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Summer 2010: Newsletter #6

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This week’s newsletter comes from Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s veteran Director of Athletics.

Last Friday, Camps Pemi and Tecumseh squared off in their annual and hotly contested rivalry.  The two of us have competed against each other for over a century, the last forty-three years for the coveted bronzed hat of former Tecumseh Director George Munger.  Mr. Munger was a highly competitive man who led the University of Pennsylvania football to eighteen consecutive winning seasons.  To this day, his competitive spirit has driven the Tecumseh camp program.  The story of Mr. Munger’s “Hat” is worth highlighting, for it captures one of the philosophical underpinnings of the day.

In 1967, Pemi and Tecumseh competed, as they had for a half-century, on two separate days.  Tecumseh won the first day convincingly 9-3 and scored many of their wins in swimming.  Legendary Pemi waterfront coach Terry Sweetser convinced his lads that they could reverse the outcome if they were willing to put in the time and effort to improve.  Tom Reed Sr. wrote in this very newsletter about the boys who accepted the challenge and eventually led Pemi to an exciting victory in swimming that pushed Pemi over the top on Day Two.  “What price work, sacrifice, courage, conditioning, self-respect, and respect for teammates?  We submit that no Pemi swimmer involved and few Pemi spectators will forget these races for a long time.”

Tom Sr. then describes the moment the Hat was introduced to the rivalry and the values that forged the tradition. Amidst the Pemi throngs assembled in the messhall, “cheer after ear-splitting cheer for teams, for individual performers, for coaches and two spontaneously for our hard-fighting rivals, Tecumseh.  And then, unaccountably, silence.   Here are all the Tecumseh boys on our porch; their director, George Munger, takes off his familiar straw hat, gives it as a token to Tom, and turns and leads a deafening Tecumseh cheer for Pemi….In a flash, it points up for everyone what athletic competition ought to be and these days so seldom is.”

While “The Hat” has shaped and motivated competition for the last forty years, for the first decade of competition the Pemi boy woke up at four in the morning to walk four miles to the Wentworth-to-The-Weirs train.  At Weir’s Beach, the boys boarded the steamer Governor Endicott to cross Winnipesauke and land at the Tecumseh swim docks.   After spending the night under the stars, contending with the mosquitoes, the boys woke up to a full day of competition involving both campers and counselors.  The Pemi community would spend a second night there before returning to the shores of Lower Baker.  Clearly, the strenuous life of Teddy Roosevelt carried the spirit of the endeavor.

Today, we wake up at a leisurely 6:30 AM to the rousing cheers of our senior campers, who often play a Rocky theme song.  A brisk breakfast at 7 AM and onto the yellow school buses at 7:30 AM.  Kenny Moore masterfully keeps the 11-, 12-, and 13-and-Unders on target for smooth, organized departure.  After an hour bus ride, the Pemi contingent arrives at Tecumseh with 50 minutes before the starting gun, serve, or kick-off.  Meanwhile, at Pemi, the final dragging of the senior infield takes place, Jeff Greene rolls a few courts, water is delivered to each venue by the “Trippies,” the game balls are in place for the contests, and last of the breakfast tables are cleared.  The moment of anticipation builds as the Pemi home contingent of 10- and 15-and-Unders await the unmistakable rumble on the bridge from the arriving Tecumseh buses and vans.

The first morning contests were under way at 9:30 AM at both camps.  At Pemi, the 10-and-Unders found themselves locked in a tight baseball game.  Chris Houlihan mowed down the Tecumseh line-up in the first.  In the bottom of the first, Patterson Malcolm worked a two-out walk and Houlihan hit a deep shot to center that found a well-positioned Tecumseh fielder for the final out.  Unfortunately, Tecumseh scored five runs in the second when their number-nine hitter delivered a gapper to left center that scored two runs.  Three more runs unearned runs would follow for a commanding five -run lead.  Pemi battled against a very strong Tecumseh pitcher, but they could not find a hole in a very confident defense.   The 15’s Tennis team also found themselves in an equally competitive match.  The highlight of the match, and maybe the day, was Nick Barber’s victory in number-one singles.   After winning the first set, Nick dropped the second and ended up in a super tiebreaker and down by three points.  He was cool, calm, and focused as he skillfully dispensed of his talented, spirited, and flamboyant opponent.  Pemi ended up losing the match 5-2 with Austin Dorsey winning his match at 4th singles.

