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Summer 2011: Newsletter #6

The bulk of this latest number will be Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s summing up of Tecumseh Day 2011. Those who’ve kept a close eye on Sportscenter will already know the results – but we won’t spoil the suspense for the rest of our readers here. After a week’s focus on preparations for T-day, however, the current week has seen a burst of activity on the trip front; we now stand only 21 miles short of completing our Appalachian Trail Quest, with 144 of us having trod at least a mile of the fabled pathway. Uppers Three and Four logged seven spectacular miles on the Franconia Ridge, and a select group of seniors seven equally stunning miles on the Presidential ridges (in perfect weather). The best staff-camper ratio by far, however, was found on the second of two trips in the Mahoosuc Range, as Trip Leader Sylvia Parol and Pemi West veteran Richard Komson accompanied Sparky Brown on the most far-flung miles of the AT in NH – including the most difficult mile of the entire 2,000 in Mahoosuc Notch. Were it not for “The Quest” I doubt the trip would have gone, but we’re on a bit of a mission, and Sparky’s walk was especially well-supervised as a result.

As one more stall before Charlie’s account, we’d like to say that our boys continue to make the kind of impression on the trail that we like them two. Our seven stays at Appalachian Mountain Club huts have thus far elicited two email compliments, out of the blue. The first came from a random guest at Greenleaf: “I would not normally follow through on commenting on such things, but your campers/staff were exemplary in their conduct and interactions both on the trail and in the hut. We encountered four other camp groups during our trek, and your Pemi boys were the most polite, inquisitive, and appreciative group we came upon. Plus one of your leaders came back to thank the hut crew before leaving! Sounds so elementary, but even the crew said that doesn’t happen often. If our three boys weren’t all grown up, I would have enrolled them at your camp.” The second came from an AMC employee: “I was at Zealand Falls Hut Tuesday night filling in for the hut croo and wanted to pass on my compliments to the Camp Pemi group who stayed there. I worked in the huts for years and have led camp trips myself and those kids were among the best I’ve seen – polite, friendly, interested, and respectful. They also seemed to be having fun!” (What a relief to hear that last!) Music to our ears – and we hope to yours. Now, over to Chas.

Pemi and Tecumseh have been competing against each other for over a hundred years.  Only gas rationing during war time and an influenza outbreak in the 1920s have interrupted this storied tradition.  Tecumseh, a camp dedicated to the pursuit of athletics, is always a formidable opponent, having won a majority of competitions over the last forty years.  Pemi’s last victory was in 1998, when a group of veteran counselors (Phil Landry, Ethan Schafer, Sky Fauver, Zach Rossetti and others) and great senior leadership pushed Pemi to victory.  It was these very ingredients that were in place for this year’s contest with Tecumseh.

Pemi enjoyed successful athletic days against Moosilauke and Kingswood in the first half, but at change-over, Pemi welcomed close to a hundred new boys to our teams.  Our coaches worked tirelessly preparing teams in five age groups (10-and-under, 11s, 12s, 13s and 15-and-under) in baseball soccer, swimming, and tennis.  As momentum began to build at Pemi, with each cheer in the mess hall getting a tad louder, the Seniors played a central role in getting the younger boys ready to compete with a camp singularly dedicated to winning what they call “Pemi Day.”

Down at Tecumseh, “Doc Nick’s Wonders” (“the junior division!”) played in what annually has been one of the closest contests of the day.  Willie Noble took the mound for Pemi and delivered a gem (5 IP, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 3 BB).  Pemi spotted Noble a 2-0 lead when Andrew Kanovsky, Mikey Suski, and Matt Cornell delivered base hits.  Tecumseh battled back to take a 3-2 lead, but Pemi mounted one last attack in the top of the 6th inning, loading the bases before the final out was recorded.  The 15s Tennis team dropped their match 6-1 to a very talented and poised Tecumseh team.  Peter Traver and Austin Dorsey delivered Pemi’s sole victory, but Eric Herbert and Alex Dietl both fell only in super tie-breakers after winning a crucial second set to even up their respective matches.

In the second morning events at Tecumseh, the 10’s soccer team held a 2-1 halftime lead on two goals by Mikey Suski, the first coming off a beautiful serve from Jackson Welsh.  After Tecumseh scored three second-half goals to take a 4-2 lead, Pemi scored twice on free-kick shots, only to have the official call the goals back for off-sides.

