In case you missed the news on Sports Center – or You Don’t Say – Pemi came out on top in this year’s day of competition against Camp Tecumseh, 11-8-1. Despite last summer’s tie, it’s our first aggregate victory since 1998, and it was deeply satisfying. (Ask your sons!) The wonderful result notwithstanding, Pemi is now “back to normal” as a place where athletics is only a part of the camp program: six overnight mountain trips are currently out, there is a Nature field trip to Crawford Notch planned for the afternoon, our annual Art Show is in preparation, and “Pirates” rehearsal starts in ten minutes. Nothing could have signaled our reversion to the norm more insistently than an act at Saturday night’s campfire when Owen Felsher and Ezra Nugiel teamed up in a stunning rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” with scores of campers and counselors singing along. Impresario Ian Axness leaned over to this correspondent and asked wryly, “Do you think they’re doing this very thing over at Tecumseh?” We guess not. ‘Nuf said. Here’s Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s account of the day.
Eleven days before our annual contest with Tecumseh, a group of second-half Pemi campers joined our full-season boys on the shores of Lower Baker. As the hot, humid weather led to genuinely more laid-back preparation by the various teams, the camp played a series of local contests with some very mixed results. As the week progressed, the weather cooled and the Seniors led cheers in the Mess Hall that eventually began to shake the very foundations of camp. Last year, our Seniors provided dynamic leadership and Pemi’s competitive spirit suggested we no longer feared our opponent from the shores of Winnepesauke. Pemi scrapped and hustled their way to a 9-9-2 tie. The Hat remained at Tecumseh, but the experience made us all realize that victory was within our potential grasp.
This year, the day looked in jeopardy when the extended forecast and radar suggested a long series of storms passing through central New Hampshire. At 6 AM, both camps decided to plow forward because the much-needed rain was pushing towards the coast just south of Pemi and Tecumseh. The boys awoke at 6:30 AM to light rain and the thunderous cheers and music of our Seniors. Kenny Moore, logistical master of all things Pemi, had the 11s, 12s, and 13s rolling to Tecumseh by 7:35 AM, crossing paths with our Tecumseh brethren in Ashland, a clear sign Pemi was moving with purpose. When the buses arrived, Kenny gathered the boys and emphasized the importance of being good teammates, the length the day, and how to find a Tecumseh bathroom known as a “Widow.”
At Pemi the boys returned from breakfast and cleaned their cabins while the trip crew delivered water to the misty fields and I put the finishing touches on the baseball and soccer venues. When Tecumseh arrived in their vans and yellow buses, they quietly met on the basketball courts to discuss the upcoming day. The recent tie with Pemi had unnerved Tecumseh despite their winning 46 of 49 previous “days.” Pemi Day is an incredibly important event for Tecumseh as it marks the last sporting event of the summer. Winning or retaining George Munger’s bronzed hat is perhaps for them the emotional equivalent of Pemi’s Final Banquet, a time of celebration and closure. Far too often Pemi has been the main course of this athletic feast.
The Contests: Morning at Pemi
Events at both camps started promptly at 9:30 AM, and the results instantly suggested this was going to be another competitive day. At Pemi, the 10s baseball team locked into a pitcher’s duel as Suraj Khakee matched his Tecumseh counterpart with six shut-out innings. Nick Holquist made two game-saving catches in right field against his former camp, and catcher Jamie Acocella held on to several foul tips to keep the game knotted at zero. With the potential winning run on second, Pemi had a chance to clinch the game in the bottom of the sixth, when Suraj ripped a line drive over the bag that the Tecumseh third baseman snared for the final out of the contest.
While the 10s battled on the diamond, Jeff Greene’s 15s Tennis team jumped out to a 3-2 match lead as Ned Roosevelt and Andrew Coe won their single matches and the doubles team of Arthur Root and Florian Dietl won in a super tie-breaker. At number one singles, Sam Davitt lost in a tie-breaker while doubles team of Dan Reiff and Oliver Kafka suffered the same fate. Unfortunately, two matches had to be delayed until after lunch so that the baseball game could be started, with Pemi holding a 3-2 lead. With their backs against the wall, Tecumseh subsequently won both matches to secure a much-needed 4-3 victory.