The second morning events at Pemi were the 10-and-Under soccer match and the 15-and-Under baseball game. The 10’s displayed amazing determination after their set-back in baseball.  The game was an up-and-down affair on the big, steamy field. Pemi scored first when Mikey Suski found an opening and blasted a shot that bounced off the goalie’s chest and into the goal.  Tecumseh evened the score when they scored on a free kick just outside the box, knotting the game at 1-1.  Pemi nearly pulled ahead when Patterson Malcolm’s free kick sent Jackson McNear in alone at the back post, the redirection nibbling the edge of the post.  With the wind at Tecumseh’s back in the second half, our visitors put us on our heals for a fair amount of the second half.  Sam Berman was brilliant in goal, making several game-saving stops. Malcolm, Johnny Seebeck, Owen Freid, and Jackson Welch defended a flurry of attacks and bought time for Pemi to mount dangerous counter-attacks. With Tecumseh committing three defenders to stop him, Suski whistled a shot just past the top right corner, and another rolled along the goal line before the Tecumseh keeper sprawled back for the ball. The game ended with a fair 1-1 tie, with both teams displaying incredible focus and commitment.

While the 10’s battled their way to a tie, the 15’s baseball team played in a “classic.”  Tecumseh rolled out one of the most polished three-pitch lefties seen in “camp” baseball.  However, Pemi received an equally impressive effort from Tecumseh Day warrior Danny Murphy.  Murphy entered the game 3-1 when pitching against Tecumseh and always finds his best game on this day.  Tecumseh scratched out a 2-0 lead while taking advantage of a few Pemi miscues. Undaunted, the Pemi nine hustled their way to a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth; Stan Barlow stole second and then scored on Owen Gray’s prodigious shot to straight away center.  If the ball had been hit to left, it would have hit the laundry room; if it had been hit to right, it would have cleared the tennis courts; unfortunately it was hit to dead center and rolled toward the tent-drying area. After coach Kerr called aggressively for the steal of third, Pemi could not deliver the tying run.  In the top of the seventh, Tecumseh loaded the bases with no outs, and Pemi miraculously escaped damage when a fly-out to center, a poorly timed tag-up at third, followed by a diving tag of a wayward runner resulted in a triple play.  In the bottom of the seventh, with lunch waiting on the table, Pemi could not scratch home the tying run.  Win or lose, it was clear that everyone who played or watched the game felt the intensity of the moment and the dominating respect for the game, and came away with a deep appreciation of the value of the day.

While Pemi found themselves down 0-3-1 at home, the 11’s, 12’s and 13’s started off their morning with clear momentum.  The 13’s swim team won a tight match-up 29-26. Will Oberlander took the butterfly with an impressive 34.58, and Will Nuelle won the freestyle.   The meet came down to the final relay race, and Daniel Traver, Sompy Somp, Oberlander, and Nuelle delivered a powerful performance and outswam Tecumseh by five seconds for the victory. The 11’s tennis team lost a heartbreaker 4-3.  Pemi received victories from Mitchell Cornell at second singles,  and doubles victories from the Duval brothers and Malcolm Roesser and Colin Alcus.  Thomas Bono lost 8-6 in a determined effort as the 11’s fell just short of helping Pemi sweep the early round of action at Tecumseh. Perhaps the most exciting match of the day at Tecumseh was the 12’s soccer game.  Despite holding 70% of the play, Pemi found themselves down 1-0 with eight minutes to go in the game.  With the tennis and swim teams cheering their side on, Julian Hernandez-Webster, “Man of the Match,” beat several defenders down the left flank before rifling a shot off the corner cross bar. The ball careened down into the box and Tecumseh was called for a handball. Hernandez-Webster buried the PK to tie the game and seize the momentum. With the defense of Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Charlie Parsons, and the inspiring Nat Healy shutting down Tecumseh’s attack while center mid Max Pagnucco ran the midfield, Pemi kept up a withering attack. With three minutes to go, Pemi served a corner kick into the box, and Will Robbins alertly jumped on the loose ball at the 18 and delivered a stunning volley “side netting” for the 2-1 victory.  After the final whistle sounded, Pemi held that same 2-1 lead at Tecumseh and had clearly built some momentum heading into the second round of events.

