Summer 2015: Newsletter #6
For over a hundred years, Camps Pemigewassett and Tecumseh have locked annually into a spirited athletic competition. This year, our 15- and 10-and-unders traveled to Camp Tecumseh, sited majestically on a plateau boldly overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, while the 11, 12, and 13s age groups remained on the comfy confines of Lower Baker Pond. The differences in setting are as unique as our respective camps in terms of culture and program.
Over the years, I have written extensively about each team’s contest and attempted to capture the flow of the day as I chronologically covered each age group’s experience. This year, I will let our 15-year-olds share their journey and tell their story of the day, as they embraced their last Tecumseh Day as campers, while also coming to grips with the last days of being a boy at a summer camp. Perhaps their story is more important than the scores and tallies of the day, as a majority of our 15s have been at Pemi between five and, in some cases, nine years. As you read their story, I hope it will capture the transformative magic of being a 15-year-old at an all-boys camp.
I waited until Sunday, after a few days had washed away the raw emotion of the day, before I spoke with several 15-and-unders about their Tecumseh Day. Sam Berman, Jivan Khakee, and Owen Fried have each experienced the full range of outcomes on this day. So here are their stories and perceptions of Tecumseh Day 2015.
Each summer, the 15-and-unders come together to orchestrate the tone and build-up for the big day. The seniors struggle with the range of ages at camp and how best to reach each group and individual with an age-appropriate message. Clearly, what might be effective for a senior might not work for a junior in his first season or even week at Pemi (our Second Session boys will have just joined us the week before). Any Pemi alum can tell you that the energy and passion on Tecumseh Day far exceeds that of any prep or high school rivalry. I asked the boys what they learned from the week of preparation leading up to the Day and how it impacted their division.
“As a 15-year-old, it really felt different to me this year. In the past, you just worried about your age group, but this year I felt a responsibility to get camp going. I was more worried about the younger kids. The fifteens got together and talked a lot about trying to find the balance between getting kids pumped for the day versus putting emphasis on focus. As the week went on, I began to notice we cared more about each other in Senior Camp. This year, we have 24 15-year-olds in Senior Camp, so I think the energy of Tecumseh Day began to pull us together.” (Owen Fried)
“It’s different as a fifteen-year-old; you feel more important; you realize pretty quickly you need to lead younger kids and be good role models, lift your performance, and be generally at a higher level. In terms of leading camp, I learned that words really matter and we all need to be careful about how we talk about the strength and weaknesses of particular age groups. The younger campers hear everything and it can be destructive if they hear that a fifteen-year-old doesn’t believe they have much of chance. At the end of the day, I think stepping up to lead the other campers brought out the best in us.” (Jivan Khakee)
“Last year, I only came for the first half and that was a big mistake. It was way too short. I never felt like I fully bonded with my cabin. Our relationships weren’t as strong and Tecumseh Day is a big part of building our relationships.” (Jivan Khakee)
Arriving at Tecumseh
After four days of practice in very hot and humid conditions, the 10s and 15s boarded the buses at 7:30 AM for the one-hour ride to Center Harbor. Most of the 15s were returning to Tecumseh for the first time since winning the day in 2012. (They were home as 13- and 14-year-olds.) As 12-year-olds, they had sprinted up the hill above the waterfront after they won the final swimming race to celebrate with their fellow Pemi community members.
“I hadn’t been to Tecumseh since we won The Hat in 2012. When we left that day, I remember the joy of winning but I also remember how devastated their camp was to lose The Hat. We would always joke about how hard their counselors were on their campers, making them do push-ups and stuff like that, and we also would check out their Mohawks [hair cuts]. In the build up to ‘Beat Tecumseh,’ it kind of shapes how you think about the camp. However, when I got there this year, I quickly realized they’re not that bad … they get along and care for each other, too. All the campers and counselors I talked to were really nice. I did notice, though, during the tennis matches that they were pretty stressed out about losing. There seemed to be more on the line for them. To fail would be unacceptable for them.” (Owen Fried)
The Morning Events
The 15s started their day with a grueling tennis match and against an uneven Tecumseh line-up. At number one singles, Carson Hill demolished a far less talented opponent, while Will Merhige at four singles had his hands full against a tenacious and capable competitor.
“One of my favorite memories of the day was watching Will Merhige battle in his tennis match at number four singles. Almost everyone was watching Timmy Coe’s exciting tiebreaker victory at number two singles, and Will was essentially alone taking on what looked like one of their top tennis players. Will won the first set but was tied in the second set when Coe won and everyone from both camps lined up around his court to watch what would be the deciding match. He kept to his game plan, driving the Tecumseh guy back with deep shots and then finishing him off by going to the net. Impressive!” (Sam Berman)
While the 15s were battling their way to a hard-fought 4-3 victory in tennis, the 10-and-under baseball team under the cool leadership of Wesley Eifler played in a “classic.” On the mound was Pierce Cowles who delivered three innings of commanding pitching and also managed to bang out four hits at the plate while scoring two runs. When Cowles found some trouble in the third inning, Eifler astutely went to his bullpen and Jonah Reay slammed the door with three plus innings of shutout ball to preserve the 2-1 victory. The 10’s defense made no errors, and several sensational plays by Reay helped secure the victory, thus creating some awesome Pemi energy in the morning. When the final out was recorded, everyone rushed on the field to celebrate.