Morning at Tecumseh
Down in Moultonboro, the 13s swim team set the tone with an historic effort, setting four camp records on their way to a 29-26 victory. In the 200 Medley Relay, Harry Tuttle, Colin Alcus, Sam Grier, and Alek Novikov took first with a blistering camp record 2:12.06. After Alcus won the individual backstroke, Grier set another camp record when he took the 50 butterfly. Pemi held a 25-20 lead heading into the final relay, with Pemi needing a clean race and a second place to win the meet. Novokov, Tuttle, Oberlander, and Grier swam smartly, finishing second while also breaking another camp record.
While the 13s swimmers triumphed in the water, the 12s soccer team, one of Pemi’s strongest this summer, was dismantled by an impressive Tecumseh side. Patterson Malcolm and Owen Fried played particularly well in defeat, but Tecumseh was too fast and skilled, dominating central midfield and the pace of the game. However, spirits were raised when Pemi’s 11s Tennis team made quick work of their opponents. Coach Nugiel’s squad swept the singles with victories from Willie Noble, Matt Kanovsky, Gray Farley, and Timmy Coe. Coe’s victory was particularly impressive because he fought back from a three-game deficit and won 8-6 in a tie-breaker. The doubles teams of Jack Elverkrog/Luke Ackerman and Jakey Cronin/Aidan Griffiths delivered two more victories to power Pemi to an impressive 6-1 victory.
As Pemi and Tecumseh moved on to the second events of the morning at their respective camps, the weather miraculously held, and the score in events was an inspiring 2-2-1. At Tecumseh, the 12s Tennis team pushed aside their considerable soccer disappointment and delivered a crucial momentum-changing effort. After Carson Hill went down gallantly at number one singles 8-6, Jonah Roque and Nick Toldalagi won their single matches 8-1, while Robert Loeser fought off a tenacious challenger and won 8-6. After Patterson Malcolm/Dylan Cheng and Ted Orben/Will Merhige both lost tight matches at doubles, the score was tied 3-3. The third doubles team of Grant Noble/Grady Nance would decide the outcome. The match was close throughout, with neither side gaining more than a one game advantage. During the eventual tie-breaker, Pemi seized a 4-1 lead, only to have Tecumseh win the next two points to make the score 4-3. With the court surrounded by dozen of nervous but enthusiastic fans, the Pemi boys stepped forward and delivered confident, aggressive net play with Grant Noble calmly putting away “a room service volley” to clinch the tiebreaker and a 4-3 12s victory.
The 11s baseball team ran into a cagey Tecumseh pitcher, Carson Fischer (former Pemi boy!), who shut out Pemi 3-0. Jack Elvekrog pitched well in defeat, going the distance and giving up only one earned run. A great defensive play by Ethan Elsaden kept the game close, but the Pemi bats never got hot enough in this contest. Fortunately, the 13s soccer team kept their mojo going as Coach Walsh orchestrated an outstanding effort. After several setbacks in previous matches, Coach Walsh scratched his formation and went with a more traditional 4-4-2. Pemi scored 20 seconds into the contest, as Jamie Nicholas jumped on a poor clear and beat several players off the dribble before blasting a shot home. With John Galbreath, Harry Tuttle, Graham Struthers, Colin Alcus, and Andrew Merrell holding down the defense, and Tecumseh running on fumes late in the first half, Nicholas went on the attack once again and drilled a well-placed shot to the side netting. The second half was all Pemi, as Tyrrell Moore hit a bomb from 30 yards out that slipped under the bar. He would later score a second goal when he jumped on the rebound of a Charlie Scott shot and pushed it past the Tecumseh keeper for a convincing 4-0 victory!