The “flagship”15s baseball team sent Danny Murphy to the mound for his sixth and final voyage against Tecumseh.  After the team spotted Murphy four runs in the top of the first with several base hits and six stolen bases, Dan found himself in an early jam with the bases loaded and no outs.  He responded gamely, though, and struck out the side, crushing Tecumseh’s hopes of getting back into the game as our team cruised to a confidence-building 7-0 victory.  Matt Sherman and Daniel Reiff had great days in the field and at bat while Dana Wensberg called a brilliant game behind the plate and Eric Rolfs anchored the infield beautifully.

At Pemi, something that we hadn’t seen in quite some time was brewing from the opening whistle of almost every contest.  The 13s swim team fell quickly to a very deep and talented Tecumseh squad despite great efforts from Cole Valente, Julien Webster-Hernandez ,and Jack Purcel1.  In 11s tennis, however, Pemi defeated Tecumseh 5-2  behind singles victories by Carson Hill, Jonah Roque, and Robert Loeser and doubles victories by Patterson Malcolm/Johnny Seebeck and Owen Fried/Jack Wright.   A talented Pemi 12s soccer team withstood some early Tecumseh pressure as a goal-saving tackle by sweeper John Galbreath and several tough saves by Will Harned kept the game knotted at 0-0.  In the second half, it was all Pemi as Charlie Scott jumped on a Jamie Nicholas cross and pushed the ball home for a 1-0 lead.  Nicholas would send Scott in alone for the second goal before scoring one of his own for a 3-0 victory.

While the 12s took care of business on the pitch, the 11s baseball team was locked into an incredible pitcher’s duel.  Oscar Tubke-Davidson struck out 15 of a possible 18 batters (outs) for Pemi.  Tecumseh loaded the bases in the top of the sixth when a high towering fly ball was lofted towards right fielder, Greg Nacheff, who caught the ball for out number three while falling to his knee.  Unfortunately, despite having the winning run on third base in three different innings, Pemi could not scratch home the winning tally and settled for an agonizing 0-0 tie.  In the last of the home morning events, the 13s Soccer team provided the Pemi faithful with a spectacular game.  Pemi scored first when Julian Webster-Hernandez sent a ball to Nick Bertrand in the box and Nick drove a shot to the upper-right corner for a 1-0 halftime lead.  With Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Charlie Parsons, and Nat Healy shutting down the potent Tecumseh attack, Nick Bertrand made the save of the day as he pushed away a Tecumseh free kick headed to the corner, preserving the 1-0 victory and sending Pemi into a 5-4-1 lead after the morning events.

Lunch at Tecumseh was unusually subdued as Tecumseh found themselves trailing Pemi for the first time in several years. Meanwhile, at Pemi, there was boundless confidence after the boys of Lower Baker went 4-1-1 in the morning and demonstrated they could c-o-m-p-e-t-e.   Each camp met with their respective age groups after lunch with the day up for grabs and encouraged their boys to dig a little deeper.

Any veteran of Tecumseh Day knew that our friends from Winnepesauke would answer Pemi’s challenge with incredible purpose.  At Tecumseh, our 15-and-under soccer team ran into one of their most complete and talented line-ups and quickly gave up four first-half goals.  Eric Rolfs provided the 15s with an inspiring effort in the second half, and the boys only conceded one more goal for a 5-0 loss.  The 10s tennis team lost handily 6-1, with Spencer Hill winning at first singles in convincing fashion for Pemi’s lone victory.

Back at Pemi, the 12s baseball team jumped out to a 5-2 lead after two innings, powered by John Galbreath’s two-run triple.  But Tecumseh scored five unanswered runs in the third and fourth innings, powering their way to a 7-5 victory.  On the soccer pitch, the 11s also found themselves down 2-0 at halftime after giving up an own goal and yielding to a carefully-placed shot on a breakaway.  Much like the 12s and 13s soccer teams that played in the morning, though, the 11s responded with an incredible effort in the second half.  After Wes Farley set-up Carson Hill for the first goal, Patterson Malcolm sent Ted Orben in on the left side and he hit a brilliant ball off the far post for the game-tying goal.   With the Pemi fans urging the boys forward, Jonah Roque nearly scored the game-winner when he headed a ball off the cross bar, but the team settled for an inspiring 2-2 tie.

