gmail.com.

At an AAPI rally on Jesup Green last March, a flag flew at half staff in memory of Asian-Americans killed last week in Atlanta.

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It seems like every week, the Staples High School girls swim and dive team sets new records.

The latest came at the FCIAC championships last week. And not 1, but 3 records fell.

In a big way.

Freshman Annam Olasewere set a state and FCIAC record in the 50 yard free, with a time of 22.77. Her 50.18 in the 100 yard free also set a new FCIAC record.

Senior Jessica Qi finished second in that event, with a season best 52.21. Qi also took second in the 200 free with a time of 1:56.05

The relay team of freshman Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and seniors Ella Alpert and Jessica Qi set a new FCIAC record in the 200 free relay (1:36.27) and also won the 400 free relay (3:31.87)

Staples moves on to compete in the Class LL and state open championships. More record-setting performances may be in the works.

Winning 400 meter free relay: From left to right Ella Alpert, Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and Jessica Qi

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Speaking of sports: The Staples High School boys soccer team raised thousands of dollars for their program — and several thousand more for Bridgeport Central High School’s soccer team — at last night’s annual Quiz Night.

The winning trivia team — Jacob Greenberger, Jackson Hochhauser Spencer Levine, Murilo Moreno, Jaden Mueller and Caleb Tobias. plus Oliver Clachko, wrestler/lacrosse player Nick Augeri and lacrosse player/WWPT-FM sports director Max Udell — answered questions like “What was the first word spoken on the moon?” (“Houston”), what is the only mammal that can fly (bats), and what is the first game played in “Squid Game” (Red Light Green Light).

They also took first place last year during COVID, when Quiz Night was virtual. This year’s event — which drew about 150 participants — returned again to the Staples cafeteria.

Quiz Night winners!

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As the weather turns cool, some equally cool classic cars turn up at Compo Beach.

Andrew Colabella spotted several — including this one, with a classic pose — over the weekend.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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“Westport … Naturally” never gets tired of autumn leaf pictures.

Of course, before we know it they’ll be done. And we’ll move on to snowscapes.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … on this day in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was elected 32nd president of the United States.

Roundup: Candidates, Chores, Irene Backalenick …

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A sure sign of fall: Our yards and traffic islands sprout dozens of signs for political candidates.

If you’d like to base your chose on more than placards, pencil in next Tuesday (October 12, noon, Westport Library and streaming). The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Library team up for a debate between the candidates vying for 1st selectman and 2nd selectmen: Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore (Republicans), Jonathan Steinberg and Candi Savin (Democrats), and TJ Elgin and Louis D’Onofrio (independents). Chamber director Matthew Mandell will moderate.

Click here for in-person tickets, and more information. It’s available on Cablevision Channel 79, and will also be archived.

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Another sign of autumn: As leaves fall and Westporters prepare for winter, many senior citizens need help.

The Department of Human Services hopes that seniors (in high school) — and juniors, sophomores and freshmen, plus middle schoolers — can help.

The DHS is compiling a list of students willing to help with outdoor chores. The suggested rate is $12 an hour.

Students interested in helping seniors (and earning money) should call 203-341-1050, or email humansrv@westportct.gov. Seniors needing assistance should also call 203-341-1050.

Need help bagging leaves? Human Services have kids for hire.

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Irene Backalenick turned 100 in August.

The former New York Times theater critic celebrated by publishing 143 of her reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.

The collection spans the last 11 years of her career (2004 to 2015). Her final Broadway review was “Hamilton.”

Click here to order “In the Theater World.”

Irene Backalenick

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Caryl Beatus is one of “06880”‘s most avid readers — and frequent, insightful contributors.

She’s also a longtime golfer. Yesterday the Longshore Women’s Golf Association honored the founding (and 61-year) member, at the annual event named for her.

Caryl hit the ceremonial first shot. Fore!

Caryl Beatus was — as the golf cart says — Longshore’s “Queen for a Day.” (Photo/Mark Farrell)

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Bill Taibe is CRAzy.

Or at least, the owner of The Whelk, Don Memo and Kawa Ni is the 2021 Restaurateur of the Year, according to the Connecticut Restaurant Association. The organization — “CRA” — will present it’s “CRAzy Award” on December 6.

Taibe was chosen by a panel of more than 2 dozen food writers, critics, social media influencers and bloggers.

Meanwhile, the public can vote for other honors. Among the nominees: Taibe’s own Don Memo (Newcomer of the Year), and OKO (Restaurant of the Year, Fairfield and Litchfield Counties). Click here to see all nominations, and cast a ballot.

Bill Taibe

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For the second time this year, a Staples High School swim and dive team record fell.

The meet with Westhill came down to the final event. The 400 meter freestyle relay would determine the outcome. The Wreckers won in 4:10.46, earning the very tight 93-92 win.

The record-setting swim came from freshman Annam Olasewere. Her 26.15 time in the 50 meter free beat her previous record of 26.48, set just last week. She also won the 100 meter free.

The Wreckers are now 3-2. They’re in action next on Friday, vs. Greenwich (4 p.m., Staples).

Annam Olasewere (far left) earlier this month, with her 400 meter freestyle relay team (from left): Ayaan Olasewere , Ella Alpert, Jessica Qi,

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Susan Fehlinger is the Westport Book Shop’s guest artist this month. She’s an oil painter. The exhibit includes 12 coastal paintings. It’s open during business hours, at the popular used bookstore on Jesup Green.

Susan Fehlinger, at the Westport Book Shop.

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Halloween comes a day early to the Westport Country Playhouse.

The historic theater presents “Spectres and Spirits” — an original, 30-minute radio play – on October 30 (12 p.m., WSHU-FM).

It’s the work of frequent Playhouse collaborator (and macabre-minded) Richard R. Henry. John Gromada contributes clever sound design. To learn more and listen, click here.

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The other day, “Westport … Naturally” featured a monarch butterfly being eaten by a praying mantis.

Here’s one that lived:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

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And finally … Long before Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff, Millie Small put Jamaica on the musical map. She was born today in 1947. She died May 5, 2020, at 72.