At Pemi, the 10s soccer team found themselves tied 0-0 at halftime, as both teams battled tenaciously at midfield. Sasha Roberts was a masterful warrior at midfield, as he won the majority of his defensive challenges and played balls quickly to Pemi’s spry attack. The defense of Jamie Acocella, Dean Elefante, Max Blohm, Henry Seebeck, and Frank Applebaum neutralized Tecumseh’s offense, buying Pemi crucial time to solve Tecumseh’s defensive riddle. When Tecumseh’s man-child from California did blast a shot, Ben Ackerman made the save. With Nick Holquist bombing down the left flank, and Kevin Miller and Scott Cook scrapping for balls at midfield, the offensive trio of Will Laycock, Ricky Trinca, and Spencer Hill turned the Tecumseh defense inside out. First Hill beat two Tecumseh backs and pushed the puppy home. The goal electrified the team, and moments later Laycock was sent in alone and courageously pushed the ball past the sliding keeper. Finally, Trinca, with three Tecumseh players trying to thwart his attack, skillfully nudged the ball past the keeper as the adoring Pemi crowd went wild, the cheers echoing down the valley.
Because Pemi’s soccer and baseball fields are so close together, a given event’s momentum can impact a game in the immediate vicinity. When the 10s Soccer team scored their first goal of the second half, right behind the senior diamond, a massive roar appeared to energize our 15s baseball team and to unnerve our opponent. Each camp looked back to see Doc Nick’s little wonders taking it to our guests. As the cheers reverberated, and the 10s dropped a second and third goal on Tecumseh, the 15s diamond warriors put Tecumseh under pressure. Ned Roosevelt, a Tecumseh Day Gladiator who has pitched Pemi to victory on several other occasions, mowed Tecumseh down in order. Henry Day led off the game with a walk, stole second base, and advanced to third on a Daniel Reiff single. With the positive energy flowing in Pemi’s direction, the Tecumseh pitcher unleashed two wild pitches to plate Day and Reiff. With Will Parsons on third after stealing second and advancing on a Sam Davitt single, Coach Blumenthal shrewdly orchestrated a textbook delayed double steal to take advantage of the general chaos, pushing home a critical third run. With Tecumseh trying to get back in the game with runners on second and third and two outs, Pemi catcher Henry Day alertly picked off a “Happy Wandering” Tecumseh runner to crush a third inning rally. In the final stanza, with Pemi holding a very vulnerable 3-1 lead and potentially-tying Tecumseh runners on first and second base and no outs, Rosie coolly struck out the next two batters and then induced a soft ground-out to third to end the game. While Rosie delivered five quality innings, he was supported by great defensive plays by Zack Leeds, Will Parsons, and Alex Baskin to deliver a crucial victory for the “Flagship.”
After the morning events, Pemi held a 6-3-1 lead. It would take four victories out of the remaining ten contests to bring THE HAT back to Lower Baker. Over my twenty plus years as Athletic Director, I have often witnessed Tecumseh’s impressive will to win come to the fore in the afternoon events; however, as we watched our boys compete in the morning, whether at Pemi or at Tecumseh, it was quite clear our momentum would not flag under the weight a potential victory.
At Tecumseh, Kenny gathered the boys together at the buses and looked to put them in a calm, focused state of mind for a much-needed rest hour. “You heard the scores. Does that change our game plan? (The boys answered in unison, “no”.) We need to maintain our focus and play loose and play together. We did a great job supporting each other as teammates; let’s keep that up! And remember what Charlie said. If you make a mistake, don’t worry, just make the next play simple and re-set your confidence.” At Pemi, I met with the 10s and 15s in the dining hall after Tecumseh left for their shade in center field. Without hearing about the scores at Tecumseh, the boys were told that we were doing very well, but that they had to be prepared for our guests to come out with everything they had in the opening moments of the ensuing contests. Support each other and “finish it!”
