Lifetime Sports Ever-Growing

Swimming, golf, tennis, running, and bowling
Bonac-born Duane Bock looked on as the professional golfer for whom he caddies, Kevin Kisner, hit a fairway shot in the first round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in June. Craig Macnaughton, Durell Godfrey, Jack Graves, and Messiah College Athletics Photos

Looking back on the year that’s just about past, I can’t help but think of the apparent sea changes in sports I’ve covered for almost 40 years.

First, and I’ve written about this before, there is the wondrous transformation that has since the passage of Title IX in 1972 taken place in female sports. No longer limited to cheerleading or to two dribbles on a basketball court, the girls on East Hampton High School’s teams, in tennis, field hockey, softball, volleyball, and swimming, for example, have generally outperformed their male counterparts vis-à-vis their peers for years.

And lately there seems to be a second sea change underway, inasmuch as such contact sports as football, wrestling, lacrosse, and rugby (a sport that’s not offered at the high school, but which is played by high-school-age boys under the aegis of the Montauk Rugby Club) are concerned.

All the above-mentioned have numbers problems, to the extent that it’s almost become paramount that in order to thrive they must combine with other schools — or, as in the men’s rugby side’s case, with another club.

It now seems possible there’ll come a day, and in the not too distant future perhaps, when the “lifetime sports,” such as swimming, golf, tennis, running, and bowling (reintroduced as a sport this year because of the new lanes at the Clubhouse in Wainscott) will hold sway. 

When this writer remarked not long ago to the father of two young sons who swim that more than 40 had tried out for the varsity boys team, necessitating cuts, he, a football lineman in high school and college, replied, “And how many are out for football? Twenty. . . ?”

One of those varsity swimmers, Ethan McCormac, became earlier this month the first recipient of an Old Montauk Athletic Club scholarship in memory of the late William (Billy) O’Donnell, one of the club’s founders, an inveterate long-distance swimmer, runner, and cyclist who died unexpectedly in April at the age of 65. 

(In May, OMAC named the Montauk Mile cup after another of its founders, John Conner, an 83-year-old former world-class miler, and longtime coach of young runners here, who is in a wheelchair now.) 

That more and more youngsters here are being persuaded to take up lifetime sports is salubrious — nay, I would even go so far as to say salvific. 

Certainly, the Hurricanes, the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter’s youth swim team, the Hampton Lifeguard Association’s junior lifeguard program, and Theresa Roden’s I-Tri curriculum for teenage girls, a triathlon-based self-esteem-building effort that was internationally recognized this past year, are exemplary in that regard. 

Not to mention the clubs, including Maidstone, South Fork, Poxabogue, Montauk Downs, East Hampton Indoor 

Tennis, Hampton Racquet, and Buckskill, that have been notable in their efforts to develop young golfers and tennis players. Also deserving of mention are Wick Hotchkiss’s Stony Hill Foundation scholarships for young riders, a half-dozen of which were given out this year.

Among the sports meriting particular attention here in 2018 were golf (the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, won by Brooks Koepka), basketball (the nationwide distribution of Ben and Orson Cummings’s documentary on the state-champion “Killer Bees” of Bridgehampton High School), soccer (the designation of Nick West, an East Hamptoner who led the country in scoring, as Division III’s national player of the year), boxing (as an effective way of abating Parkinson’s disease in sessions at Michelle Del Giorno’s Epic Arts Martial Arts studio in Sag Harbor), and sailing (John Niewenhous’s thwarted solo trans-Atlantic attempt in this fall’s Route du Rhum race).

And there were, of course, the Hampton Classic, whose Grand Prix was won, for the seventh time, by McClain Ward, and the 70th Artists and Writers Softball Game, a game in which the Writers, 12-8 victors, had the last word.

The last word here goes to I-Tri’s founder, Roden, a latecomer to the athletic life who recalled, after receiving an award of excellence from the International Triathlon Union’s women’s committee, how she had felt on hearing the late Steve Tarpinian say, before one of his Mighty Hamptons triathlons, “Okay, all athletes to the beach.”

Suddenly, she realized “he was talking about me. . . . I was an athlete!”

J.P. Harding of Bridgehampton High’s fabled Killer Bees, who recently became a 1,000-point scorer, as was his father, enjoyed further renown as a member of the 2016 team depicted in Orson and Ben Cummings’s documentary, “Killer Bees,” that was distributed nationally this past summer.
Theresa Roden’s I-Tri self-esteem-building program, whose members are urged to cheer one another on, received an award of excellence from the International Triathlon Union in Australia in 2018.
The traditional turnip was served up to Mike Lupica, a well-known sportswriter and writer of young-adult books, and a good sport to boot, in the Artists and Writers Softball Game.
Nick West, an East Hamptoner and Messiah College senior who led the country in scoring with 30 goals, was a first-team men’s soccer All-American and the nation’s player of the year in Division III.
Wick Hotchkiss’s Stony Hill Foundation awarded a half-dozen riding scholarships to youngsters here, its largest number to date. Right, Mikela Junemann, a hard-hitting junior who led East Hampton’s girls volleyball team to an undefeated league season this fall, was named to the all-county team.
Michelle Del Giorno’s Rock Steady boxing workouts at her Sag Harbor studio have been found effective in abating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Holly Rubenstein and her husband, Scott, were for two and a half years clerks of the works while the family-oriented Clubhouse at East Hampton Indoor Tennis in Wainscott was abuilding — a project that reintroduced bowling here.
The East Hampton Middle School’s Bonac on Board to Wellness program, whose race from the Reutershan Parking Lot to Main Beach has become a rite of spring, continued to supply the high school’s cross-country and track teams with young runners. Ethan McCormac, who swims in butterfly and freestyle races for East Hampton’s boys swimming team, became earlier this month the first recipient of an Old Montauk Athletic Club scholarship given out in memory of William (Billy) A. O’Donnell, seen below, who died unexpectedly at the age of 65 on April 23.