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2023 Newsletter #6

Camp Pemi and our friends from Camp Tecumseh on Lake Winnipesaukee have engaged in a spirited competition for over a hundred years (1908!).  It is an experience that every Pemi veteran remembers and has sometimes generated legendary performances from our young athletes and teams.  The Mess Hall vibrates each summer with a growing series of chants to share enthusiasm and optimism for the day.  The 15-year-old Seniors step forward to push and urge Pemi to embrace the work, focus and desire necessary to meet the challenge.  It’s an intricate challenge when the ages of the athletes involved range from 8 to 15 years old. 

Since the 1980s, Pemi and Tecumseh have rolled out five age groups (10 and under, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 15 and under) across four sports (baseball, tennis, soccer, and swimming); whoever wins the most events, wins the bronze hat of George Munger.  Why do we play for Mr. Munger’s hat?  In 1967 when we used to play Tecumseh twice per summer, longtime Tecumseh Director George Munger handed Tom Reed his old straw hat when Camp Pemi reversed an earlier defeat with a dominant performance on the waterfront.  Mr. Munger delivered these words when presenting The Hat for the first time:

“Tom, Al, Dr. Nichols, and all of you men of Pemigewassett, I represent all of my friends at Tecumseh in offering you our sincerest congratulations. We are deeply impressed with the work you have devoted to turning the tables on us and triumphing today. The spirit and effort we witnessed on the fields from all of you was extraordinary.” Mr. Munger pauses, evoking considerable clapping and some whistling. Settling the crowd with one hand and doffing his tattered straw hat with the other, Mr. Munger goes on: “Let this hat stand in testimony to your incredible work today, Camp Pemi. Our respect for you, our friends and competitors, has never been greater. On behalf of every one of us at Tecumseh, I thank you as I stand in awe of what you have accomplished!”

Pemi’s swim coach, The Reverend Terry Sweetser, had the boys train daily to prepare for the second day of competition.  Pemi’s hard work to improve led to Mr. Munger’s gracious acknowledgment of Pemi’s efforts and eventual victory.  It is an excellent reminder that The Hat was not about the win but the journey and effort it took to achieve it.

Over my 35-plus years of watching this day unfold, it is always central for the Pemi community to focus on the preparation rather than the outcome of winning The Hat.  While chanting in the Mess Hall may provide a certain degree of energy, it will never replace the core reality that a commitment to improvement and teamwork is at the foundation of the journey.  While the decrease in the seven-week camper in both camps can make this more challenging, there is a ten-day period where the seven-week and second-half campers can build a team through dedicated preparation.  

With the arrival of our second-half campers and a large contingent of 15-year-olds feeling the pull of their last summer as campers, the energy in the Mess Hall leading up to “T-Day” was palpable.   So when the early 6:30 AM bugle blew, and the music rocked Intermediate Hill, the Seniors led calisthenics for the the Lowers and Uppers.  As the boys made their way into their polar bar, the stunning early morning sun pierced the mist of a crisp morning.  

The Morning at Pemi

After a quick breakfast and some words of wisdom on managing the pressure of the day and the critical importance of sportsmanship, our 10- and 15-and-unders loaded the yellow school buses for Camp Tecumseh.  With temperatures likely in the low 80s with a significant amount of humidity and little shade on the fields overlooking Winnipesaukee, our oldest and youngest campers were on a challenging journey filled with opportunities to embrace courage, resiliency, and community.

Emmitt Baggish takes a corner kick for 12s soccer

At Pemi, the 11s, 12s, and 13s were ready to welcome Tecumseh to the shores of Lower Baker, a smaller, gentler venue than the big pond of Winnipesaukee.  Fortunately, the 12s soccer team greeted our guests with one of the most dominating Pemi soccer performances in recent memory.  The team flawlessly executed a high press, stripping Tecumesh’s defense and scoring several quick goals while generating numerous corner kicks for Pemi.  Throughout the week, the boys learned a pressing system of play and executed corner kick set pieces that caused countless opportunities.  Pemi’s depth kept up a blistering attack; by halftime, the score was 5-0 Pemi.  River Morgan finished the game with four assists from his midfield position. At the same time, Marcus Vitale added two goals, Kai Karsan tallied another, and Zach Pierson added two more for a convincing 7-0 victory. 