At Pemi, Afternoon Events
The 15s soccer team locked horns with a motivated, athletic squad of Tecumseh players who had a fresh bounce in their step after receiving the news that their tennis team had just triumphed. Last year, their 15s crushed Pemi 7-0 in an awesome display of soccer domination. From the opening whistle, it was clear that this match was going to be quite physical and competitive, as both teams challenged hard for every loose ball. Ben Chaimberg, Oliver Kafka, Zach Leeds, and TH Pearson led Pemi’s defense. With Tecumseh’s attack under wraps for much of the first half, Pemi was able to mount several dangerous attacks. Sam Davitt and Andrew Coe nearly connected midway through the first half. Later, Davitt was pushed down in the box just before receiving a wide open through ball, but the decision was no-foul. With seven minutes to go in the half, Tecumseh received a well-deserved free kick from 35 yards out on the flank. The Tecumseh player mishit the ball and the resulting spin bent the ball back towards the net, where Pemi goalie Nick Bertrand desperately tried to get back to his line and push the ball wide. Bertrand got a hand on the ball, but Pemi was unable to clear the ball off the chalk. Pemi later pushed forward for the equalizer but could not get Jarrett Moore open or Sompy free on the flank. We generated several free kicks and corners but failed to deliver the equalizer. As the 15’s slowly walked to the waterfront, though, their spirits were buoyed by the news that the 10s tennis team had delivered a smashing victory, 5-2. Spencer Hill set the tone in first singles with an 8-1 victory. Kevin Miller, Suraj Khakee, and Sasha Roberts followed with impressive single victories to give Pemi a commanding 4-0 lead. Whit Courage and Scott Cook forced a tiebreaker and then put their opponents away 7-2 to provide Pemi with a 5-2 margin of victory.
At Tecumseh, Afternoon Events
At Tecumseh, the afternoon started with the 11s soccer team falling 3-1 to a talented, deep squad from Tecumseh. Timmy Coe played a brilliant game at midfield, while Luke Ackerman held down the defense in front of Andrew Kanovsky. Up top, Willie Noble worked diligently to create opportunities, while Jakey Cronin orchestrated the attack, eventually scoring on a penalty kick late in the contest. Of special note was Dash Slamowitz’s inspiring effort with his hustle and determination. The 13s tennis team quickly built on their momentum from the morning with a dominating performance in tennis. Chris Schmidt, Charlie Harrison, and Jamie Nicholas won their singles matches convincingly, while the three doubles teams of the Duval Brothers, Graham Struthers/John Stevenson, and Will Harned/Jack O’Connor cruised to victory, pacing Pemi to a 6-1 decision.
The 12s baseball team, one of Pemi’s strongest, stepped up to the plate and dominated their opponent from the first pitch. Pemi scored three runs in the top of the first with contact hitting and aggressive base-running. Oscar Tubke-Davidson mowed down the Tecumseh batters, striking out 15 of 17 batters faced. After adding single runs in the second and third innings to push the lead to 5-0, Pemi put the game away for good when Patterson Malcolm led off with a single, Oscar hit the first ball ever hit onto the porch of Munger Hall (can’t believe it was ruled a ground rule double!), and Jivan Khakee delivered a clutch double to drive them home. Tecumseh mounted a comeback in the 6th inning, closing the gap to 8-2, with the bases loaded and two outs. Coach Blair went to the bullpen, and Grady Nance punched out the last Tecumseh hitter for Pemi’s 16th strikeout of the day!
The Final Events
A great day is achieved when it is only with the final events that the outcome is determined. Pemi went 3-2 in the first afternoon events pushing their lead to 9-5-1. We needed just one more victory to clinch the day. Of the last five events, four were swimming, which was a fitting finale given that the Hat was first given in honor to Pemi because of their incredible improvement in the water in the summer of 1967. Not many kids show up to camp as competitive swimmers, so the event measures a boy’s willingness to take on a challenge to help support the community.
