Category Archives: Pine Island alumni

No Need for Sports Camp!

Pine Islanders Find Athletic Success in the Real World
by Sumner Ford

Pine Island is far from a sports camp; indeed, our lack of competition is one of our major selling points. For campers and counselors who spent much of the year battling in various competitive endeavors, Pine Island provides a welcome respite, an environment where everyone, including those who would rather avoid competition, can excel. Still, as I have connected with staff, campers, and alumni over the years during the off-season, I’ve been struck by the number of Pine Islanders competing at a high level across many different sports.  

As young campers, Lucas and Mateo Rodriguez Cortina revolutionized the dustball court. As campers, they introduced the Pine Island community to “World Cup,” a soccer-based game that closely resembles dustball in its dynamic, free-for-all form.  Lucas and Mateo have gone on to play soccer semi-professionally in their native Mexico, and this past summer for the Boston Bolts. They now play at the collegiate level for rival schools: Lucas for Colgate and Mateo for Cornell.  

Mateo (dark jersey, third from left) and Lucas Rodriguez Cortina (light jersey, right), playing soccer for Cornell and Colgate, respectively

Sawyer Carson, who was widely believed to be part fish during his time as a camper and taught swimming this past summer, has racked up a long list of swimming accomplishments, including helping Maine Maritime Academy place third at the NEISDA championship this past year.  

Caleb Hunter began Nordic ski racing in high school and eventually found his niche in Biathlon, the iconic skiing-and-target-shooting sport traditionally dominated by Scandinavian countries. Caleb has impressed many with his ability to ski wicked fast, then calm himself enough to shoot with pinpoint accuracy. The pandemic has prevented him from competing in some high-level competitions, like the World University Games in Switzerland, but Caleb has remained persistent, even placing 15th at U.S. Nationals last winter. Caleb is now training at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center and hopes to make the US National Team.

Pine Island has always had a strong presence in the world of rowing. Max Klivans and Sam Trombone, who helped campers hone their rowing form at Pine Island this summer, both row for Hamilton College during the school year. Will Siebert, who hopes to join them as a rowing instructor next summer, actually found himself rowing against Max at the Head of the Charles as a freshman on the Bates College Rowing Team. Nick Newbold may not teach rowing, but he has extensive experience as a coxswain, first at Northfield Mount Hermon and now at Skidmore College.  

Sailing Instructor Thomas Clauson recently ventured down from Readfield, Maine to American University in Washington, DC, where he was quickly recruited to join the sailing team. We look forward to him sharing his new racing knowledge when he returns to PIC next summer. 

Thomas Clauson ready to set out for the American University sailing team

A dirt basketball court riddled with rocks makes passing mandatory. Playing against counselors a foot taller than you necessitates some serious creativity. No, I’m not touting Pine Island as the ideal basketball camp, but this past year, we watched two former campers compete in March Madness: Cormac Ryan garnered headlines as he scored 29 points for Notre Dame in an upset win against Alabama, while Keenan Worthingto, played as a walk-on at Duke in Coach K’s final season.  

Darian Squires-Siemer lives in Steamboat Springs and takes full advantage of the spectacular setting. He competes in big mountain freeskiing, in which he is judged on his ability to navigate some of the most challenging terrain in North America. Last winter, Darian was ranked first out of more that 700 12-to-14-year-old skiers in the Rocky Mountain Division and ultimately placed tenth at Nationals in Big Sky, Montana.

When Kit Smith was a counselor at Pine Island, he competed in both hockey and lacrosse at Bowdoin College and played professional lacrosse for the Boston Cannons right after leading Expedition Camp. Kit no longer competes in lacrosse, but since the company’s earliest days, he has been a partner at String King, one of the largest manufacturers of lacrosse equipment in the world.  

Ned Bishop may be a Pine Island legend, but to many he’s also a legend of Connecticut College, where he has coached Women’s Track and Cross-Country for 36 years. Ned prides himself on coaching some of the most academically successful athletes in both sports, but his athletes have nevertheless found impressive results under his tutelage; he has coached National Champions, All-Americans, and countless Academic All-Americans.

If you attended camp in the 2010s, I hope you witnessed “Talkin’ Spwahts with Xander Schwartz,” a popular campfire act that displayed Xander’s encyclopedic knowledge of sports, especially baseball. Xander spent last summer as an intern for the Cleveland Guardians front office and ended up with a full-time job offer after he graduates from Amherst College in May.

Even in this era of hyper-specialization, Pine Island alumni are proving that time spent at camp need not disqualify anyone from success in the world of sports. If anything, one could argue that PIC provides many advantages for aspiring athletes.

