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.

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.

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.