At Pemi, we (thankfully) have no cell reception, so news from Tecumseh only passes through the office (Heather and Kim) where Tecumseh’s Mark Luff or I collect the results. We are careful not to share the early results until we all meet in the dining hall, each of us wanting to protect the individual events from the weight of the day. So the 10- and 15-and-unders did not know the score of the day or the outcome of events at Tecumseh, but they definitely knew that Pemi had a great chance to win. The 15s swam incredibly hard, but eventually fell to a deep and talented Tecumseh swim team 29-26. Hugh Grier won the 50 back stroke and Julian Hernanadez-Webster won the breast stroke to keep the meet close. The free style team of Hugh Grier, Sompy Somp, Cole Valente, and Thompson Bain delivered a herculean effort and beat Tecumseh in the free relay by literally one inch. Although the squad came up three points short, they provided an extraordinary effort and fantastic leadership for the 10-and-under swim team.
Doc Nick’s Wonders entered the final event of the day with a 2-0-1 record. They attacked the water with confidence and provided Pemi a Hat-clinching effort. The relay team of Max Blohm, Henry Seebeck, Frank Applebaum, and Whit Courage set the tone with a dominating first place in the Medley Relay. Blohm would take a first in the back stroke while Seebeck and Finn Lincoln nailed a first and third in the back stroke. Applebaum delivered a first place in the butterfly, with his form the envy of both coaching staffs. With the Pemi community on the edge of the lake cheering our merboys in the final race of the day, the free relay team of Courage, Sasha Roberts, Spencer Hill, and Applebaum beat Tecumseh’s top quartet by half a second. Pemi’s second relay team of Kevin Miller, Lincoln, Scott Cook, and Blohm secured a third place, thus pushing the final score to Pemi 32, Tecumseh 22. The scene on the beach was joyous for Pemi as the 15- and 10-and-unders celebrated when the final scores were announced. With a 2-2 split in the afternoon events at Pemi, the Boys anxiously awaited news from Camp Tecumseh.
At Tecumseh, Final Events
News traveled quickly from Lower Baker to the waterfront of Tecumseh that the 10s tennis team had won their match, leaving Pemi one win shy of victory. As the 11s and 12s swim teams and 13s baseball team headed into their final event, each boy and coach knew Pemi only needed one more victory to win the day. The 13s baseball players ran into our rival’s best team. Tecumseh jumped out to an early lead as timely hitting and porous Pemi defense sent our boys down to a 7-1 defeat in four innings. Will DeTeso and Graham Struthers pitched well for Pemi, while the team received great hitting from Jamie Nicholas.
At the waterfront, the 11s and 12s swim teams knew they needed to win one event and swam their hearts out. The 12s received great efforts from Noah Belinowiz, who anchored the relay teams, Dylan Cheng in the Butterfly, and Carson Hill in the Medley Relay, but Tecumseh’s squad was too deep and talented for Pemi and the boys fell 35-20. In the 11s swimming meet, the teams remained virtually tied after the first two events, but then Pemi took first and third in the next three events to pull away. In the Breast Stroke, Byron Lathi took first and Jack Elvekrog finished third. In the Butterfly, Jeff McKee finished first, with Carter Franciskovich earning third. Finally, in the individual Freestyle, Robbie McDonough finished first with Timmy Coe finishing third. In each race, Pemi’s depth delivered three crucial third place points that extended a 9-8 Pemi lead to 24-14 with two events remaining. Pemi only need a second place finish to clinch the meet and the day. The team of Robbie McDonough, Gray Farley, Timmy Coe, and Jeff McKee delivered that second, and everyone at the meet knew the day had been clinched. All the boys sprinted from the waterfront to the 13s baseball game to share the news of victory.