Our opponents at Tecumseh are rarely unnerved by athletic challenges. They spend two straight weeks preparing for Pemi Day. Each practice is held in the exact order and time of their future Pemi Day contest.  The Day marks the end of their inter-camp sports schedule, a crescendo event with tremendous build-up and pressure to win.  Each year they arrive with a wide range of Mohawks to celebrate the day, and their campers embrace Munger’s competitive drive that often pushes their teams forward during critical stages of the game.  The 11’s baseball team ran into a well-prepared Tecumseh nine that delivered a convincing 9-0 victory.  Colin Alcus pitched well for Pemi in defeat,  as we were unable to get our bats going.  Defensively, John Galbreath, Jamie Nicholas, and Mitchell Cornell played particularly well in the field.  The 12’s tennis team dropped an exciting match 4-3. Pemi garnered victories from Arthur Root at third singles and doubles victories from Will Robbins and Charlie Parsons along with Ben Chaimberg and Max Pagnucco.  Andrew Coe fought gallantly in defeat at first singles.  The 13’s Soccer team played perhaps Tecumseh’s top soccer team.  Pemi’s defense led by Carl Pohlman, Hartwell Green, Oliver Kafka, and a spirited Daniel Traver (whose hustle and determination set the bar for Pemi) held Tecumseh at bay for much of the first half.  Ben Nicholas and Oliver Gronloh orchestrated a creative attack, while Eric Gronloah and Sompy Somp put Tecumseh on their heels with strong dangerous runs.   Tecumseh scored first, but Sompy Somp delivered a goal to tie the game before half time.  Eric Rolfs was simply brilliant in goal for Pemi to keep the game tied at 1-all.  In the second half, Tecumseh flooded the flanks with dangerous athletic runs that put Pemi on their heels and eventually jumped on the scramble for loose balls in the box for the 3-1 victory. With Tecumseh’s impressive 13’s soccer triumph, they now held a commanding 7-2-1 lead on the day.  However, of the ten events, only one game was truly a lopsided affair.

After a very competitive morning at Pemi, followed by a late lunch, the 10’s tennis team and the 15’s soccer team met their respective opponents.  The 10’s fell quickly to a very talented Tecumseh team 7-0.  Patterson Malcolm, Ted Orben, Jackson McNear, and Sam Berman battled tough Tecumseh opponents in singles for Pemi.  The 15’s soccer game is one of the more keenly anticipated affairs between both camps’ “varsity” teams. Tecumseh scored first when soft Pemi marking left their left mid wide open at the 18, and he delivered a deflected shot through a screen of players that eluded Pemi keeper Dan Fullham.  In need of some mojo, Pemi unleashed Dana Wensberg and Danny Murphy up top, and their hustle and determination created some much-needed energy for the blue and gold. Eventually, Peter Ionno delivered the charging Murphy a perfect through ball, and he was taken down in the box. Ionno thereupon coolly struck the PK home to knot the game at 1-1. Tecumseh came out and played a very spirited second half; however, the defense of Owen Grey, Gus Walsh, Will Meinke, and Alex Fauver kept the Tecumseh attack at bay. Meinke played flawlessly at the sweeper position, while Alex Fauver single-handedly shut down his flank with crushing tackles and alert outlet passes. When Tecumseh did unleash shots, Fulham kept the ball out of the net and delivered long, towering kicks deep into Tecumseh’s zone. As Pemi stepped up their effort, they unleashed dangerous counter-attacks to the inspired Matt Cloutier.  With five minutes to go, Cloutier nearly scored the game-winner on a partial breakaway. Although the match ended in a 1-1 draw, the level of play displayed by both teams would reach the level of most high school varsity programs.