Pemi’s effort in the 11s game was a marvel to all in attendance from both camps, but what transpired in the 13s tennis match was equally so.  Victories by Florian Dietel at number-four singles and doubles victories by Nat Healy/Ned Roosevelt and Mac McCaffery/Max Pagnucco tied the match at three apiece.  It was in this high-pressure situation that Jeremy Roque found himself in one of the great tennis duels since Bill Pruden and Mac Cushing came from behind to deliver “The Hat” in 1967.  Roque, a wiry French lad with the heart of a lion and the slyness of a fox, was up against an outstanding athlete and competitor from Tecumseh.  Each rally lasted an average of 25 strokes while both players were surrounded by vocal, respectful supporters lining the fences.  As the boys kept the ball in play conservatively on their way to an 8-8 tie, Jeremy read his opponent perfectly and changed his strategy once he sensed an ounce of doubt in the Tecumseh player, as he began to aggressively serve-and-volley his way to a victory in the final game.

With the 11s soccer draw and the 13s tennis victory, Pemi entered the final baseball game and swim meets of the day trailing by only one event, 6-7-2.  Any time the outcome of the day is in doubt heading into the last events on the schedule, the boys have clearly had an opportunity to participate in a transformative athletic experience.  Anyone fortunate enough to see our boys compete couldn’t help but gush with pride as Pemi put together one inspiring effort after another.  The 13s baseball team, behind the commanding pitching of Ned Roosevelt and the outstanding coaching of Ben Walsh, won a convincing 8-2 baseball game.  Great defensive plays by Zach Leeds, Nick Bertrand, and Charlie Parsons never let Tecumseh back into the game.  The 11s swam hard but fell to Tecumseh 40-15 despite excellent efforts from Noah Belinowitz, Carson Hill, Wes Farley, and Johnny Seebeck .  The 12s swim team, however, delivered an impressive 37-18 win behind dominating performances from Colin Alcus, Sam Grier, Harry Tuttle, and Alek Novikov.

With the score tied at 8-8-2, Pemi anxiously awaited the results from Camp Tecumseh.  The 10s and 15s both faced Tecumseh’s strongest age groups and were collectively 1-5 after three events. It would have been easy for both Lower Baker teams to fold in their last event of a very long day.  But something magical happened at the Tecumseh waterfront that ultimately epitomized the meaning of the day.  With every member of the Pemi contingent cheering the 15s and 10s to victory, the boys put on a spectacular effort.  The 15s kept the meet close until the very end, when Tecumseh’s power and depth allowed them to pull away for the victory, 34-21.  Max Livingstone-Peters, Danny Murphy, and Will Oberlander swam particularly well for Pemi.  Then, with the 10s trailing by one point heading into the final relay of the day with both the meet and outcome of the day hanging in the balance, the freestyle team of Spencer Hill, Gray Farley, Byron Lathi, and Jeff McKee delivered a legendary performance.   As McKee entered the water for the last leg of the race and day, the raucous Pemi crowd screamed encouragement in unison, and erupted with amazement and joy as McKee gave every ounce of his energy to beat his valiant Tecumseh opponent by .3 seconds, securing Pemi a 28-27 victory and a stunning 9-9-2 overall record for the day.

There were clearly plenty of individual heroes who scored big goals and runs or won crucial matches and races – or teams that found the magic to reach their collective potential – but by the end of the day we had all learned something about our camp family and what it takes to compete at the highest levels.  In fewer than two weeks since changeover, Pemi became incredibly unified and the boys were able to discover joy in an extremely competitive environment with a community that was 100% invested in their success and well-being.

That joy and that sense of accomplishment is still sustaining us, potent evidence that success is absolutely relative. Everyone would like to have come out unquestionably on top. But on balance, we have rarely seen an effort that so markedly exceeded what we might reasonably have expected – and one where the support from the sidelines so clearly had a positive and instrumental impact on the active participants. Our personal memory of Tecumseh Days stretches back over half a century, and this really was one of the great ones. ‘Nuff said.

— Tom and Danny