As the 13s diamond match ended at Tecumseh, Kenny gathered the boys on the soccer field and emphasized the importance of sportsmanship, urging them to save the celebration for when we returned to Pemi. As mentioned earlier, this day and the importance of winning is at the foundation of Tecumseh’s mission. It was critical for the Pemi boys to respect their opponent.
As Pemi entered the unusually subdued Tecumseh Mess Hall, many of Tecumseh’s boys and staff individually congratulated Pemi before the outcome was announced. After dinner, Tecumseh’s Director Jim Talbot thanked the athletes for a great day of competition, and Athletic Director Mike Dougherty announced the results and congratulated Pemi on their victory. Legendary NFL athlete and former Athletic Director Jim Frazier talked about the history of the competition, and expressed his initial concern following last season’s tie. “Tecumseh was lucky to tie Pemi last year, but it was like giving the animal the scent for the kill.” He later promised that Tecumseh would start preparing the very next day to re-take the Hat.
When it was Pemi’s turn to speak, Kenny encouraged all participants to remember that the Hat was first given in 1967 as a gift of friendship and respect from George Munger to Tom Reed, Sr. as a symbol recognizing the hard-work and determination of the Pemi teams. Danny spoke to how the competition brought the best out in both camps and asked the Tecumseh boys a simple question. “How many of you are better people at camp then you are at home?“ Every Tecumseh kid raised his hand, including Jim Frazier. Danny then encouraged all the athletes to take these lessons and accomplishments home and to continue sharing these values. After these final words, Jim Talbot handed the Hat to Pemi and both camps delivered their traditional raucous cheers of thanks and congratulations to each other. And while the boys filed out of the mess hall, Kenny Moore grabbed the Hat from the table and started running for his Subaru Outback – to lead the Boys TRI-UMPH-ANTLTY back to Pemi at an appropriate speed!
At Pemi the campers and staff did not initially know the final numbers, but everyone felt what the outcome was likely to be. Seniors hustled up to the dining hall to set tables as the rest of the community meandered slowly across the outfield. After an outstanding dinner of steak, the whole Mess Hall – Pemi boys shoulder-to-shoulder with their Tecumseh peers – gave Chef Stacey and her team a standing ovation. After Tom delivered Skittles to the tables that had successfully mastered everyone’s name, I began reading over the results from the day. At the end, the tally was read: Pemi wins 11-8-1. Mark Luff spoke first and celebrated the spirit of competition and paid homage to Tom Reed and George Munger for bringing this century-old tradition to the next level. He spoke of the very same values that Danny spoke of in Tecumseh’s mess hall, and the importance of taking this level of class, sportsmanship, and heated competition beyond the White Mountains of summer camp to their future endeavors. After Tecumseh gave Pemi a thunderous cheer, I spoke directly to Tecumseh’s seniors and shared how much the day had meant to me as a 15-year-old and how impressed I was with both their athletic accomplishments, but also how incredibly close they were as a group, even as the day turned south. The Hat and the day of competition was always about coming together as a community, and if at the end of the day both camps have forged a stronger, more united community, the day had achieved its objective. Pemi finished the day with a deafening cheer for their friends, the flag was lowered, and the boys of Winnepesauke got on the bus for the long ride home.
When the Pemi buses arrived home – the best part of every Tecumseh Day – Kenny Moore rode in with his torso extending out of Outback’s sunroof and holding the Hat high in the air. With the bus lights flashing and the horns honking, the Hat returned to Lower Baker for the first time in 14 years. After ten minutes of one continuous hug and high five, the Pemi community gathered in the Lodge to bring closure to the day. Danny called upon the 15-year-olds to celebrate their leadership and suggested that winning the Hat might be a decent habit to get into. Danny passed me the Hat, and as I looked out at this community, it was clear that the experience was transformative. “This Hat does not represent winning; it represents our journey together. You are the Hat….” Now the Hat has been placed in the rafters of the Lodge where the mythical Metal Boy had spent fourteen long years waiting for the lads of Lower Baker to rediscover the magic, and the joy, of that journey.