The 10’s and 15’s then made their way to the waterfront after a long day of heated contests. The 15’s met a very talented and deep Tecumseh swim team, but Peter Montante, Michael Montante, Daniel Fulham, and Buck Baskin swam a great free relay race despite being in a lopsided meet. The 10-and-unders were led by the dynamic swimming of Chris Houlihan, Byron Lathi, and Tanner Nugent.  The meet came down to the final free relay, but the gallant team of Houlihan, Lathi, Ted Orben, and Owen Freid fell just short, as Tecumseh pulled off the meet 30-25.

The afternoon events at Tecumseh continued a trend of disappointing losses for Pemi. The 11’s soccer team played one of the more impressive tactical matches of the day, as coach Cory Fauver played an “umbrella” defense with an extra defender to keep Tecumseh’s talented team at bay. Will Harned was spectacular in the net behind the defense of John Galbreath, Will DeTeso, Will Jones, Nick Pigeon and Harry Tuttle.  In the second half, Pemi countered with great midfield play by Jamie Nicholas, Thomas Bono, Mitchell Cornell. With only a few minutes left on the clock, Tecumseh was awarded a curious free kick after a ball was played out of bounds due to a Pemi injury. Tecumseh took advantage of the opportunity to seize the victory 1-0. The 12’s baseball team was also locked in a nail-biter, as Ned Roosevelt pitched a gem for Pemi (nine strikeouts and two walks), but the team could not deliver the key hit despite having runners on base in every inning.  Charlie Parsons and Nat Healy delivered two hits apiece in the losing effort. 13’s Tennis fell to a very strong Tecumseh team 7-0. Pemi received an excellent effort from Daniel Traver and Alex Baskin at number one doubles, and from Andreas Sheikh at two singles.

The final events at Tecumseh were the 11’s/12’s swim meet and the 13’s baseball game.  While the 12’s received a great effort from Julian Hernandez-Webster in the breast and IM and from their relay team of Max Pagnucco, Patrick Sullivan, Florian Dietl, and Cole Boland, they fell to a very strong Tecumseh team. The 11’s meet, like the 10’s’, came down to the final relay race. Tommy Witkop won the 25 butterfly by several lengths, while Colin Alcus and Thomas Bono went 1st and 2nd in the breast.  In the final and crucial free relay, Pemi lost by .06 seconds to drop the meet despite the heroic efforts of Witkop, Andrew DiGaetano, Alcus, and Bert Oberlander.  Amazingly, this was the third meet out of five that was decided on the final relay race. The 13’s finished the afternoon with an impressive 6-1 victory in baseball. Will Nuelle led Pemi on the mound, while Will Parsons and Daniel Traver provided crucial offense. Pemi played flawlessly in the field for coach Ben Walsh, who led his second team of the day to victory against Tecumseh.

The final score on the day was Tecumseh 15, Pemi 3, with 2 ties. As you can garner from the details of the day, the majority of the contests were spirited, close affairs. However, beyond the results of the individual contests, Pemi and Tecumseh’s athletes played with determination and incredible sportsmanship.  In the mess hall at noon and in the evening, players comfortably mingled and shared stories of the day and made connections. At Tecumseh, Jim Frazier presented Danny Kerr with a framed Tecumseh jersey embroidered with Thomas L. Reed Sr.’s name.  Jim, a former Denver Bronco, shared the deep respect and admiration he had for Tom, dating back over Jim’s sixty years of competition between the two camps.  While at Pemi, I spoke to our communities about how much Tom Reed appreciated competition and sportsmanship, especially the importance of respecting our opponents. I am confident Tom would have been very proud at the overall commitment of both camps to the true spirit of the day. Each individual is a guardian of a most honorable tradition, and I know we collectively met the challenge of competing with determination and grace.

~ Charlie Malcolm

Director of Athletics