11s tennis prepares to take the courts

While the 12s soccer team’s cheers reverberated through the valley, our 13s swim team jumped out to an early lead with a victory in the medley relay and wins by Owen Whitcombe in the backstroke and Johnny Thibault in the butterfly and individual medley. However, Tecumseh’s deep swim team pulled ahead late in the meet with a victory in the free relay for 34-26 victory.  At the same time as the swim meet and soccer match, the 11s tennis team delivered an outstanding performance with a scintillating 7-0 victory.  Nick Sargent and Luka Strugar won at 1st and 2nd singles with aggressive, confident play.  Ozzie Baugher and Will Dennis methodically controlled their matches at 3 and 4 singles. The doubles teams of Emmet Greene/Julian King, Nico Aponte-Rios/Dennis Taft, and Henry VanDerzee/Miles Taylor each cruised to victories with excellent communication and relentless pressure on their opponents.  

With Pemi holding a 2-1 lead and our opponents feeling some pressure, the second morning events at Pemi were incredibly competitive.  The 11’s baseball team locked horns with a determined opponent on the baseball field as both teams were anchored by excellent starting pitching.  Nico Aponte-Rios and Brendan Obrien pitched well for Pemi; however, a two-out Tecumseh double in the top of the fifth cleared the bases and gave our visitors a 5-2 lead.  In Pemi’s last two innings, we loaded the bases with quality at-bats and intelligent base running but struggled to deliver the critical hit.  An incredibly bizarre play ended the game with one out in the last inning and the boys feeling slightly anxious at the plate.  An unlucky pop-up near home plate was correctly ruled an ”infield fly; the batter is out” on a ball barely in fair territory but dropped by the Tecumseh fielder and rolled foul.  With the crowd’s roar, no one could hear the call as the ball bobbled by three Tecumseh players converging to make the play. Pemi’s runner advanced, trying to avoid a force out at home.  Pemi’s runner was tagged at home for a game-ending double play.  In my 30-plus years of coaching, I have never had this sequence play out in this dramatic fashion, and I bear responsibility for unnecessarily sending the player home. Never too late to learn from your mistakes.

Tom Mele and Sam Weber prepare for their match

Tecumseh gained some much-needed momentum as their talented 13s Soccer team quickly placed our boys on our heels, scoring two quick goals on their way to a 6-2 victory.  In defeat, Wyatt Orraca-Cecil scored two goals for Pemi, and Miles Whitcombe, Colin Pham, and Noah Littman each provided commendable effort during this challenging match.  Fortunately, our 12’s Tennis team, fresh off their soccer victory, delivered another 7-0 win in tennis.  The team was led by singles victories by Patchett Grant, Gray Axel, Davis Morrell, and Rudy Wei.  Wei’s marathon tiebreaker victory was the match of the day, as the hockey player from Chicago was gritty and competitive. After the morning events at Pemi, the score was knotted at 3-3 here.

Morning at Tecumseh

When you arrive on the bluff overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, everything looks big and relatively old school.  The vast skyline, ocean-size lake, wide open fields, and rustic cabins all give Camp Tecumseh a different feel than Lower Baker’s comfy confines.  Tecumseh is a sports camp, and this day is the equivalent of Pemi Week with a crescendo of competition.  Their staff and older campers do an incredible job of getting each boy to compete, some doff unique haircuts to commemorate the day, and their sportsmanship while giving all-out effort is remarkable.  You better be ready to play when you step off the bus, because they will bring it!

Jake Landry and Thomas Axel earned a win at 2 doubles

The 10s Baseball team ran into a buzz saw as Tecumseh rolled out an elite pitcher who mowed down Pemi’s batters on their way to a 12-0 victory.  Pemi received strong pitching performances from Chuck Kilcullen, Bennett Purdy, and Kirin Clark, while Connor Pike was stellar behind the dish for Doc Nick’s Wonders.  Defensively, Felix Grant was a steady force at third base.  

The 15s Tennis team also ran into a powerful Tecumseh side and fell 5-2.  Robert Dorros played heroically at number one singles, ultimately falling in a super tiebreaker 10-6.  Our second (Jake Landry/Thomas Axel) and third double teams (Stefan Armitage/Leo Ventimiglia) delivered victories in competitive matches.

15s baseball at Tecumseh

The 15s moved on to the baseball field to try to even the score after an excellent week of practices with Coach Phil Landry.  A towering home run by Luke Young and strong pitching from Sam Reed and Will Cahill kept the game close, but Pemi could not deliver timely hitting when runners were in scoring position and eventually fell 5-1.  The 10s soccer team had to shake off their disappointment from the baseball game and lock horns with a talented Tecumseh soccer team.  Our boys were down 2-0 but did not back down and eventually evened the score late in the first half with goals by Rhys Newman and Finn Shapiro.  Justin Stannard made several incredible saves to keep Pemi in the match, but Tecumseh came out strong in the second half and delivered a 4-2 victory.  The 10s Soccer team displayed commendable resiliency and suggested they might be prepared to respond in the afternoon events.