“I was watching the 15’s tennis match, but kept one eye looking through the fences to the 10- and-under baseball game. I could hear and feel the intensity of the game, and I wasn’t even there. You would hear the crack of the bat, wild cheers, and one side celebrating a run or an out. I wish I had watched that game, but you couldn’t help but feel the waves of energy pulsating up the hill.” (Jivan Khakee)
With Pemi jumping out to two victories at Tecumseh, and the campers unaware of Pemi dropping all three events at home, the 10’s soccer team and the 15’s baseball team stepped into their second events brimming with confidence. Grady Nance, who attends the Haverford School in Philadelphia, archrival of the majority of Tecumseh kids who attend Episcopal Academy (and ironically Haverford is also former school of the new director of Tecumseh, Doug Knight!) mowed down Tecumseh’s top hitters, setting the tone for the remainder of the game. Robert Cecil, who spent his free afternoons taking extra hitting practice after spending a full year away from baseball, delivered a thundering bases-loaded double to plate the three runners ahead of him and give Nance ample run support to deliver a crisp 6-0 Pemi victory. The 10s, unfortunately, ran into one Tecumseh’s best teams, conceded a goal in the opening minutes of play, and went onto to suffer an 8-0 loss.
“If I had to do one thing over, I wish we or I had spent more time with the Juniors after they lost that soccer game. We were so excited about winning baseball and how our division was doing, I think we might have missed a chance to help them get ready for tennis and swimming in the afternoon.” (Owen Fried)
The Afternoon Events
The two camps entered the Tecumseh dining hall with the score 6-4 in favor of Tecumseh. At Pemi, the 13’s soccer team delivered an impressive 4-1 victory in soccer against a very strong Tecumseh team. Jasper Nusbaum was incredible in the Pemi goal while Arlo Grey, Wyatt Intrator, Spencer Hill, and Will Laycock delivered the goals for Pemi. Tecumseh won 12s soccer (3-0) and Tennis (5-2), 11s Tennis (6-1) and Baseball (9-0), and 13s swimming (46-14), so the atmosphere and momentum at each camp were distinctively different.
After lunch, the 10s tennis team lost 5-2 while the 15-and-under soccer team battled against a very determined Tecumseh side. For the majority of the first half, Tecumseh kept Pemi pinned in their end of the field and eventually scored as a deflected shot changed direction and drifted painfully past the incredibly talented Nick Bowman to the upper corner. Pemi unleashed a blistering attack in the second half as the team moved Patterson Malcolm forward and played balls more directly. A Malcolm header rolled just wide of the net, and Riley Walsh’s volley rung the cross bar as Pemi kept the pressure on. Despite a much better second half, Pemi lost 1-0 to an extremely fit Tecumseh team that never subbed once.
“Watching Patterson Malcolm give 150% – no 200% – on the soccer field with a strained quad — was pretty amazing. He chased down every ball. It was unbelievable. When he collapsed on the field in exhaustion and tears at the final whistle, we all ran to pick him up. That was pretty special.” (Jivan Khakee)
The 15s and 10s were clearly dejected after tough losses to start the afternoon, and both age groups walked slowly down to the waterfront fully aware that winning the day was not likely in the cards. Anyone who has been at a Tecumseh Day knows that the final swim meets often bring out the best in our respective campers, especially when the meet involves our youngest and oldest campers as they come together as one group cheering each other on. The 15s are a talented squad, and Tecumseh always has plenty of depth. Both these factors highlighted the remarkable meet that transpired.
“One of my favorite memories of the day was watching Noah Belinowiz break the record in the breaststroke. We had just lost a really close soccer game and were a little down. His excitement over breaking the record—the way he jumped out of the water and pumped his fist—I think it woke us back up and got us fired up to compete in the swim race.” (Jivan Khakee)
Well, compete they did! After jumping out to an early lead with record-shattering performances by Belinowiz, Grady Boruchin in the backstroke, and Robert Cecil in the freestyle, Tecumseh’s overall depth reeled Pemi in and tied the meet going into the final event, the freestyle relay. This set up one of the greatest races ever witnessed, as both camps rolled out talented relay teams. Belinowiz, Luke Silver, Boruchin, and Cecil delivered a legendary performance while breaking the record in the process.
“On the last relay of the swim meet we were all in a state of disbelief when they announced the score was tied. We all started cheering like crazy during the last race. I think I lost my voice as Robert Cecil pulled away from Tecumseh’s anchor in the final lap and finished first to win the race and the meet.” (Owen Fried)
It was a fantastic performance and exemplified the emotional and physical endurance of our oldest campers. While the 10s came up short in their relay, you could see their clear joy and admiration for their big brothers. After the cheers on the beach were exchanged, our community walked up slowly to the Tecumseh mess hall to close out the day. Each 15-year-old occasionally looked back over his shoulder, knowing his athletic journey at Pemi and this bold tradition was finally over.
“I felt sad, not about losing the day: we had done our best and won three of our four events. It was more about the realization that this age group will never be together again, competing on Tecumseh Day.” (Jivan Khakee)
“At the end of the race, I wasn’t sad about losing the day, because our age group had a great day and, for most of the Seniors, we had already lost, tied, and won a Tecumseh Day over the course of our time at Pemi. Not many campers have experienced each one of those outcomes.” (Owen Fried)
“It didn’t hit me that this marked the end of competition for our age group until the buses rolled into camp. The last time we rode those buses back from Tecumseh we carried The Hat and everyone was there to greet us and celebrate. This year I think I was even more amazed because, when we came back, there were just as many people waiting for us, and we all felt part of a strong community.” (Sam Berman)
When the buses and vans returned to Pemi, hugs, high fives, tears, stories, and laughter met the competitors. Several Seniors addressed the throng of campers and told them how proud they were of their efforts, regardless of the outcome. The boys were also met by one of the most incredible full moons just rising from the east, orange and bold as it reflected the final light from the setting sun. It was clear to everyone that our 15s, the majority of whom first came to Pemi as Juniors, were also ascending at a pace worthy of awe and appreciation. They simultaneously held onto to their last days of being boys on Lower Baker while at the same time taking major steps forward in becoming capable and caring young men.
– Charlie Malcolm