The Essence of Summer: the Pine Island Skiff

Pine Island’s off-season has a predictable rhythm. The turning of the calendar triggers familiar tasks year after year – October is Registration Month, December yields The Pine Needle, and each May we pass an exciting milestone as the first docks go in the water. As alumnus Ned Bishop says, “Once the big docks are in, everything is possible.” This year putting the docks in is especially exciting because it brings us tangibly closer to our long-awaited Opening Day. Once the docks are in, the KWS – our 28-foot launch – arrives, and soon our fleet of catboats and rowboats will be moored and bobbing in the cove, awaiting beginning and experienced sailors and oarsmen alike.

Six of the boats that will be moored in the cove are Pine Island Skiffs designed specifically for Pine Island by boatbuilder David Stimson. Returning campers will remember John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Stu, but there’s a new addition this year – Pete.

Pete is the result of a small but successful fundraising campaign supported by many generations of Pine Island oarsmen as well as hundreds of hours of time donated by the talented and generous alumnus and super-volunteer Rob Whitehouse. With the original plans to our first skiffs lost, Rob re-created them using a combination of engineering skills, complicated math, and possibly some magic. This monumental project caught the attention of the folks at Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors and is featured in their May/June 2021 issue. I hope you’ll all take the time to read this excellent article by Donnie Mullen – The Essence of Summer and a Skiff Designed for Lake Use whether or not you’ve spent time in these skiffs. And I hope you’ll join me in thanking Rob Whitehouse for his tremendous work.

A Serious Hike – Georgia to Maine

By Ryan Schlosser

This story was originally published in the February 2021 edition of The Pine Needle.

Three days after my nineteenth birthday, I drove nine hours from my hometown of Allegany, NY and finally I reached a dirt road that ran through the woods near Waterville, ME. A few months before, some random dude named Sumner had offered me a job after we met in St. Lawrence University’s student center. He seemed like a pretty neat guy, so I decided to leave everything I knew behind and head off to spend my summer of 2018 at PIC, a place I had never seen, full of people I had never met. As I drove down the dirt road towards Great Pond, I was terrified.

You probably already know, based on the fact that I’m writing this piece for the Pine Needle years later, that things turned out pretty alright for me that summer. In fact, after months of Jono scenarios, campfires, staff ball, some absurdly confusing three-day event in Norridgewock involving a fake town and decades-long blood feuds, getting rained on for 72 consecutive hours in the White Mountains, super rad racing stripe haircuts, tennis lessons that Bobby wishes he could understand, aggressively dancing in a cow suit, building my technical skills and confidence leading trips, and making friends that I still think about every day, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to leave and return to society.

In the last few days of the summer of 2018, as I thought about the journey home and back to school, I decided that I needed my own form of Pine Island’s Expedition Camp. The summer had been a transformation for me, and I didn’t want the adventure to stop. I had come to realize the benefit of leaving what I knew behind and half-blindly throwing myself into a new and possibly difficult situation. I decided I would thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

A little over 18 months later, I stood on top of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT, with a 33-pound pack on my back, a Snickers bar in my hand, and a familiar feeling of excited terror. On that first of what became 160 days of walking from Georgia to Maine, I reflected on the role PIC has played in my life. As I look back on my completion of a hike that was far more difficult and complex than I anticipated, it is obvious to me that my thru-hike was made possible by the skills I learned working at Pine Island, the confidence and love of adventure built into daily life at PIC, the guidance and encouragement I received from my fellow Pine Islanders (especially you, Natalie!), and the will of King Kababa. Many thanks to everyone who helped along the way and… Akka Lakka!

Check out my podcast: “Walking and Talking: An Appalachian Trail Thru- Hike” at if you want to hear adventures from the trail or interviews with other hikers!

Dawss and Schloss atop Mt. Katahdin at the end of Ryan’s epic journey by foot from Georgia to Maine

Thank you!

Earlier this month, we hosted a Campfire to close out our shortfall campaign, a months-long fundraiser to help us through our cancelled 2020 season and to set us on firm ground to meet the challenges ahead.  The event featured current campers and several generations of alums, all of whom volunteered their time to produce quality campfire entertainment.  We’re very happy to report that our Shortfall Campfire pushed us over the finish line. Thank you! 

In so many ways, our worlds have shrunk. Almost all of us have spent more time with our immediate households than ever before, and we’ve seen less of our friends, extended family, and community. Even our Pine Island community had to be apart this summer. But in many ways, Pine Island has grown. We stayed in touch with our campers via Zoom, video chat, phone calls, and hand-written letters.  We reconnected with long-lost alums and welcomed new families into our community. And in the end, over 400 people gave to our Shortfall Campaign. Each one helped make it a success. We’re grateful to the friends, parents, alumni – and campers – who helped us get there.

Thank you very much for your loyalty to our beautiful island. We’re looking forward to a happy reunion in 2021, thanks to this great community.

Akka Lakka,
Sumner Ford