Afternoon Events

With the score Tecumseh 7 Pemi 3 at the midway point, our lads would need to dig deep and get some results.  At Tecumseh, the 10s Tennis team answered the call and won their match 4-3.  Hudson Eng set the tone with a brilliant 8-0 win.  Connor Pike and Mike Vitale fought a relentless Tecumseh doubles pair to win 8-6. They defeated their respective opponents with clever, gritty play.  Graham Eising and Finn Shapiro won comfortably in doubles with excellent teamwork.  The match came down to Felix Grant’s pivotal win as he bested his opponent 8-6 for the Pemi victory in 10s Tennis.

15s soccer celebrates Max Weber’s goal

After lunch the 15’s soccer match is always a spectacle as each camp’s “varsity” takes the field in the heat of the day.  Tecumseh seized a 1-0 lead late in the first half when a scramble for a loose ball led to a penalty kick for Tecumseh.  Pemi controlled the run of play for most of the second half but did not create many clear chances until Max Weber found a loose ball just outside the penalty box, dribbled into the box, and buried the shot to knot the game at 1-1 with ten minutes to play.  Pemi continued to push forward but couldn’t find the game-winner.  Defensively Chris Cappillo made a game-saving tackle to thwart a Tecumseh counterattack.  Alongside Cappillo, Luke Myre, Leo Ventimiglia, and Justin Hires anchored the defense, and Josh Lawson and Lincoln Thorner facilitated the Pemi attack with quick dribbling and passing that opened the episode.  With a win and tie, the 10 and 15-and-unders headed to the beach confidently, committed to finishing strong and potentially winning the day.  

Before discussing the last events of the day, it is crucial to understand what transpired at Pemi.  The 11s soccer team locked horns with a Tecumseh side ready to compete.  The first half ended 0-0, with both sides creating several quality chances. Pemi’s defense, led by Devran Efe, Gabri Hutchinson, and Julian King limited Tecumseh to several opportunities. Ozzie Baugher was all over the pitch, winning balls at midfield and pushing the team forward.  Nelson Braun provided Pemi with some incredible soccer as he countered Tecumseh’s push forward with beautiful individual dribbling and dangerous runs on the counterattack.  Late in the game, Pemi goalie Tyson Madkins made two game-saving stops on balls deflected toward the goal, allowing the game to end in a 0-0 tie.  

Noah Katz, flanked by coaches EJ Burnett and Luke Larabie, holds the scorebook from his perfect game!

The 13s Tennis team fell 5-2 against Tecumseh’s strongest tennis team. Our second doubles team of Connor Davenport and Colin Pham won convincingly 10-5.  Ollie McDonough and Adam Aronis also won their doubles match 10-6 with laser focus.  Meanwhile, the much anticipated 12s Baseball game gave Pemi a performance for the ages.  Noah Katz, the camper who has dedicated the most time to the craft of baseball, toed the rubber and dominated the opposing team.  Katz struck out 15 of 18 batters and did not allow a base runner over six innings for Pemi’s first perfect game on Tecumseh Day!  Pemi’s bats provided Katz ample run support as we cruised to a 9-0 victory.  Patchett Grant called an incredible game behind the plate, keeping Tecumseh off-balanced and swinging defensively while contributing two booming triples to ignite the Pemi offense.  Defensively, Gray Axel made a diving catch in foul territory, one of three balls that left the batter’s box for Tecumseh.

Cheering on 11s and 12s swimming at Pemi

As the boys entered the last events at Pemi and Tecumseh, the score was 8-5-2, and Pemi would need four wins and a tie in the remaining five events.  At Pemi, the 12s Swim team rolled to a 40-19 win behind the strong performances of Evan Robicheau, Trip McNulty, Tom Mele, and Marcus Vitale.  Every member on the roster swam personal bests, a tribute to the coaching of Charlotte Jones, who prepared this team with her usual dedication.  The 11s locked into an incredibly close meet and eventually lost 31-27.  A DQ cost Pemi some critical points, but Wills Waitzkin, Adler Howe, and Ozzie Baugher gave Pemi outstanding efforts and points.  A late addition to the team was Nick Kusik, who delivered a jaw-dropping performance in the free, helping make up some of the lost points and keeping the meet close. 

While the 11s swim meet was coming down to the last relay race, the 13s baseball team was in an exhilarating game. Vittorio Campanile pitched a stellar game, holding a 1-0 lead for Pemi until the last inning when Tecumseh strung a rally together, and a ball down the third base line pushed Tecumseh to a 3-1 lead.  A lead-off double by Bennet King, a steal of third, and a sacrifice fly by Dom Watson cut the lead to 3-2 Tecumseh.  With two outs and Noah Littman on third, and the count 1-1, Littman noticed the catcher wasn’t looking at third before throwing the ball back to the pitcher.  He asked Coach EJ Burnett if he could steal home.  While this exchange was happening, head coach Sam Maynes alertly called time and had the batter step out, giving critical time to deliver the greenlight to Noah.  Littman’s remarkable baseball acumen and instincts allowed him to perfectly time the ball’s release from the catcher as he drove forward and slid under the tag to tie the game 3-3.  Pemi could not deliver one more run for the win, but the game was magical as Pemi showed remarkable grit to scratch a tie.

Celebrating the 10s swimming victory at Tecumseh

At Tecumseh, the 10s and 15s responded to challenge and self-doubt with tremendous effort.  The 15s swim team scored points in every event of the meet, demonstrating their depth and commitment.  Max Weber, Rohin Shah, Teddy Rose, and Nick Vitale delivered incredible races and won points for Pemi.  Pemi jumped out to an early lead behind the Medley team of Rose, Andrew McCullough, Shah, and Vitale’s dominant performance. Heading into the final free relay races, Pemi held a 26-24 lead, but Tecumseh secured a crucial win to secure a tie.  While the 15s meet came down to the last race of the day, the 10s swim team rode the strong performances of Parker Brown, Charlie Moskoff, Roger Kriegsman, and Michael Vitale to deliver a comfortable 36-24 victory. Brown won the breaststroke, Hudson Eng won the butterfly, and Kriegsman won the freestyle to secure the victory before the final free relay.  

At the end of the swim meet, the Seniors held a mix of emotions.  They were excited about the 10s victory but knew they had just fallen short in their meet and the day.  It didn’t take long for the word to come out that Pemi had once again fallen to Tecumseh by a 9-7-4 score.  In time they will appreciate their leadership and the resiliency they displayed in the afternoon.  As the boys made the long walk from the waterfront to the buses waiting to take them home to Pemi, the Pemi 15s held their heads high, looked after the Junior campers, and slowly came to grips with the fact that their days as boys at a summer camp were slowly coming to an end.  Jake Landry, Jackson Heller, Cole Johnstone, Austin Greenberg, Max Weber, and many others embraced the importance of helping a younger group of campers embrace the day and find joy in competing as a tight knit community.  One day these Juniors will follow their lead and continue the tradition.

Making Sense of Tecumseh Day

Overall, the day was an incredible success.  The community came together, and as the buses rolled in from Tecumseh, the cheers and appreciation for their collective efforts were quite gratifying to witness.  When observing this experience from a distance, it is clear that this day of competition is incredibly rare and should be appreciated, protected, and shared.  Tecumseh played with class and determination, and our boys equally matched their efforts, often displaying essential resiliency and grace under pressure.  We had historic performances by individuals and teams that exemplified their dedication and hard work.  Our returning campers are a talented group, and the future bodes well for Pemi. Our three youngest age groups U10, 11, and 12, went a combined 7-4-1 on the day, suggesting Pemi is building from a position of strength moving forward.  

The 11s, 12s, 13s, and staff greet the returning buses

As for our Seniors, the leadership, determination, and big brother care for our Juniors was incredibly gratifying to witness throughout the preparation, but especially on the road in trying circumstances.  Many of these boys will return to Pemi as counselors and mentors for present and future campers. This day was part of their journey to becoming caring young men of empathy and joy who will be outstanding leaders at Pemi and help pass along the purpose of this day of competition.  It is a poignant moment for many of these boys as they walk up the hill from Tecumseh, knowing this was their last chance to regain The Hat.

Back to our normal fun!

After a brief reflection and celebration of Tecumseh Day, the camp quickly pivots with extraordinary ease to many opportunities to explore and grow in other areas of our fantastic camp.  At 6am on Monday, the seniors left for the awe-inspiring Mount Katahdin in Maine.  On Tuesday, a group of 13 and 14-year-olds headed out to traverse the awe-inspiring Mahoosuc, Carter, and Franconia ranges while a group of Lowers departed to hike Carrigan Mountain.  Early morning birding trips to the Connecticut River and a host of day hikes up Cube and Moosilauke are weaved into a string of stunning blue sky and low humidity days.  As I write this newsletter, I can hear Beginning Guitar, the hum of the ski boat, the wisp of the sails on our fleet of Sunfish, thing of tennis balls, lines being rehearsed in the Senior Lodge, and the chatter of boys learning about the local ecosystem in the stream that runs by the library and office.  The days are sunny, and the nights are crisp and star-filled as the calendar flips to August.  Tecumseh Day once again helped our community connect a little tighter; now, we move forward and enjoy all aspects of camp more fully while building lifelong friendships.

— Charlie Malcolm

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